Updated: May 30
I've had people reach out to me this week to process their struggles with their team and athletes. With championship season over, student-athletes finally feel like they can have a bit of reprieve from the demands of training and the classroom. However, many young people turn to substances, such as alcohol, to alleviate the pressure they feel.
The Beastie Boys famously sang "Fight for Your Right to Party!" in the late 80s, and this mentality is still present at universities across the country. As a former athlete, I learned early on that swimmers in particular were known for their rigorous training and hard-partying ways.
For parents and coaches, it can be both frustrating and concerning when student-athletes turn to substance use. Since most parents and coaches know this behavior can lower inhibitions and lead to potentially dangerous decisions, which could be illegal, sexually harmful and even life-threatening.
However, it's important to approach these situations with compassion and understanding. By acknowledging the pressure, they face, we can help student-athletes find healthier outlets for celebration that won't compromise their safety or future. When we approach these situations with empathy and care, we create a safe space for student-athletes to explore alternative ways of coping and celebrating that align with their values and goals.
Rather than ignoring or harshly judging the situation, it's important to support your student-athletes by encouraging celebration. Emphasize the significance of recognizing their hard work and accomplishments, but also offer healthier options for stress relief and temporary escape. I hope all athletes, parents and coaches fight for the right to party! It's important and can be experienced in healthy alternative ways without substance use.
Here's a tip.
When working with student-athletes, it's important to recognize the values they reflect in their behavior, such as the importance of having fun, laughing, celebrating and spending time with friends. They also seek stress relief and temporary escape from the demands of their life, which is perfectly healthy. Reinforce these desires and values but empower them to develop emotional skills that do not rely on substance use to cope.