Drug and Alcohol Discussions with your Athletes by Steve Wood (1998)


I’m going to share with you right now the reasons why I’m motivated to speak about this. I can remember when I was six years old, and I’ve got an older brother who’s about eighteen months older than I am. Our parents came home fairly late one evening. I want to guess it was right around 10:30 at night, maybe 11:00. We heard some loud noises; my brother and I shared a room. He was seven at the time. We both woke up, and we kind of creaked open the door to look. We saw dishes flying. I saw other things flying throughout the house. It got really loud; things were breaking everywhere. It pretty much sounded like the house was being torn down. What ensued was a lot of yelling, a lot of shouting. A lot of colorful metaphors were being exchanged between my stepdad and my mom. It got so violent and so loud, that I can remember my brother and I sitting on his bed, basically holding onto each other and crying, wondering when it was going to end. This is my first reflection of what was going on in my life, what was going on in their life. We basically cried ourselves to sleep. When we woke up the next morning, it was quiet. We opened that same door again and cautiously went outside. It was such a powerful visual thing that I have not forgotten, nor will I ever. There were wine bottles and beer bottles pretty much from their bedroom door all the way to the car, which was outside. Stepdad wasn’t there. My mom came out of the room later on that morning to check on us. She was bruised, cut, and had stitches; and that was a big shock. It was such a visual shock, that it has stuck with me the rest of my life. That wasn’t the only instance of physical abuse and drugs and alcohol that my brother and I experienced in that house. It was one incident after another. It went on, and it went on, and it went on. I remember as I got older, I told myself that I would never ever be like that. Like I said, it went on and it went on and it went on. I can remember in high school, I used to take the distributor cap off my mom’s Monte Carlo, because my mom has a history of walking away from some pretty severe accidents. I think in an eight-year period she totaled her car over six times. It’s amazing that nobody ever got hurt; nobody died. I used to take the distributor cap off the car, because I got to the point where I didn’t want to see my mom in the hospital. I didn’t want to get that phone call of that bad news. There was some humor to taking the distributor cap off the car, because when my mom would drink, she would always get in the habit that she’d want to go out on the town even more. She’d get out there and curse at the steering wheel because the thing wouldn’t start. I would just kind of shrug my shoulders like I didn’t know why the car wasn’t starting. Then she would pass out, or whatever, and I would put the distributor cap back on.

The next morning that car would start right up, and she would go to work. That was my way of basically protecting my mom. I could probably go on about a lot of things in my past. One other thing that I do want to share with you; at age, I believe, thirteen my mom did not come home one night. We were all a little worried; but it was such a pattern that, after a while, you learn to fend for yourself and take care of yourself. She had been in an accident, of course, and spent the night at what we call the 54th Street Hilton—the downtown jail. At that time somebody got through to her, and she started rehab. I remember that day because I was thirteen years old and without a driver’s license. I drove my mom to her first AA meeting. I can remember driving that car at thirteen years old, and my mom sitting in the passenger seat looking over at me and saying, “I’m so sorry. (Tears) I’ll never ever do this again.”

It lasted for about eight months, and then it was like old times again. Remember when I told you folks that I thought to myself I would never ever be like that. Later on in life, when I was faced with a divorce and going through a custody battle for my children, I went to the number one drug of choice to cope through that— alcohol. I was out west, in Wyoming. By my bathroom mirror I’ve got all my cancelled checks from when I was in Juliet. I added them up, and they’re in a little binder. It’s got a very personal note on the top, and it’s right there by my mirror. I added up these checks; it was probably eighteen month’s worth of cancelled checks. It was over $2000 in alcohol and booze that I spent in eighteen months. I was pretty much numbed and comatose through that whole ordeal. Here again it was one of those things where I swore I would never ever be like that; but when I was faced with a life crises and such a traumatic experience, I went right to it. I feel very lucky to be here, to be able to speak in front of you. There’s been a lot of trauma, a lot of experiences in my life; and I’m surprised, at times, that I’m not taking a dirt nap right now with some of the things that I’ve been through. That gives me a tremendous amount of pride in the ability to speak, and the ability to carry that over to kids.

I really wish that somewhere along the lines, maybe one of my coaches would have pulled me off to the side and helped me. I guess as coaches we sometimes don’t quite realize how powerful our words are to kids, to young kids. We get caught up with the idea that we’ve got to train them; we’ve got to get them to be faster; we’ve got to work on this technique. A lot of times you can get that by addressing the other side of the issue—he/ she as a person. So this has a created a huge amount of motivation and inspired me over a long period of time. I want to work with kids in a classroom setting on how to be resistant against drugs and alcohol.

