- 45 percent of youth had at least one drink during the 30 days before the survey
- 26 percent had a heavy drinking episode of five or more drinks in a row within a couple of hours in the previous thirty days.
- 29 percent had ridden with a driver who had been drinking
- Among sexually active respondents, 23 percent had used alcohol before their last sexual encounter
- 11 percent had driven themselves after drinking.
Another piece of bad news is that multiple studies show that college and high school athletes are at higher risk for alcohol abuse (especially binge drinking) than non-athletes. There are various possible reasons for this phenomenon. Some research suggests athletes are naturally less risk-averse and more likely to engage in risky behavior. Other studies suggest that athletes view drinking as more 'normative' - that is, they are more likely to perceive that 'everyone is doing it.' There are probably myriad reasons. This research is instructive for taking action.
If we choose to take action we can elevate our impact by focusing on a five-part message. These five messages are grounded in research on what works in positive youth development. They are not guaranteed to reach every athlete, but they will increase your chances of success in helping your athletes avoid alcohol.
- Message 1. We do not tolerate drinking on this team. "This is our rule because teammates who drink put themselves and the team at risk. if you drink there will be serious consequences up to and including dismissal from the team." (This message provides clarity of intent and consequences).
- Message 2. We care about you and your friends. "Drinking puts you at risk for a boatload of problems. We care too much about you as a person to ever look the other way and let you harm yourself or someone else as a result of drinking." (This message indicates your personal concern for the athlete and their friends).
- Message 3. Alcohol harms athletic performance. "You might not be aware of the ways alcohol can harm your athletic performance. Even drinking now and then at your age can distort your metabolism in ways you might not notice notice. Alcohol makes you slower, fatter, and less resilient." (This message relates drinking to something of immediate importance to your athletes - their athletic performance).
- Message 4. Everyone is not doing it. "You might think everyone your age is doing this because you see it in your immediate surroundings. But there are a lot of young people who do not drink because they do not need alcohol to be happy and productive." (This message reframes the athletes' belief that they are being 'normal' by drinking to a frame in which they are being 'normal' for not drinking.)
- Message 5. We have already lost too many. "Let me tell you about athletes I have known who have lost their careers or even their lives to alcohol. Every one of them thought it could not happen to them. Every one of them was wrong." (This message challenges the athletes' sense of invincibility - a major driver in their risk behavior.)
Thank you for promoting positive youth development through sports!
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