Sports Tailgating: A Breeding Ground for Underage Drinking?

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Author’s Bio: The following is a guest post by Melissa, Public Relations Coordinator for St. Jude Retreats – a non 12 step alternative to conventional alcohol and drug rehab.

Football season is upon us once again. From the smell of delicious grilled hotdogs to the warming sensation of hot chocolate on a crisp fall day, tailgating is a ritual that millions of football fans partake in each year. What about the presence of alcohol at sporting events?

According to a University of Minnesota study comprised by social psychologists such as Darin Erickson, more than 48 percent of sports fans consume alcohol before or during a sporting event. Many of these fans leave the game legally drunk as well, even the fans who are well above the age of 21 [1].

While these statistics are alarming, we turn to minors who partake in the same pre-game drinking binge and wonder, is drinking before football games, sporting events or even concert a growing trend among teenagers?

The belief that most people hold is that drinking and sporting events goes hand in hand. Many students truly believe in order for them to have fun, they need to consume large amounts of alcohol during a sporting event or pregame with their friends. After all, football just seems more fun when you’ve had a drink or two in you, right?

Think of the last sporting event you attended, did you or your friends consume alcohol before or after? Did you see many other intoxicated fans? Over Erickson’s study of three NFL games, researchers estimate that some 5,000 people leaving a typical game are legally drunk [1]. That is a large majority of drunk drivers unless people have arranged otherwise with a safe way home.

What high school students and some college freshman may be unaware of is that colleges and even high school communities are cracking down on underage drinking and public intoxication. Even beyond sporting events, police are searching concerts and other events where underage drinking historically tends to run ramped. Students should be aware of the consequences that come along with criminal charges, especially if they could be putting their academic careers or scholarships in jeopardy.

So is there a way to combat drinking at these types of events?

Typically the answer is no, which is why it happens so often; however, as a parent of a high school student, you can be more educated about what your teen is doing, where they are hanging out and with whom.

Speak with your teen about harm reduction and prevention techniques if you believe they may be experimenting with alcohol. This is not to be confused with advocating for underage drinking, however. You can’t make your teen stop drinking, you can just prepare them with the knowledge to assess every situation differently and make a responsible choice. If your teen is going to drink regardless, wouldn’t you rather them be safe about it?

A few things to go over are the particular policies at their college or general underage drinking laws in your state. Explain to them that underage drinking could mean a large fine, jail time, academic probation, school suspension and can go on their permanent record. They may be truly unaware of these types of laws and consequences, however the perception may be that all their friends are doing it and these individuals never get caught.

It only takes one moment to ruin a future, make sure they understand this without coming off as extremely overbearing.

Another thing to explain to your teen is public intoxication. Even if they physically do not have alcohol on them at a game or in a vehicle, they could still get in trouble if they are visually intoxicated in public. Your teen may believe that a few drinks won’t affect their motor skills, vision or coordination, so it’s important to explain what a tolerance level is if you believe they are experimenting.

Overall drinking at sporting events is a decision that most adults make and choose to participate in, knowing very well the consequences of their actions. If teens know these consequences in advance it may better prepare them to continue to abstain from alcohol knowing the risk isn’t worth it for a few hours of fun.

Sources: [1] http://www.wired.com/playbook/2011/01/drinking-sporting-events/

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