Here are today’s objectives. There are probably three main points. I want to: 1) help you understand that you can make a difference in a young child’s life, 2) provide some type of foundation or a basis format to get you started, and 3) help you truly understand the benefits of communicating to your swimmers and listening to them. If we can walk away with a better understanding and accomplish these three things, it’s going to be awesome. Because, you know, you never know how your words are going to affect a young kid. With all the research materials that I have, I’ve come across some good stuff and some not so good stuff. Most of what I’m going to show you today has been a composite of stuff that I’ve gotten from a local lady in St. Louis, Shirley Armstead, who was our drug enforcement agent rep in St. Louis. A lot of this is from Mike Gone, who is the District Athletic Director at Parkway School District. He has tackled the subject of educating the community that to be involved in sports in Parkway, it’s not a right; it’s a privilege. This is a curriculum that he had received from somebody else and passed it on to us. I have basically taken it and run with it. Just a couple of weeks ago I was doing some more research, and I came across this definition of dependency: dependency is not an infectious disease, but rather one in which biology and behavior interact in a complex way. We know that alcoholism and drug abuse is a disease, but it’s not an infectious disease. It’s not like you got cut, and somebody poured alcohol in it and you were infected with it. It’s a series of complex steps that gets a kid and then keeps him hooked. I will let you know right now, especially about alcohol, it’s an adult problem that affects kids. Here’s the reality of it. We manufacture it; we market it; we sell it; we distribute it. We do everything. Just to give you an idea—Mother Goose, Smokey the Bear, and Big Bird from Sesame Street are all icons that have slowly disappeared. Kids in grade school can identify with the Budweiser Frog more than Smokey the Bear, Mother Goose, and all those kinds of things.

So that gives you the idea of the power that the media holds with our kids. It’s pretty sad when you think about that. A lot of them don’t register Mother Goose and all those icons that maybe we grew up with. Now it’s the lizard and the Budweiser frogs and all that kind of stuff. It’s mind boggling, but that’s the power of advertising. Dependency represents the end result of a process involving many different social and psychological factors in kids who are psychologically vulnerable. In this presentation I’m going to go over some factors that really make kids vulnerable to this. Then I’m going to share a little more with you about how I fit into that picture. If anybody needs a copy of these presentation materials, I’ll try to get more copies and we’ll get them to you later on in the week. I like numbers. Can everybody see that one? Let me throw out some facts to you.

I mean we all know it exists, but this is the trend in use of marijuana. In some communities marijuana is like smoking cigarettes. It’s amazing. This is a study that was released by Monitoring the Future. You can see the growth between eighth, tenth, and twelfth graders from 1991 to 1996. If you take a look at our eighth graders, it’s a two hundred percent increase in usage over the years. It’s readily available. Did anybody see the Bill Moyer’s Special that was on PBS, I think back in April. It was amazing. Bill Moyer had a son that was chemically dependent, and he took it upon himself to do some research. One of the striking things that I remember from that presentation concerns people who shoot up with heroine now. What’s on the street now is seven times more powerful than what was on the street a decade ago. So, if you think about a user taking one shot, one hit of heroine, they’re getting seven times the potency of what it was a decade ago. It’s also like that with marijuana and all the other drugs. What was even more amazing was that they did an interview with users that couldn’t stop. This is a very strong point—they asked, “Why can’t you stop? What is the fixation to always using?” This will put it into perspective. The junkie basically said that they’re always search ing for the next high. In other words, when you use for the first time, it’s going to give you the greatest high.

Then you spend all these other moments in your life trying to get back to that high. When that high disappears, guess what, you move on to something that’s different. The first time you use that new substance, it’s the most potent; it’s the most high. Then you spend all the rest of the time in your life trying to get to the next high. That’s how the pattern goes from one drug to the next drug. That’s a reality. That’s true. I can attest to that personally. So that gives you an idea of the recent trends in marijuana usage.

Question: How does it usually start?

