Youth Sports Participation and Substance Use: What to do?

A new report from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Addiction examined research on youth sports participation and substance use, as well as gaps in the research and future implications.

Among the implications for programs and practices cited in the report were the following:

  1. Have peers deliver the intervention (i.e., leverage team mates or those who have influence over other athletes);
  2. Involve a coach or parent in reinforcing prevention messaging;
  3. Provide youth with an achievable alternative to risky behaviour;
  4. Include campaigns, posters and advertisements designed with youth in mind, to correct youth perceptions of social norms;
  5. Target unhealthy behaviour at the community level;
  6. Offer personalized health screening, feedback and counselling to guide youth in behaviour change related to substance use; and
  7. Targeted interventions to a specific subgroup of youth (e.g., participants on sports teams).

The good news is that most of these recommendations can be easily and quickly achieved using the evidence-based SPORT Prevention Plus Wellness (PPW) program for youth and the InShape Prevention Plus Wellness (PPW) program for college students.

First, SPORT PPW and InShape PPW offer personalized health screening and feedback, along with multiple behavior goal setting.  These are designed to motivate young people and teach them self-regulation skills to make positive behavior changes, including avoiding fitness and performance-damaging substance use while increasing physical activity and healthy habits.

Second, because SPORT PPW and InShape PPW are brief, single-session interventions, they are practical solutions for targeting subgroups of young people in any setting, including those participating in school, college or community sports, recreation, sports physicals, physical education classes, after-school programs, diversion classes for young people cited for a substance use infraction, fitness and wellness classes, etc.

Third, SPORT PPW and InShape PPW offer achievable, positive alternative behaviors and self-images to risky substance use, but highlighting the benefits of regular physical activity and sports, healthy nutrition, getting adequate sleep, and controlling stress for achieving fitness, performance, and health goals.

Fourth, SPORT PPW and InShape PPW can be provided by youth people as youth or peer leaders.  They can also be provided by adults, including coaches, teachers, volunteers, parents, and even current or ex-athletes that serve as positive role models.  In addition, SPORT PPW and InShape PPW are being adopted for use online in self-paced e-learning programs.

Fifth, because SPORT PPW and InShape PPW are single-session, fully scripted programs, they can easily be implemented by coaches and parents.  In addition, the SPORT Prevention Plus Wellness program includes four parent flyers and web-based resources to reinforce positive prevention and fitness messaging at home.

Read the Centre’s report on Youth Sport Participation and Substance Use: Understanding the Relationship today:

Please share this important new report with others in your region and state.  Thank you!


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