Back-to-school and the beginning of fall athletics is the perfect time to talk to you student about the dangers of substance abuse. ACT Missouri and The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids is using this time to educate on the dangers of athletics and alcohol/performance enhancing substances.
For years parents have supported their young athlete by driving them to practices, pitching balls, coaching their teams, cheering them on when they are losing, paying traveling expenses, and enduring extreme weather on uncomfortable bleachers. Parents want their children to succeed, and encouraging them to become refined athletes is a good start in building resiliency and teaching necessary life skills. Now that they are in high school and possibly driving themselves, you may think that you have done your part. While it is true that most athletes are dedicated to their health, team, and sport, they also have a tremendous amount of pressure to succeed, be their peer’s leaders, and succumb to alcohol use. Common sense tells you that alcohol and athletics is a losing combination, so don’t turn a blind eye to the fact that your star athlete may be drinking. The solution: talk, talk, talk. Team rules are great, but they’re just the beginning. If your child has to agree to team rules before the start of the season, use them as a conversation starter. You are still the most impactful influence in your child’s life. We know that “kids who learn a lot about the risks of drugs and alcohol from their parents are up to 50% less likely to use than those who do not”. (The Partnership at Drugfree.org)
Enhance this influence by educating yourself on how alcohol affects athletic performance. “Many athletes tend to underestimate the way in which alcohol use (even a few drinks) can erase the effects of a hard workout, reduce endurance, and compromise the mental game.” (Janis Meredith, Alcohol and Athletics Don’t Mix, redding.com, 6/20/12)
In all, “One night of drinking negates two weeks of athletic training!!!”(American Athletic Institute, 2005).
Performance Enhancing Substances
Performance enhancing substances are also a concern with student-athletes. Student-athletes are often under an immense amount of pressure, and may turn to PES in order to “get an edge” on the competition. However, because youth are still developing physically and mentally, they can suffer extreme side effects. It is important to talk to your student-athlete about the effects of using these substances and emphasizing that winning isn’t everything, especially at the cost of their health.
What can you do to help your student-athlete?
- Limiting their free time and access to alcohol will take the pressure to drink off of them.
- Be part of the 80% of Missouri parents that don’t give alcohol to kids (their own or others!) Empower them with personal stories. Share your own experiences and past occurrences in your community that involved alcohol.
- Be an active part of substance-free celebrations. Things like cook-outs and pizza parties are great substance-free ways to cap-off a good season! Be clear on the fact that underage drinking is illegal and your household does not support it.
- Encourage them to never get into a car with someone who has been drinking. Assure them that you are available to support them, no matter what. Have a special code like “I forgot to feed the cat” that they can either call you with or text you to come get them if they find themselves in an uncomfortable situation.
- Know the facts on the different types of Performance Enhancing Substances.
Be sure to watch the Play Healthy webinar from The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. The Play Healthy program is designed to help parents, coaches, and other concerned adults gain a better understanding of performance enhancing substances so that they can help youth athletes make healthier and safer decisions. Also be sure to nominate your coach and player for the Commissioner’s Play Healthy Award! The applications are due by October 31st.