Sport is more competitive than ever before at school level, I certainly don’t need to convince you that, which is leading to athletes doing whatever it takes to succeed in that environment. Including, arguably, a dangerous involvement with supplements.
But, you know what – it’s our fault: the adults. Commercialization of sport at the top level and the need for adults to win at all costs, which without doubt dominates many of our youth sporting environments, is to blame.
If we want to make a real difference here – if we want to change current behaviors and look out for our athletes – then education is king.
We known people are using supplements and we need to accept that it’s happening and go about showing them how to do it safely.
In certain cases, the right supplement may just be the right solution to an otherwise difficult problem to solve.
So, how do we educate?
‘Pinning up’ our elite athletes and getting them to tell a story of what they did when they were young is one way, but it’s not the best.
Circumstances have changed significantly over the past few years and for many young athletes the All Blacks or Silver Ferns is just too big a step for their words to resonate.
Peer influence is the way forward here.
We need to reach the players that everyone else looks up to, the captains of the first XIs and the netball 7s – the leaders of the social networks that are youth sport.
In the same way young people get sucked into negative behaviours by their mates – through peer pressure – we can get them to do the right thing in the same way.
By following the guys who set next to them in the changing sheds, or the ones who stand up in assembly to talk about the weekend’s big game to the rest of the school who is eagerly waiting to hear.
That’s how we make a real difference.