What's Life Of an Athlete All About?
by John Underwood, American Athletic Institute
When you stop and think about the purpose of activities for youth, it is important to be reminded that the objective goes far beyond winning, championships, season records and the scoreboard. Athletics is the largest target population that exists in any school. In small rural schools we have seen 60-90% of students involved in at least one sport per school year, while in the larger schools 40-55% of students are involved in sports.
The Life of an Athlete (LOA) program provides a targeted opportunity to use mandatory meetings to get 40-90% of your school/community parents into a venue to show them valuable prevention data, strategies and educate them to the concerns their children face during their high risk teen years.
Why Life Of an Athlete? Life Of an Athlete (LOA) is a systemic community approach to:
• Reducing risk and
• Increasing protective factors in student athletes while
• Setting clear consistent boundaries for behavior and
• Increasing consequence beliefs,
• Teaching appropriate athletic lifestyle and
• Establishing a process to identify and help those involved in drug use or behaviors of concern.
From a prevention standpoint, there are some critical areas of purpose in athletics that should not be overlooked, basics that have the potential to build strengths and reduce risk in all.
Pro Social Bonding: The opportunity to take membership in a positive group activity that calls for positive health behaviors, negative attitude toward negative societal issues, positive relationships with adults, positive bonding to social institutions and commitment to pro-social values. Through athletics, we are attempting to establish a social order with a basis of achievement, common interest and excellence.
Clear and Consistent Boundaries: Standards for youth behavior set by adults, but also standards set by youth and monitored within their social order. Many of these standards are set to address concerns for health, safety and performance.
Life Skills: "Abilities for adaptive and positive behavior that enable individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life." To try to impart to those involved in high school athletics a learning experience that offers skills and abilities that can be used throughout the "game of life", long after their athletic career is over.
Caring and Support: To show those involved in high school athletics that all stakeholders in the program care and support those who partake, win or lose. Show that the adults in a community appreciate the athletes and what they are trying to achieve. That we are proud of them, not just for how well they play and what they achieve, but also the kind of young people they are with regard to character and citizenship.
Set High but Realistic Expectations: To set expectations for youth to always try their best, to believe in themselves and to show dedication, focus and commitment in whatever they do. To instill in them that their athletic experience is a privilege and honor afforded them to represent their community as ambassadors.
Opportunity for Meaningful Experience: To not simply offer athletics as an activity, but to make it a special experience unlike any other and to provide, as much as possible, for a young person to gain a positive outlook and perspective from being involved in athletics.