“It’s never going to be perfect,” said O’Neil, when asked about teens and decision-making during high school.
O’Neil said some student behavior can be traced to their friends and groups they are linked with.
“There’s nothing a kid wants more in a high school than to belong to something,” she said. “So if the group that they belong to is participating in unhealthy choices, and they’re exposed to that on a regular basis, they could start to use.”
O’Neil said the process of educating student-athletes has come a long way from informal talks decades ago to incorporating curriculum and including parents, teachers, and coaches in the process. She said athletes take part in role-playing to learn ways to cope with peer pressure to drink and use drugs. She also stresses how indulging can hurt an athlete’s performance.
“One drunk incident can wipe out 14 days of training,” she said.
Dr. Frederick Neff, who has worked as a sports psychologist for the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers, said an important lesson that parents and educators can teach student-athletes is that certain behaviors have consequences.
“There’s a lot of behavior that’s overlooked,” he said. “Kids need to understand that when they do certain things, there needs to be a consequence so they can learn what they can and can’t do, and the price that will happen if they do it.”