Resources for Coaches

You have just received this letter:  "This is to inform you that one of your student athletes has been placed on disciplinary probation/censure through the student conduct system. Enclosed you will find a copy of their decision letter, which is now final."

You may be wondering, what do I do from here? Here are some tips and tools you may use with your student athlete. 

Tips for talking with your student athlete:

Considerations with Intercollegiate Athletics:
  • Many student-athletes choose to abstain or drink in a low risk way (between 20-25% of college students did not drink in the last year)  But…
  • Rates of “binge drinking” tend to be higher than non-athletes
  • Binge drinking higher for team sport athletes than individual sport athletes
  • Variation in-season vs. off-season
  • Male team leaders at greater risk than female team leaders
  • Coaches matter
    • Student-athletes see coaches as a leader and role model. Coaches can impact student-athletes academic success, health and well being, and sense of confidence.
    • Coaches who send the message that they care and have expectations about alcohol use (and enforcement of policies) will affect student-athletes drinking habits.
 Talking with someone you are concerned about:
  • Talk to the student-athlete when he or she is free of distractions
  • Don’t make assumptions about what you see and similarly don’t label or judge behavior.
  • Remain calm, express understanding, and describe what you observed rather than trying to interpret the reason behind it.
Asking Questions:
  • Avoid Closed-ended questions: These are questions that can be answered with a “yes” or “no”
  • Ask Open-ended questions. These are questions that can’t be answered with a yes or no, and we don’t know where the answer is going to go.
  • When we are pressed for time, we tend to ask closed-ended questions. The problem is that we are doing all of the work. Sometimes without realizing it, we’re pushing toward a “yes” or even the answer we want to hear.
Examples

Closed Question: There’s nothing I need to know about, is there?

Replace with: What’s been going on?

Closed Question: Is everything going well?

Replace with: How are things going?

Closed Question: Are your classes going ok?

Replace with: What are your classes like this semester?

 Closed Question: Have you thought of trying this?

Replace with: What have you thought about trying?

Examples Applied to Alcohol Use

Closed Question: Do you think you have a problem with drinking?

    Replace with: How do you feel about your drinking?

Closed Question: Do you feel like you should cut down?

    Replace with: What do you think would be helpful?

Closed Question: Would you say you are a heavy drinker?

    Replace with: What does your drinking look like?

Important to all of this is using your own voice, tone, and normal language. If you ask a closed ended question, it is not the end of the world, just know that you may just get a yes or no answer. If this happens, you can follow up with a clarifying question. For example: A student dragging at practice certainly could have been out the night before, but also could have been up studying or could be sick. You could describe what you are seeing such as “you look like you were having a tough time in practice today” followed by an open-ended question like, “what’s going on?”

Finally:

  • Be aware of campus resources
  • Be careful not to take on too much
  • Consult with a supervisor or other staff when needed
  • Know when confidentiality must be broken and when an immediate report must be made
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Statements of intending to harm someone else

CAMPUS RESOURCES

Joshua Hopkins, Substance Use Educator; Dean of Students office: 507-933-7526; Email @gustavus.edu

Megan Ruble, Assistant Dean of Students,  507-933-7526; Email mruble@gustavus.edu

Gustie Guide