Woods: Alcohol. Alcohol. Really starts off with alcohol. Here are some statistics between gender, male and female. 62% of our male population in high school said OK, hey, we’re consuming. 43% are heavy drinkers; heavy drinking is basically consuming five or more drinks on at least one occasion during the thirty days prior to when this study was released. Then you’ve got your stats on coke. You can see that in the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grade, it’s out there. A lot of people simply turn their back to it. I know as a coach for a lot of years I didn’t even want to know. I simply turned my back. Then, having experienced what I did, I woke up. I got to be honest. I was very fortunate to have a very wonderful counselor help me get through a lot of things in my life. She put a lot of things into perspective; and from that point on, I thought that if I can make the difference in one child’s life, it will be worth it. Sometimes I go off on these tangents; so sometimes I’ve got to pull myself back in. I know all of you college coaches deal with some tough issues because you’ve got the fraternity and sorority scene, and all this peer pressure, and the big change of kids moving away from home to go to school. If you think about it, if more age group coaches and more club coaches and even more high school coaches were tackling this subject of educating their athletes, we may see a huge reduction at the college scene. I mean, peer pressure, folks, is a powerful thing. Parkway, with Mike Gone, at the start of the academic year they start really putting the whole thing into context and put it in motion to where everybody has to do a pledge—a code of conduct pledge by the parents. They’re really taking the position that it’s positive peer pressure that can get kids not to use. So, it’s still using the power 255 of peer pressure, but turning it around so that it’s positive peer pressure so your teammates don’t use. I can remember when I had my first beer, my first drink. I was eight. You’ve got to understand, I had four stepdads through- out my life. My mom was an insurance adjuster at one time, and she had this huge clam bake. I can remember the cases of beer being stacked up in the garage. My brother thought it would be kind of cool to throw rocks at them because the cans would explode, and things would shoot out and all that kind of stuff. You know, we got caught drinking the beer. So, I remember my mom, after this big insurance party, she said, “Well, if you want to drink, you’re going to drink like real men.” So, she poured my brother and I a Jack and Coke and made us drink it. I ended up getting sick, and so did my brother. It was her way, I guess, of teaching us that was bad stuff. Who would have known that it was really adding to the dilemma that I was going to face later in life. These are protective factors that serve as a coat of armor. There’s a lot of talk about the dysfunctional family. I’m going to tell you right now; I really don’t like the word dysfunctional. What’s normal; what’s not normal? I look at it that I grew up in a very drama-enriched home. <laughter> Let me tell ya, there was a lot of drama. Not academy award winning drama, but a lot of drama. Being reared in a loving functional family; being involved in school activities; having a positive self-esteem, clearly defined goals and plans to reach them; regularly practicing one’s faith; having friends that do not use; having adult role models, including parents and coaches, who do not use; feeling a sense of accomplishment in school; having a healthy attitude about competing and performances; being committed to following the rules of the team community; and having a plan to cope with life stressers—these are all things, when we look at people who do not abuse and do not use, they have these. It serves as a coat of armor around them. They don’t seem to get swallowed up by this. They can resist it. If those are the protective factors, then, of course, these are the risk factors that make people vulnerable. Being reared in a drama-enriched family, having negative self-esteem, being unable to resist peer pressure—basically the opposite of the other side. I was a candidate that had many of the risk factors while growing up. As a coach, you hear things that go on on the pool deck. You have an acute awareness of what’s going on in the family.

You hear rumors. Suzie Q’s parents are getting divorced. That’s going to send off a light bulb right away that that person might be at risk later on, because they are going to experience some type of trauma in their life. You just need to listen to what’s going on around you. If you’ve got a high school athlete that’s just struggling in school, that might be a sign. The signs are there; you just have to be aware of them and be willing to listen to them, and visually take it in, and then act on it. There’s no magic formula; you don’t need a license to talk to your kids about drug and alcohol. Don’t be afraid to. We don’t need a license in this country to have children. We need a license to drive a car, and we need a license to get married; but we don’t need a license to raise children. Don’t be afraid to help. In the realm of things, I guess the way I want to present this to you is this—with the child or the athlete being in the center, we’ve got parents, we’ve got the school, and then we’ve got coaches. The schools, for the most part, do their job at trying to educate kids against drugs and alcohol. There are also a lot of parents out there who educate their children and through good role modeling teach their kids not to use. Then you’ve got the coach. Think about the kid who maybe doesn’t get it in school, or the kid who’s got divorced parents or parents that are always gone. In that child’s life there’s you, and you can make a difference! I’ll show you later on, I mean, you’ve got a loyal group of kids. You spend so much time teaching them how to become better in the water; they’re loyal to you. You can use that same power that you carry on deck, to help them become better physically and to help them become better socially. So, please don’t ever, ever forget that. In the packets you’ve got basic lesson plan topics to get you started. I was fortunate when I was at Parkway to have a classroom right off Parkway North, where the age group team practiced three times a week. Every Wednesday was basically classroom time. In that classroom time we did not do dryland training with age group. We took time out in the class to go over things like peer pressure, self-actualization’s, self-esteem, drugs and alcohol. I’ve got to be honest, at Parkway I was very fortunate; I had a video vault with the cooperating school districts. I could pick up my phone in my office (I had a manual that thick of every video known to mankind), and give them a serial number, and they would deliver a video over to the office.

