Consistently, and at various times during the year, I make it a point to highlight articles, information, and my thoughts on alcohol use among high school athletes. Most of these highlights focus on high school athletic codes, suspensions of athletes for use of alcohol, sometime parental enabling for said use, along with a variety of topics that either directly or indirectly relate to this underage drinking issue.
I do this not only because I believe it to be important, but also because of what it can bring back to the athlete, and, indirectly, to others who look up to them and want to follow their lead. Those intrinsic components that help build strong, positive foundations within an individual. The type of characteristics that extend well beyond the athletic arena, and have positive, life-long impact (character, integrity, commitment, discipline, sacrifice, etc.).
As most of us know, especially those involved in coaching and/or teaching high school age kids, alcohol use among high school teens (particularly athletes) is commonplace. It’s almost as if it’s become a part of their culture, a rite of passage so to speak. At least that’s how it seems to be viewed by a good number of students and student athletes, and surprisingly, by some of their parents. And this is regardless of the promise to abstain from use through the athletic code they sign.
Well, four central New York area school districts are trying to change all that. A new pilot program (as highlighted in Local students “Honor the Code” and “Central New York teen athletes encourage others to sign no-alcohol pledge”) is underway in these districts in the hopes of transforming a “cultural norm.” This “Honor the Code” program from Prevention Network takes a somewhat unique path to change by using “peer pressure” to move athletes away from their current “partying” type behavior, and by giving young competitors sound scientific facts about how alcohol negatively impacts their training and performance.
These two approaches are a powerful means of transforming young athlete attitudes, and their behavior, because most do make choices based on their peers, and most do not want to make choices that directly and significantly diminish their athletic ability/performance. As small as some might think this to be, there is a much better chance of changing the existing athlete drinking culture using this peer-led, scientific data tactic rather than by any type of direct adult intervention.
Want a visual on what this is all about, here, take a look:
There are some that believe change like this is impossible, that this “rite of passage” type drinking behavior by young athletes is too ingrained, too supported by messages given by adults and portrayed in the media. However, cultural change, no matter what age, is something that can happen, that takes a good deal of effort and time. It certainly is not something that happens overnight. What’s the alternative, to do nothing?
So, what kind of message would that send?