The Coaches Playbook Against Drugs|
"Key Plays How To Get Your Message Across"
The best defense is a good offense. If you want to follow through
and keep drugs and alcohol off the playing field and out of your
players' lives, here are 10 key plays to help you get your message across.
1. Encourage participation in athletics by making
your team an integral and exciting part of school
or community life. Spending large amounts of time
unsupervised after school and on weekends greatly
increases the odds that teenagers will experiment with
drugs. Therefore, you should make a special effort to
involve youth in constructive after school activities, such
as athletics. Equally important, however, is for teenagers
to find these activities fun and rewarding. Try to
provide opportunities for kids of all abilities to participate
and have fun.
A soccer team needs players who are
responsible and make good decisions. Taking drugs of any kind
is not a good decision. As a coach, I have
tremendous respect for those people who stand up to the
pressure and won't tolerate drug use. We all need
these kinds of people.
2. Clearly express your expectation that players
will not use drugs. Some adults, especially those who
have used drugs themselves, find it difficult to talk to
youth about drugs. Unless adults clearly state an expectation
that youth should not use drugs, however, adolescents may
not understand what standard, if any, they are being held to.
3. Ensure that your players know the risks of drug
use, especially those that affect athletic performance
and their future. Getting high has both long- and
short-term consequences for an athlete -- consequences that
young people may not be aware of, but that you, the expert
on performance, understand. For example, short-term risks
of marijuana use include decreased stamina, weight gain,
and reduced muscle strength. Steroids can lead to heart
disease, infertility, and skin disease, and cause aggression in a
person's daily life. Laziness, lack of motivation, loss of control,
and poor decision making are additional risks associated
with drug use. Any of these can affect a player's long-term
goals, like winning a championship or getting a college scholarship.
4. Emphasize the benefits of participating in
sports, particularly benefits that young people care
Gaining the respect of peers.
Sharing new and exciting experiences with close friends.
Earning the respect and trust of parents and siblings.
Setting a good example for others (especially
Having a strong sense of self-worth and self-respect.
Increasing control over one's life and its direction.
Achieving personal growth and progress
toward one's goals.
The last three benefits are particularly important to
high school students.
Psychologists have long made the case that the
"carrot-and-stick" approach works far better than the "stick"
alone. When you link the attainment of benefits that young
people care most about to activities other than using drugs,
you help them develop closely held reasons for staying drug free.
5. Make sure your players know that drug use
among preteens and early teens (ages 11 to 14) is a
"fringe" behavior. Eighty percent of eighth-grade students do
not use drugs, yet most eighth graders believe drug
use among their peers is common. This
"myth" exerts a subtle and insidious form of peer
pressure. Studies show
that when the myth is
debunked, preteens and
early teens are less likely
to try drugs.
6. Encourage athletes to
set personal goals and assist them in making
progress toward those goals. People who know how to regulate their behavior effectively
are more likely to set and achieve goals. Studies show that
adolescents who learn self-regulation skills are far less likely
to use drugs (presumably because they become more
involved in setting and pursuing larger goals).
As a former player, I know the value of a good
coach. As a coach, I know you can send the right message
to kids about drugs. Coach your students away from drugs.
First Base Coach --
New York Mets
Former Outfielder for the 1986 World Series
Champion New York Mets
All athletes can set goals for what they want to
achieve throughout the season.Help them to do so, and assist
them in tracking their progress. Let them know that you
have noticed their accomplishments, and praise them to
other team members and peers.This gives young people
specific, measurable ways to gauge the benefits of spending
time on athletics.
Skills shown to be helpful to teens in setting goals
and measuring progress toward them include identifying
appropriate goals, not only for the short term but also for
the long term; recognizing situations and people that are
a threat to accomplishing the goals; and thinking
through the consequences of one's actions.
7. Have older players reinforce the idea that
real "cool" kids don't use drugs -- they disapprove
of them. The vast majority of preteens and early
teens disapprove of drug use, and even a majority of
older teens disapprove.Yet, preteens and early teens
routinely under estimate this disapproval; most believe that the
majority of their peers approve of drug use. Heightening the
perception of disapproval by peers and older teens is one
of the most powerful ways to prevent drug use.
A simple way to do this is to select a number of your
older players who don't use drugs (including some likely to
be considered "cool" by younger players) and have them
meet as a group with your younger players. Encourage the
older players to speak openly about the negative consequences
of using drugs that they have observed -- including effects
on physical abilities and school performance. Most
importantly, have these players talk about how using drugs lets
other people -- parents, teachers, friends,
teammates -- down. Remind your older players that they are role models.
Encourage them to speak out, and reach out, to younger kids.
8. Help young people to develop appropriate
decision making skills. Adolescence is a time of life when
teens must make an increasing number of decisions. Many
adolescents, however, have not been taught how to make
To help your players develop decision making skills, let
them share in decisions that affect the team as a whole. For
example, let players help decide on the structure of a
practice or the specific skills to work on during a practice
session. Guide athletes through the decision making process
by teaching them to (1) identify/clarify the decision to
be made;(2) consider all possible options and
outcomes; (3)choose the best option; and (4) follow through.
9. Let players know that they can talk to you about
their fears and concerns regarding drug use. Most adolescents yearn for a close relationship with a caring adult and
for the ability to communicate honestly.They may find it
easier to talk to a coach than to their parents about sensitive
topics such as sex and drugs. By responding openly when such
a topic is raised, you will help your players learn new
ways to broach sensitive subjects and keep important lines
of communication open.Tell players where they can find
more information and steer those who need help toward it.
One place to start is the Office of National Drug Control
Policy (ONDCP) Web site
For additional information, refer to the Resources section
at the end of your playbook.
10. Develop meaningful relationships with the
young people you coach. The most common reason young
people give for not wanting to use drugs is a desire to please the
caring adults in their lives. Be a caring adult -- someone your
athletes can count on for support and guidance.
In the next issue:
"Effects of Using Drugs"