I would preview it down at media, and then I would show it to my kids. I took time out every week to speak to my kids on a range of topics. That was my classroom. I don’t know if that many people know, but I have a degree in sports medicine, and I minored in health education. I can remember my student teaching experience being a disaster. It was a seventh grade class or sixth grade class; I was standing in front, and I was doing a topic on smoking during pregnancy. I had my lesson plan laid out, and I’m doing this great job. I think things are going great, and this young girl in the back of the classroom raises her hand. This is sixth grade, and she says, “My mom smoked with me, and I smoked with my first.” And I froze; I just stood there. I didn’t know what to say. The teacher saw that I was stumped, and he kind of moved me over and sat me down. I thought—I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to be in a public school district. I don’t want to deal with this. Eventually, I realized that I wanted to teach; I wanted to be a coach. I could use the pool, and then get back into the classroom. That experience of being in the classroom, I’ve got to tell you, developed quite an enormous rapport with my athletes. Now, I’m not telling you that you need to share everything with your athletes, but they’ve got to know that you care. I mean, a lot of the kids that I’ve coached in the past, they know that I come from an alcoholic background, but I’m real selective with what I tell them. The rapport was there; they knew that I cared; they knew that I took time out to help teach them about drugs and alcohol. It was just amazing, and the bond that was created overflowed to what we would do in the pool because they trusted me. All I can say is you should take time out to talk to those kids. Hopefully, this curriculum and the lesson plans will get you started. There are so many resources out there that are available. You’ve got the internet. Man, just pick up the yellow pages, the white pages and look in there. Get a DEA Agent to come in. There are just so many things out there.

There are books and videos, and, like I said, you don’t need a license to help kids be resistant. You just have to take the initiative. If they know that you care, it’ll be amazing what you get back from them. I’m not here to preach to you. What everybody does in their private life is their private life; keep it private. I guess, if you’re around kids, no alcohol. I mean, that’s pretty much a no brainer. Keep your private life very private—but take the initiative to teach kids about drugs and alcohol. Your parents will love you for it; they will. If you want a great PR move to do with your club, do that; and stick to it. You never know what kid you’re going to help maybe avoid going through something like I did. I really wish maybe that somebody had been there for me. Matter of fact, I really wish somebody had been there. Anyway, these are the basic lesson plan topics. You can create anything that you want with any information that you get, but really make that commitment. With that video vault that we have at Parkway, you know, does anybody know who Sean Marce is? I think that’s how you pronounce his name. He was the track runner that was in Readers Digest, and they did a PBS after school special about him. This was back in 1985-86. He was a track runner who liked to dip Copenhagen Skoal. Yeah. Some of you raised your head there. I showed that video to the kids. Do you know what it’s like to have 35 eleven to twelve year old kids not make a sound for forty minutes? Has anybody experienced that? I had it, and man it was awesome! They were glued to it. The point was made that nicotine is a drug. Here’s a kid who was an athlete that beat it, but then went right back to it. Because of the cancer that developed, he had part of his jaw removed, part of his throat, and he ended up losing his life.

This is the MTV generation, or VH1 generation. If you’re out there searching for videos, preview them before you show them. You just have to. If it’s an older video, the kids are going to lose interest, and then they will talk through the whole thing. There have been several good videos that I’ve shown in the past that have been quick to get the point across using good music and stuff like that. Try and tailor it towards what’s going on with the hip hop music and stuff like that, and you’ll really pull them in. These lesson plans are a start. If you can pull them away from the pool to a quiet area, you’re going to have better success.

Question: What age is at the most risk?

