As outlined in his book Basketball Junkie: A Memoir the story of former college and NBA player Chris Herren is tragic and inspirational It serves as a reminder to us about the danger we flirt with when we abuse alcohol. Each of us has views, rationalizations, and levels of acceptance when it comes to drinking, but I’d like to take the opportunity to address it as another foe of good decisions in basketball and how it relates to life and faith.
I have yet to have a season of college basketball where the use or misuse of alcohol did not have an impact – from the obvious cases of suspensions or playing careers ended on my team or on an opposing team to the more subtle drop in a player’s focus and performance or even the loss of quality practice time and performance due to lost sleep or hangovers. I’ve sat with the parents of a college freshman who vowed not to drink at college only to become completely wrapped up in the party scene in the first semester and I’ve helped athletes involved in a pregnancy that resulted from alcohol-related decisions. I’ve learned that we can’t kid ourselves, alcohol effects basketball like any other aspect of our lives, and coaches and players would be wise to be on guard for its effects.
As a parent, I’ve seen its effects at the high school level and as a college coach, I deal with it, whether I’m aware of incidents or not. I’ve coached with head coaches who have had a variety of views. While I know the use of alcohol or any other drug is a constant discussion in our society, coaches can and should use their influence to help their players, especially when enforcement of public laws or campus policies about underage drinking vary in effectiveness. My concern right now is to ask those involved with the game to give thoughtful consideration to your own stance on drinking by athletes. Here’s an article on Livestrong.com (You can hold your commentary on Lance!) outlining alcohol’s effects on performance –The Effects of Alcohol and a quick list of questions for coaches and players to consider, Alcohol and Your Team.
I’ve made decisions in my life about alcohol, after I wised up and grew up – but how many bad decisions in my youth were affected by drinking? More than I can count – in fact, I can’t think of too many good decisions that came when I was drinking. Many of us may rationalize youthful actions as part of growing up, but I think I could have done without the effects of drinking in my life – not to mention the money I could have used differently! I’m not attempting to make moral judgments about drinking, other than it’s against the law if you’re underage and we have far too many incidents of deaths related to binge drinking and drunk driving, but the excessive use of alcohol cannot be overlooked.
In a previous post, I mentioned a sermon on decisions by Bill Hybels. In that talk he quoted Brad Paisley’s song “Alcohol” to point out the problems that arise from decisions we make while drinking. While I rarely listen to Country music – it’s too depressing; there are songs like this that have a lot of truth. As you read the words, do you chuckle? Do you brush it off? Do you say “that’s not me?” I leave it up to you, but for my young friends out there, and maybe for their parents, too – you are not missing anything when you choose to abstain, have a limit, or avoid a house party. Free time on a team trip does not have to include drinking. Take a close, honest look at your own decisions, your own rationalizations, and your own dependence on drinking.
If you’re still with me and I haven’t offended you, you’re probably not surprised that God has something to say about the subject of alcohol. First, he says “I love you!” and there’s nothing you can do to be separated from His love (Romans 8:39). People who know the Bible better than me can point to multiple references to drinking and most of us can agree that even Jesus was not opposed to alcohol – after all, He did refill the wine for the wedding of a friend! But we’re also told by Solomon how foolish it is to allow alcohol to be a major influence in our earthly lives (Proverbs 20:1)
“Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler, whoever is led astray by them is not wise.”
Listen to Coach Solomon’s advice. I know it will make a difference!
This blog is here to help me as much as you! If you have a comment or question, I’d love to hear it. Let’s address the issue together.