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These two stories above could have come from anywhere in the U.S., from any town or community, any high school, and on any given weekend. Next week the story could read "Four Student Athletes from ___________ High School in _________ County Killed After Drinking Party," you fill in the blanks. It is an all too familiar story, one I have addressed on The Athlete's Sports Experience, in various ways, many times before.
I have made it a point to highlight instances regarding alcohol and athletes in order to bring more attention to the problem every community faces. An age-old issue that has been around for a very long time, long before I entered high school - and that was certainly a long time ago.
It is viewed by many (too many), this use of alcohol by high school-age students and student athletes, as a kind of "rite of passage," a practice leading them into adulthood. An almost unwritten, unspoken, part of our culture as a multitude of parents, and their athletic offspring, obligingly sign their H.S. athletic codes without giving much thought, if any, to the meaning behind their signature and the rules for which they have agreed to abide by. A good number, maybe most, don't even read them.
So where is the solution to this "unwritten, unspoken, part of our culture?"
Well, if there is one it lies with changing the perspective of the culture itself, for without that cultural change, the chances of making a difference are very slim at best.
And for that cultural change to take place, four things will need to happen:
1. Recognize & Admit that there is a problem - the community and school district, as a whole, must see the problem for what it is and be willing to take action to address it.
2. Involve All in creating a solution - the administration, board of education, coaches, parents, and athletes themselves need to be involved in the process.
3. Solutions must include:
a. athletic codes developed by representatives from all groups
b. alternative activities available to athletes
c. "safe homes" operated by parents
d. appropriate yet strict consequences
4. Accountability consistently applied by all - ask yourself this question, "Whether parent, athlete, coach, and/or community member, are you willing to confront your peers when you're made aware of violations?" The answer to that question, from all, must be YES!!!
5. Re-evaluate the code every other year allowing input from all four groups (administration, board of education, coaches, parents, and athletes) so as to keep them involved in the process. Discussion should include the effectiveness of the code and any changes that need to be made in order to make a more positive impact.
The bottom line will be to turn the culture over from one that sees underage drinking as "cool" to one that views it as "not so cool."
Hey, I never said it would be easy! However, I've never seen, or achieved, any worthwhile goal that was. If that's not enough to get you thinking about finding ways of making underage drinking "uncool," then try this on for size. How about working toward making that cultural change because:
Someone's life might depend on it.
Can there be any better reason than that!!!