Woods: Eleven, twelve and thirteen year olds. It’s funny, because there would be times when I would just go in the classroom with a couple statements, and we would just put the desks in a big circle, and I would sit there with them. You have to create the environment that they are comfortable enough to respond back to you. A lot of times I would just throw out a question and let the kids just shoot back and forth, but we did it as a group. I realize that at that age, you know, some of them are getting some peer pressure, and some of them weren’t, depending on what school they were going to. To get them talking and get them aware is really a great step. Hearing it from you folks, like I said, you have no idea how powerful your words are. We’re always caught up in trying to get the performance or keeping up with the ABC team from across the river. What good is it? Is a great athlete that you might be helping to produce, has it been two years, are they out of the sport because they have some type of drug or alcohol problem? I can remember a guy that I sat next to in my English Comp Class in high school, John Rubish. In May, right before graduation I think, I passed him a note with the answers to the test that we were taking. I gave him all the wrong ones as a joke. Never saw him again. The next day or that night he went out with one of his friends. Where I used to live in Cargo Falls, in North Hampton, was the valley where everybody used to race. They ended up going off a hundred and fifty foot cliff, and the car was embedded into a tree. He spent eight weeks in intensive care in a coma. To this day, I don’t think he has much memory. He had to learn to walk, talk, and chew. One day we were joking, and the next day he’s gone, basically. It was amazing. I guess my point is that you can make a difference to maybe prevent something like that from happening. Why are athletics such a great opportunity to educate. If we can get all of our athletes that are supposed to be positive people using positive peer pressure on each other not to use, it’s going to help other people not to use. Remember, you have a captive audience. They’re right there in the palm of your hand. What you choose to do is up to you. I’m telling you—you can save somebody’s life. You can do two things as a coach. Enforce all your training rules. I’m not here to tell you what you need to do and how to establish your training rules. I think each club needs to be different. Create your own type of training rules and stick to them. Then make the commitment to talk to your kids at least once a week on alcohol and drugs. We’re going to go over some reasons why athletes use alcohol and drugs. The feelings that they get from alcohol and drugs are the same feelings they get from winning and losing—highs and lows. Folks, I’ll tell you this from personal experience, when it comes to feeling good, alcohol and drugs—they work every time. It helps cope with pressure and stress. Let’s go back to that thing we call peer pressure. You’ve got to understand that kids are bombarded left and right. Peer pressure is an amazing powerful tool, but you can turn it around and make it positive. Get athletes to be positive to one another. Not that they’ll do the work for you, but it sure does make things a lot easier. It would really be nice for kids to say within their team, look buddy or look lady, if you’re going to use man, we don’t want you to be a part of our team. We all know that it exists on every team. Somewhere along the line the kid does not use, and then they use. Sometimes it’s those swim team parties that get them started. They see the hero on the team using; and, hey, if Johnny Q can do it, so can I. That’s peer pressure. If somehow we could create on our teams the attitude that it’s cool not to use, it’s better not to use, and have athletes 257 talk to each other that way, it would be truly amazing. Suggestions for coaches—talk about alcohol and drugs among your staff. Let your staff know that it’s a priority. Because, here again, you could save somebody, folks. You could save somebody a lot of heartache, a lot of legal fees. The list goes on and on. Open a dialogue with your athletes, get athletes to use positive peer pres sure, and enforce your training rules. Know the symptoms; recognize the signs. I can’t tell you how many countless times that I’ve overhead rumors of a party.

Well, I’ve got to investigate. Because if you hear kids talking about a party, your high school kids, and you choose not to act on it and something happened, you’d have to live with that for the rest of your life. I can remember I was with a team one time, and this parent came in sloshed. He was doing car pool. I was feeling quite studly, and I pulled him off to the side and said, “You know what? I’m not letting you leave this pool with somebody else’s kids. You can drive yourself, and I’ll make the phone call and we’ll get the parents to pick up their kids.” He looked at me, and he got a little frustrated; but I told him that we could handle it this way, or I could call the police. I knew I smelled it; he was talking, and the fumes were coming right at me. I thought, OK, if I let this gentleman take this car pool home and I know that he’s under the influence, and there’s something that happens on the way home, an automobile accident, am I going to be able to live with that for the rest of my life?

Now, it just so happened that the man never really came in again to pick up car pool. He never really thanked me, and I handled it in a very delicate manner. When I went to bed that night, I was a little scared of him, a little nervous. The voice was cracking when I was talking to the guy. I mean, I felt so strong about it; but when I went to bed that night, I went to bed with a very clear conscience that perhaps I saved somebody. I’m sure we all have seen car pools where at the cocktail hour of the corporate world, they have a few drinks with clients. Then they think, well, I’ve just got to run over and pick up the kids and deliver them home. Investigate.

I’m not saying that you have to go after people; but if you do get wind of it, investigate and see what happens. Have a definite plan in mind if one of your athlete’s gets caught. It’s such a delicate subject, but you have to be prepared if you do have an athlete that gets caught. When you’re talking with them, they need to feel like you are not rejecting them, that you are there to help. That’s the biggest thing. People make mistakes. I’m here to tell you I made a whole bunch. An athlete can never feel like you are rejecting them for their behavior. Have a plan in mind that if they do get caught, you know what you can do as a coach to help them. Nine times out of ten you should get the parents involved. Actually 100% of the time get the parents involved. The parents will thank you in the long run. There’s always discussions. We’ve got these team rules. A kid gets busted, and it’s the star of the team. Sometimes they get bent a little bit because they’re the star of the team.

You have to remain consistent. I’m not here to tell you what type of rules you have to have for your team. If you go into something where you might discipline an athlete and you don’t have a plan, you’ll get eaten alive. This is something you want to discuss with your Athletic Director or your Board of Directors or whoever for whatever situation you’re in. Get parents involved in signing a pledge if you’d like. Check on your athletes. Let them know that you care. If your athletes know that you care, you’ll have them in the palm of your hand. You’ll get so much more out of them. Follow any discipline with help from your students; coaches should be good role models. I think we all know that sometimes after Juniors and all that kind of stuff, or State Championships or Conferences at colleges, there’s a big party. Take the initiative to maybe have your kids involved in some type of alternative activity. That way we can help eliminate the opportunity that perhaps somebody could get started with their first experience. Perhaps prevent a tragedy. There’s some more suggestions for coaches. Talk to your team. Listen to your team. Let them know how you feel. It goes a long way. This is what I want to see happen. Training rules are important. If you can’t follow the rules, somewhere along the line, quit the team. Some people may say that’s harsh. Maybe getting tough on an athlete, that’s really at the very end, when counseling doesn’t help anymore.


