Coaches quickly take on a major role in student’s lives. They are the people that push students, encourage students, and generally become the safe haven for a student. Coaches are almost like second parents to athletes, especially because of how close knit teams become. This level of influence is vital when it comes to setting good examples and keeping the students safe.
Recent studies have found that almost half of alcoholics and drug addicts became addicted before the age of 25, in the United States alone. Currently, the age where students begin to try alcohol is only 12 years old and the crucial years for prevention are 14-24, when they are most at risk. Coaches work with students for a lot of this crucial decade. High school sports alone cover the first half of the decade, moving into college sports for the latter half.
The coach-player relationships allows for a level of communication that other prevention methods miss. Due to the closeness and role aforementioned, students are more likely to listen to a coach versus someone else. This gives the coach the opportunity to talk about health and wellness, alcohol, tobacco and drugs, and sports injury and recovery.
The more that we are able to talk to students about the dangers of poor health behaviors, including sleep deprivation, alcohol, tobacco, and drugs, the better it will stick in a student’s head. Meaning that this will be the most effective “coaching” a student can receive.
Keeping in mind the role that you have as a coach is a key component to building a foundation or a safety net for a student. As a coach, there are some things you could do to provide the best education for your students:
• Have an understanding of general health and wellness. As a coach, this is a given. There is a lot of education that goes into being an effective coach. Staying up to date with research and keeping your students informed on best practices and policy for overall wellness will encourage them to lead a healthy lifestyle, ultimately discouraging them from poor health decisions.
• Be a good role model, set the example. Students learn by modeling what is being done. “Do as I say, not as I do” is a practice that leads to mistrust. Being a good example encourages students to put in the work and they are likely to follow in your footprints.
• Have set policies on alcohol, tobacco and drug use. Making students aware of policies from the beginning of the season leaves no room for errors. By being honest about the policy and talking with your student athletes, you not only make students aware, but you open the conversation up about alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.
• Educate your students. Teach your students the effects of using alcohol, tobacco, and drugs on their overall health, as well as on their performance as an athlete. Understanding the negative effects can result in students not wanting to even start with the risky behavior, especially when they realize how much it can affect their ability to play in the sport. Again, this also opens the door to further discussions between students and coaches.
Ultimately, the coach’s role in a student’s life is extremely important. Being aware of the amount of influence one can have on a student is key to providing effective prevention techniques and opening a clear and safe line of communication. Your role as a coach is crucial to protecting and encouraging our students.