“I have nothing better to do…!” a phrase uttered by the many of teen students struggling to maintain with the day-to-day pressures of high school. This, a phrase I heard uttered a total of 6 times in less than 2 hours. In short, the conversation consisted of one of my softball players and a best friend discussing the use of marijuana. My player seemed a bit irritated by the fact that her friend had showed up to watch her play “high”. The conversation was casual and playful banter was thrown back and forth between the two. One would tease, “pothead” while the other stated things like “chicken” and “goodie- goodie”. Later after the game, my players began talking about their own history with marijuana and alcohol. Some admitted to drinking rarely while others admitted to never drinking at all. Then I came to my own conclusions about why, this past weekend I spent an exhausting 20+ hours watching, coaching, and participating in a girl’s adolescent softball league that organizes teams ages 8 to 18. In talking with several of the girls who range from 14 – 17 years old, I realized that several of them were partaking in more than just softball as an extra-curricular activity. On top of a full class load, some were cheerleaders, soccer players, band members, volunteers, employees, volleyball players, ASB members, and so on. Each activity requiring more time, attention, and commitment then a typical 9AM to 5PM work day. In an average week, our softball program alone requires 4-week night practices ranging from 2 to 3 hours and at minimum of 2 Saturday games, each 2 hours in length with an hour of pre-game warm-up. When asking them how they managed, their general response was, “it’s hard but it keeps us busy and out of trouble.” We discussed what they meant by “trouble” and to me a surprising number of responses pertained to drug and alcohol use. They all expressed concern over the general peer-pressures associated with high school including drugs, alcohol, sex, relationships, and popularity. Most of them felt that it were easier to avoid these peer-pressures when they were able to give a validated excuse such as softball. In fact, many of them stated that if given more time to attend high school social events they felt they would want to experiment with drugs and alcohol because it was “the thing to do”. As they spoke I remembered my own high school experience and how easy it was for me to get through without using. But I also remember that I too, was highly involved in several activities for those same reasons. I found it interesting that many of them chose to stay busy as a means of also staying sober or “out of trouble”. They expressed that they did not need or desire “down time” because in the small town, they feared that “trouble” was the only other option. The idea that teen addiction is a result of boredom (among other reasons) is in fact true in the case of many of the players I work with day to day. In essence, they each made it clear that staying busy was one of the easiest ways to maintain to stay away from peer-pressure. They also discussed how structured programs were even more effective because it required mental and physical stability, which did not allow for the idea of drug and alcohol abuse.
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