Somewhere along the line, you might have to have that. I don’t want to say it, but you may be keeping a bad seed away from other people. Make it clear to your team that there’s help if they do have an alcohol or drug problem. Again, each coach should be a good role model. I’ve got to tell you this. When I was out west going through that huge life crises, I moonlighted at a liquor store to get alcohol. So, plus my ninety plus hours a week on deck coaching and teaching, I worked at a liquor store at night—just so I could cut my cost down. That wasn’t very private, because everybody knew I was working there. I want to share with you communication. This whole process depends on communication. I hope that after this discussion, you won’t turn your back on this subject. It’s very easy to turn your back and pretend like it doesn’t happen.

I just want to read this: “Coaches and/or other significant adults are role models for communication styles. Communication is the sharing of feelings, thoughts, and information with another person or group. When young people learn to communicate effectively, they feel connected to others.” That’s what you’re hopefully going to do with your athletes. This helps them overcome any feelings of loneli ness and alienation. They don’t need to be under the influence of drugs to feel comfortable in expressing feelings and experiencing closeness to others. I’m sure that everybody in this room has experienced an athlete willing to share something with you as a coach that they wouldn’t with their parents. I’ve got repeated examples, where they feel more connected or trusting of you as a coach to tell you something that’s traumatic in their life, or something like that, than they would their own parents. If you can be a good role model on how to communicate, you’ll be surprised how much information you’ll get back from them. Communication is invaluable when it comes to training. Use your skills to communicate to make a difference. We communicate to our kids on the pool deck that we need this high elbow; and when the hand goes in the water, make sure you press a little down and out or whatever. We can communicate that; we can visually show them. Use those same skills to help them become resistant towards dependency. When using these lesson plans for drug education and prevention, remember that you have a special relationship with your athletes and students that most other adults don’t have. That goes back to why they will share things with you that they won’t normally share with other people. If you take the lead, there’s a good chance for success—because the coach is behind it. The things that coaches say to young people are very important, because young people are very receptive to what you have to say. That’s why it’s important to tell athletes to say no, and I need to let you know that saying no and meaning no are two different things. We can teach kids to say no; but if they don’t really believe in saying no, when push comes to shove, they won’t say no.

You have to give them enough information and take the lead to help them understand that you know it’s not really that big of a deal to use. Here’s what’s going to happen if you use. Here’s where it could lead if you use. I’ve been lucky to be able to share with athletes in my past about my past, and I don’t know who I may have reached. I’m sure that we’ve all had athletes come back to us and say, remember that time that you told me that—wow, it sure did make a difference in my life. If every coach can save one athlete from going down the road of dependency, it’s worth it. I can just tell you that it was a living hell for me. I’m amazed that I’m still alive. Rationale for having team meetings on drug abuse—so they can hear it from you. Most of what athletes hear from other kids is usually incorrect. Everybody know what Ridlin is? In grade school they sell it to each other. Are you all aware of that big hot topic? They sell Ridlin; it gets them started. It’s amazing. Kids in your programs will know the facts. Get them to know the facts, so they can make the decision not to use. What you’re really doing here is enabling a young athlete with the power to choose. All my classroom activities with kids in years past have pretty much been prefaced all the time with the fact that I really can’t make an athlete do something that they don’t want to do. We can’t make people do something that they don’t want to do. If you can create the environment for them to learn and see the light, so to speak, then you’re going to have a good chance of getting what you want—whether it’s training or getting kids not to use. Even as adults, we all have the power to choose. Nobody can take that away from us. Let your kids know that. You have the power to choose. You can choose to use. If you use, this is probably what’s going to happen. If you don’t use, la-ti-da, la-ti-da.

OK, but they have the power to choose. Like I said, everything I’ve pretty much taught in the classroom, it would flow over to the pool. You can choose to do this drill; you can choose not to. If you choose to do the drill, you’re going to get better. If you choose not to, you’re going to stay there and la-ti-da. The power to choose is an amazing thing. Here again, make that decision to meet with them at least once a week during practice time, because it’s important to them. I know a lot of coaches choose not to address this issue because I think sometimes they feel like they can’t, or they feel like it’s such a huge topic that they might get lost. I can tell you a few times that athletes in those discussions have come up with some really brilliant questions to where I’d have to say, “Well, I can’t answer your question, but I’ll tell you what, I’m going to research it and I’ll get back to you.” But, I took the lead; you never know who you might help and prevent from going down a very, very tough road. I can say that perhaps I’m living proof that I was lucky. I was a survivor.

