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Avoiding Drug Abuse in Adolescence Through Athletics - by Sarah Daren

From the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook
"Helping coaches coach better..."

Sarah Daren is a featured writer on the Today Show website and has been a consultant for organizations across a number of industries including athletics, health and wellness, technology and education. When she's not caring for her children or watching the New York Yankees play, Sarah enjoys practicing yoga and reading a good book on the beach.

Sarah Daren
Sarah Daren

Unfortunately, drug use starts earlier than we would like to admit, and drug abuse can be quick to follow if left unchecked. Preventing young boys and girls from turning to drugs is a delicate responsibility that falls on the shoulders parents, mentors, school administration, and coaches. Too strict and commanding, and kids could rebel; Too lenient and uninterested, and kids could be lying and doing as they please. That's why many involve their children in sports - athletics prevent drug abuse and prepare for a successful future.

It may seem simple since a solution has already been identified. However, youth and interscholastic athletic participation has become costly, impeding lower-income households. Research has revealed it can cost an average of $400 per child after uniforms, travel, and dues are paid. The high cost presents a conundrum that coaches have been trying to resolve through efforts like fundrasiers, crowdfunding : How to raise money and budget in such a way that interscholastic athletics are affordable and available to everyone as a passion and as an alternative to more volatile paths.

The Current Drug Use Landscape

In a 2016 survey, researchers revealed that 5.4% of 8th graders used marijuana and 7.3% drank alcohol from the pool of 372 schools that participated. In a perfect world, that number would be zero; in fact, even in our imperfect world those numbers are too high. What's worse, those numbers increase. In 12th grade, 22.5% of students used marijuana and 33.2% drank alcohol. Such an aggravated increase in such young ages clearly convey a need for alternative options. Athletics have proven to inhibit drug use among adolescence, but the rising costs of participation make it inaccessible to lower-income households.

How Sports Help

Why students start using drugs at young ages are varied. Family members who smoke, depression, low self-esteem, boredom, and weight control can drive girls and boys to smoking, alcohol, or other illicit drugs. Regardless of the catalyst, students need a healthy option that keeps them accountable and occupied. Instead of avoiding drugs, parents, schools, and coaches can give their students something to attain.

Student-athletes will make the conscious choice to avoid substances that hinder their performance. To be the best, they can't afford to partake in something that hurts their chances of success. Another way athletics prevent students from drug use is the fear of reprisals. Losing scholarship opportunities, being kicked off the team, or being unable to help the team during competitions ensure that students keep their priorities straight. It's this two-pronged affect that makes athletic participation so effect: 1) Offering goals and responsibility, and 2) setting repercussions for poor decision-making.

How Coaches Are Solving the Rising Cost Problem through Budgeting

Outside of fundraising efforts, coaches are looking to strong budgeting strategies for help in decreasing the participation costs. To give every student-athlete the same opportunity is both fair, and beneficial to their future. Each athletic team has different needs, so coaches try the following budget strategies to see which works best for their needs: Top-Down, Bottom-Up, Zero-Based, and Incremental. Of these, the zero-based budget is the most precise and helpful for determining needs. It involves each program submitting a justification for each funding request, which is analyzed by a budgeting committee. Unfortunately, it takes too much time and results in difficult decisions that may seem biased or subjective.

Coaches understand, on a personal level, how important athletics are for growth and discipline. They are fun, challenging, and offer adolescence a beneficial alternative to experimenting with drugs. The rise in drug use seems to correlate with the rise in athletic costs, but it's important to note that there are many other variables included.

Articles by Sarah Daren

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