Social norms represent our perceptions of the behaviors and attitudes of others. Expectations about alcohol, marijuana, and other harmful substances can be powerful influences on behavior. Would you say most student athletes engage in the use of harmful substances? Would you say that most student athletes engage in alcohol, marijuana, or cigarette use? Our perceptions vary among individuals. Data from Prevention Strategies shows that 12.30% of student athletes use marijuana and 7.90 use cigarettes. The data that was provided validates that a very small percentage of student athletes are using tobacco products, marijuana, and alcohol.
Student athletes reported being drunk on an average of 1.4 times in the past 30 days. However, there were a range of answers on this question from 0 to 30 days and the most common answer was 0 days of getting drunk. This shows you that the perception should be shed in a positive light that most student athletes don’t engage in the use of harmful substances. You can also look at it from how you feel about teammates engaging in harmful substances. Out of 5,000 student athletes, 76.1% disapprove of their teammates getting intoxicated frequently.
Some other facts regarding alcohol may not surprise you. In a 2009 NCAA Study of Substance Use of College Student Athletes, overall (Division I, II, III), 83.1% of respondents indicated drinking within the last 12 months. This is factual evidence for both men and women. This is an increase from the 2005 study that showed 77.5%. This leaves the perception, and social norm, that there is an increase in young students engaging in alcohol use over the years. Only 12.6% of these students reported never using alcohol, 47% used alcohol less than two days per week, 54% indicated drinking during both their competitive and off season. The scary part about these statistics is that the majority of respondents indicated obtaining alcohol from a friend, family member, or teammate.
Student athletes are expected to be great at what they do. They are asked to maintain a high level of performance, both athletically and academically. All of this occurs under the constant scrutiny of coaches, teammates, fans, and media. Many problems start well before college and some escalate to levels that require intervention from coaches, parents, etc. Student athletes are different from the rest of the student population and because of their constant exposure and elevated status on campus, college student athletes are typically placed in situations that cause stress and anxiety.
Here are some examples of pressures that student athletes face:
· Balancing sports and academics
· Adapting to social challenges
· Success and failure on field and in the classroom
· Weight management
· Sports career ends due to injury or eligibility.
According to the Drug & Alcohol Addiction Recovery Magazine, coping strategies are tools for dealing with stress without returning to substance abuse. A coping strategy is a personal action plan. It identifies a particular stressor or trigger for substance use, includes an understanding of why or how that particular situation encourages an individual to use, and articulates specific physical and mental actions to counter this influence. It is highly recommended that individuals looking to avoid substance use should avoid places, people, and situations that are connected to their social challenges. Small things such as the time of day and music can also make a difference.
For example, if a recovering alcoholic returns to his favorite bar at night (his habitual time for drinking), sees all his old buddies drinking, and hears his favorite drinking song on the jukebox, his ability to avoid relapse becomes seriously compromised. The place, time of day, people and music are all triggering emotional responses that encourage him to drink. An effective coping strategy, in this case, is to avoid a situation that holds such strong triggers.
Student athletes need to realize that there will always be challenges you face in life. Athletes have a lot to lose. We see it all the time in amateur, collegiate, and professional athletics. There are harmful substances around us, people engage in them, but what will you do? What decisions will you make knowing the affects it can cause? The time will come when you will face challenging decisions. There are supporters around you; use them wisely and always remember that the decision is in your hands.