You all need to know that part of these materials that I get has always been a healing process for me. I do a lot of traveling with the new job I have, and there’ll be times when I have some down time that something will trigger a memory that I haven’t had in over twenty years of something that happened in the past. If we can prevent somebody from going down that path, it’s truly more rewarding I think than having a kid have a lifetime best because we are helping them become great citizens and better people. At the college level you can be there to help kids create their own rules; let them be part of the process, and then you’re there to enforce it. To be the enforcer and the deliverer of information, I really don’t think it’s a problem, they criss- cross. I think with enforcing, you’re also educating, and with delivering information you’re also educating. If you spell it out to your athletes, then you won’t have that problem. Kids are visual; I think we’re all kind of visual learners. You need to spell out to them what your expectations are, and here’s the reason why. You say, here’s my role in it, and here’s what I expect of you. If you spell it out to them, and you make it really clear, it will go a lot smoother than you think. The education process for coaches and parents is ongoing. While you may feel frustrated in trying to get a clear, concise reaction from your parents, you’re not there yet—don’t give up. Keep plugging away. The more you educate your parents, the better chance you have to win them over.

Go to your board meeting in a very professional way and have some type of visual presentation material for them. If you take the active role that you are there to educate them and help them understand why you want this, you will get what you want. We all have to grow up. What’s the first thing we learn? NO. It’s the first thing we learn. NO. As little kids, we’re told NO, don’t do that; NO—that’s the first thing we learn. We learn to be resistant. The first thing we learn we’re getting talked at. Create an environment that you’re there to help and work with them. Keep plugging away at it. Don’t ever give up. You really have to rely on all your talents to present stuff to parents to win them over—to help them see it the way you see it, or the way you want them to see it. You’ve just got to keep plugging away at it.

One of my roommates in college had a real bad problem. I was a student athletic trainer at my college. There was a big football game; it was pretty much the middle of winter, and everybody was sauced up in the end zone. We’re going to win OEC Championships. I was the student trainer for the other team, and I saw my roommate disappear, and I didn’t see him come back. At half time I ran over to my dorm room, and my roommate had pretty much passed out in the corner of his bed. His face was in the covers, and he was blue. I was scared. You’d think that by college people would learn; but, you know, they don’t.

What would I do? I’d say, “Hey man, where’s this party at? What’s going on? Can I come?” I mean, say it jokingly, but pull the information. A lot of them will be real secretive. What happens a lot in St. Louis, and I’m sure some other towns, is that they don’t have it at somebody’s house. They go to a hotel. They get somebody that’s got a credit card, and they get a room, and they do it in a hotel. Just investigate. You’ve got to put on your Sherlock Holmes hat, so to speak. If you ask enough questions, kids will slip up. They’ll slip up and they’ll tell you; or they’ll say, “If I tell you, promise that you won’t tell anybody.” You know, that kind of thing. Get that information out. I mean the promise that they ask for, you’ve got to say, “Well, I can’t promise ya, but I appreciate you being candid with me.” You just have to investigate. Ask questions, kids will eventually trip up and give you the information you need. I’ve never gone to a party, but what I’ll do is I’ll drop a phone call to the parent. I’m like, you know, I just want to let you know I heard this. I don’t know what truth there is to it, and I’m not here to cast judgment. In my role as a coach I want to tell you that I’ve heard it, and I hope you respect my decision to communicate this to you. Then I kind of put it in their court and see where it goes.

I had this question when I was out at Colorado Springs. In St. Louis and a lot of other communities, there are some rich Italian traditions; and it’s OK for the sixteen or seventeen year old kid to have a glass of wine with dinner. It’s part of the family tradition. Here again, you’ve got to be in a team- work frame of mind with that parent. To say, this is what I believe, and I understand what you believe. Can we work together on this so it’s a win-win situation. That’s probably one of the biggest dilemmas, because a lot of parents will come across and say, “Well it’s my family. But out.” You’ve also got to take ownership to say, “OK, it may be your family, and I completely understand that, and it’s your private life; but it becomes an issue when that certain activity that may happen in that family life flows over to the team that I’m responsible for.” Approach it as win-win. How can we work together to keep your private life private so that it doesn’t flow into the team. You know, a lot of times parents will react defensively right off the bat. If you as a coach approach them that you’re here in a win-win situation and want to work together, you’ll make milestones of achievements. It is a very tough and very delicate matter. The one thing you can’t do is just say this is the way it is; boom; no discussion; this is my stance, now you deal with it. People have been conditioned that when they don’t like something, they’ll attack it. They’ll write the letter with all the nice long words in it to somebody, and then it just creates a mess. Always present yourself to the parent in a win-win situation. How can we work together to get through this? You may not always get the right answer, but it’s certainly the right step.

