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Institute fighting abuse in youth sports

Posted at 2:23 PM, Dec 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-06 14:23:23-05

Youth sports are a great way for kids to grow.

The Michigan State University Institute for the Study of Youth Sports is hoping to keep youth sports a positive experience.

"We tend to focus on the potential for sport to be a wonderful growth-enhancing experience for children and youth," said Dr. Gretchen Kerr, of the University of Toronto. "It's also important to recognize that it has the potential to create harmful experiences for young people."

Larry Nassar's sexual abuse of over 100 gymnasts brought that negative potential to light.

"There's a Nassar in every country; there's a Nassar in every state," said Dan Gould, director of the ISYS. "While sport has so many benefits, it also has fairly easy access for predators to get into. What we're trying to do is educate the public on how to keep kids safe in sports."

A key factor in fighting any type of abuse in sports is to establish a relationship with athletes. Having someone young athletes can trust can help them open up about potential issues.

"You show up to the field and the first thing you might ask is 'hey, how did your day go? How are you feeling today?' Asking those questions every day and embedding that in your coaching practice is one way that you communicate that you care," said youth soccer coach Jill Kochanek.

The constant communication between coaches, players and parents, paired with education on the disadvantages of youth sports and how to fight them, can set young athletes up for success, on and off of the field.

"No one intervention, educational program or policy will work," said Kerr. "It's the accumulation of intervention at every level of sport in society."