Aug 29, 2011 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
A cadre of athletic directors and student athletes from four area school districts – including Skaneateles – last week held the inaugural meeting for a new pilot program created to fight substance abuse among student athletes.
The Honor the Code program seeks to choose and empower student leaders who will, while working with district athletic directors and other administrators, encourage other student athletes in their schools to eschew drug and alcohol use in their daily lives, and especially during sports seasons.
“This program has been in the works for several years to think about how we can help teenagers and support them in making better decisions about their lives,” said program coordinator Philip Rose of the Prevention Network at the Aug. 23 meeting in the Skaneateles District Office conference room.
Representatives (one athletic director and two students) from Skaneateles, Marcellus, LaFayette and Onondaga districts participated in the two-hour meeting to lay the groundwork for the pilot program and discuss implementation during the coming school year.
Athletic Director Stacey Tice and 2011-12 seniors Bryce Kerr and Erin Tonzi represented Skaneateles at the meeting and will be part of the program for the entire school year.
No program like this has ever before been tried anywhere in the country, Rose said. “We’re going to make this road as we go,” he told the meeting. “We’re looking for ideas, and yes we’ll bumble some things, some things won’t work, but we’re in this together.”
The main idea behind the program is that every school has an athletic code that forbids student athletes from drinking and doing drugs. These codes must be signed by athletes in order for them to play school sports.
But most students don’t really read the code, they simply sign the form so they can play, Rose said, and he was echoed by most of the students present that that indeed is what happens.
Marianne Angelillo, a parent/student representative who works with Rose on underage drinking programs, said this will be a great way to “dust off the athletic code,” shine a light on its precepts and get more students and parents involved.
This is about students helping their peers; it also is about being good role models for younger student athletes who admire the older ones and emulate their actions, Angelillo said.
Of the 11 schools invited to participate, only the four at the meeting said yes to the idea.
For the next year or two, these students and athletic directors will regularly meet to discuss how best to implement the program goals, encourage others to join the effort, and come up with new ideas going forward.
There also is a camera crew participating that will document all eight of the student leaders during the year (in school and on the field) to see how they interact with their teammates, how the program works or does not work, and how, at the end of the year, things have or have not changed.
At the start of the school year, a survey will be circulated around every participating school with questions about substance abuse and athletes. The same survey will again be sent around at the end of the school year as a way to gauge the progress of the program.
Incoming seniors Kerr and Tonzi were nominated by coaches and administrators to represent Skaneateles, with the final decision and invitation by Tice. Selection was based on specific characteristics of competence, character, civility, citizenship and chemical health — all of which demonstrates responsible behavior needed in a leadership position.
Tonzi said she was interested in participating the minute Tice asked her. “This is really important, especially for younger athletes who look up to the older ones as role models. It also empowers a team helps create an atmosphere of teamwork.”
Kerr said he feels honored to have been asked. “I was really surprised and excited to be asked, especially to look at all the other student athletes who could have been chosen.”
It was emphasized multiple times during the meeting that the students will not be acting on their own or without support. “We’re here as a powerful research group of adults — you’re not alone,” Rose said at one point.
Tice emphasized that point saying that in Skaneateles “we’re committed to working with you to get towards this goal . . . you will not be alone.”
During the meeting, the program was laid out in detail, discussions were had about the current culture of drinking and drugs in high school and how it affects student athletes, how to change the mindset of drinkers, how to motivate people to embrace the program, the effects of parental support and the impact of a coach.
“I think it was a good start,” Tice said after the meeting adjourned. “Everybody’s very enthusiastic about the initiative.”
“If this does nothing but make teams and parents start a conversation, then we have done well,” Angelillo said.
The next meeting of the Honor the Code working group will be in late September at Onondaga district.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.