Right. It’s like planting a tree. Anybody that’s done any type of gardening, you take such good care—you water, you feed it, and that root system branches out. That’s what you do in that situation with your team. You plant that tree or those seeds, and then you nurture that along to where it does become the expectation on the team that you don’t use. They take pride in the fact that they don’t use. The locker room, WOW, what a combat zone. Kids get picked on; kids get peer pressure. As coaches we can’t always be going in there, you know, and all that kind of stuff. You can plant that tree and nurture it, and let that root system branch out into your team. It’s not like you just plant the tree and, boom, it’s matured. It takes time, and it takes a lot of energy from a coach and a coaching staff to nurture that system to where it does branch out to your team. Think about it. If the expectation on the team was that you don’t use, and everybody grows up in a system knowing that you don’t use, it becomes easier. Yes. Question Woods: Right. There have been some reports where a kid will have a five or ten keg party. It could be a small town or even a large town, I mean I’ve heard about this. They’ll charge fifteen bucks at the door. They’ll take some of that money and they know who, through mom or dad maybe, are prominent people in the county or the city. Then they pay off the right people, and the kid clears fifteen hundred to two grand on a party. Remember that triad—you’ve got parent(s), you’ve got the school district, and then you’ve got you as the coach. Hopefully, all three units are focused on the best intentions and the best needs of that athlete. Yes.

Well, what I would tell them is no. Is the performance your life? Is it your life in the sense that—OK, what happens when you get into a job? Is that going to be a situation where you can’t make a successful sales presentation unless you’re high as a kite. Somewhere you’ve got to separate the behavior from the identity. You’ve got to say that swimming, while it may be important; it’s not everything in life. The patterns that you’re exhibiting right now, won’t stop right here. You let them know that this will carry on to the next thing; and the next thing you know, you’ll be dependent on drugs for almost every one of your actions. That’s an athlete who is probably, how should I say it, creating a mystique that the drug helped them. Somewhere along the line you’ve got to break that and say, “You know, you can do this without the drug.” Point to some examples you know of athletes who were drug free. Boom. They can do it, you can do it. I know it’s tough. Marijuana, you know, is in reality a great recovery drug. You know, high school kids are smoking pot and dope mostly afterwards. We all know that college people do it, and other people. It’s a recovery drug, it just makes them feel relaxed. It gives the body a chance to feel like it’s calmed down so they can get ready for the next exercise bout. There’s other ways to achieve that. If anybody went to the presentation last year, with the Australian Doctor that was up on the hot tub and cold water to help remove lactic acid—there’s breathing; there’s mental relaxation. There are all kinds of things out there that you can have athletes learn to get them to relax. For that person, they’re finding out that a couple of tokes on a joint, or the pot pipe, or the bong is the easiest way. You’ve got to break that cycle.

Denial is a big thing. A lot of kids think that they don’t have a problem. Dealing with a denial is hard; it’s an awfully big burden. Because kids, I mean, we’re all con artists to a certain extent to get what we want. Denial is certainly a pattern of behavior where they’ll come up with some great cases to prove that they’re not dependent. You have to be steadfast as a coach and spell it out to them. Look Johnny or Roscoe or Bosco, from where I’m standing, here’s what I’m seeing—A B C D.. now, if you were standing where I’m standing, you would see it too. My job here Johnny is to help you understand that there is a problem here, and I’m here to help. As coaches, you know, we’re basically psychologists without a license. Don’t be afraid to pull in outside help on something like that, because sometimes some of these subjects get really deep in denial. Don’t be afraid to pull in a parent or outside resources, but let that athlete know that it’s all being done for them. It takes time. If it was easy to quit, everybody would quit. It’s not easy to quit. It takes a lot of time and a lot of patience. Through a lot of patience and a lot of time, we can break through that denial with other resources and constantly helping them out to where the light bulb will come on. Once we can get that light bulb to come on, then you’ve got that person to maybe commit to a change. That goes back to you can’t make people do something they don’t want to do. If you can put your efforts and time into creating the environment to help them understand, you will eventually get there; but it’s not a light switch. I use that so much—it’s not a light switch. We’re all trained for NOW and kids growing up now want it right now. They don’t understand that it takes time. Does that answer your question? Just don’t be afraid to pull in outside resources. It is very delicate, but you have to rely on a lot of skills and talents that you already have to get there. OK. Are there any more questions. Question Woods: I think you can search for anything on the internet, and you’ll find it. Don’t be afraid to contact your local counselors, either at the collegiate, high school, or grade school levels. They’ve got so many tools, and they’d be more than willing to share them with you. Just call around to your junior high counselors. Junior high counselors are probably the best people on earth, man. My hat’s off to them. If you really want some down to earth resources, contact a Junior High Counselor. Because that’s such a traumatic age, and they’re fine-tuned. All right. Thank you very much folks.

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