Alcohol Awareness and Education within Club Sports

April 10, 2011

Getting your teams to “Make Smart Choices”

Kate Durant
Club Sports Program Coordinator
Student Activities
University of Connecticut

Underage Drinking, Alcohol related illnesses, students being rushed to the hospital, hazing and drunk driving accidents are a common occurrence on college campuses. Students suffer the consequences of fines, community service, probation of their organization, being expelled from the university, or worse – life altering injuries. The University of Connecticut Club Sports program focuses on turning our students athletes into student leaders. One distinct aspect of our programs is that they are exclusively student run. We form student committees consisting of volunteers from our various teams which collaborate to run six on-campus events. One of these events focuses on Alcohol Awareness and Education.

Our students research creative ways to educate our 1000+ athletes. Once they decide upon the method, they plan the event and see it through. Students work within a budget to reserve a venue, advertise, contract (if necessary) set up, break down, taking attendance and post event surveying. In the past, we have teamed up with our ‘Alcohol and Other Drug’ office on campus to educate our students on safe drinking, including informational sessions that focused on ‘safe partying’. In the fall of 2007, we brought in a motivational speaker (Bernie McGrenahan) who talked about how as a collegiate athlete he had the whole world in his hands, about how he took things for granted and how he lost control of his grades, his performance on the field and of his life. This event exceeded our expectations, resulting in a significant number of posts on his website from students commenting on the talk – and how he had really connected with students.

Since most students have heard the ‘don’t drink’ messages before, our student leaders try to stress education, knowledge and safety about alcohol and party situations. It is a given that most students will experiment with drugs and alcohol at some point in their collegiate experience, so let’s work on educating them so that they will be better prepared for the choices they make. We also like to talk about how alcohol effects their performance on the field (who wants to play rugby with a hangover?), or the long term effects of weight gain, depression and laziness.

Each athlete enrolled in our program must sign a ‘Conduct Agreement’ outlining the policies and procedures of being involved in the Club Sports Program. Some teams, like our Women’s Club Lacrosse team, write their own ‘Conduct Agreement’ which team members must sign and adhere to. In their 2007 Championship winning season in the North East Women’s Lacrosse League, their team motto was to ‘Make Smart Choices’. Their commitment to the team and to themselves really had a positive impact and set a precedent for other athletes and the overall program.

Other opportunities to collaborate and find creative programs with a student perspective is to partner with other campus offices such as Greek Life, Recreation, or Student Programming to ensure healthy alternatives are offered. Since students often feel that there is nothing else to do but drink, it is really important to raise students’ awareness about these healthy alternatives.

In conclusion, listen to your student leaders and be creative in how to involve them in the planning process. Most importantly – educate them not only on safety and alcohol awareness issues, but on the many other alternative opportunities that may be available.

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