It’s much more than just the specific sport; it’s about reinforcing positive attitude and lessons for life.

Signs of Substance Use Problems

Emotional Symptoms

  • More irritable or angry, which may lead to more arguments.
  • Sudden mood swings.

Problems Functioning

  • At school, missing school or dropping grades. With sport, missing practice or problems with performance. At home, problems with meeting responsibilities, chores and home expectations.
  • Changes in social life.
  • Changes in friends with new friends, but not wanting these new friends to visit home and not wanting parents or talk to these new friends.

Physical Symptoms

  • Problems focusing or paying attention.
  • If actively intoxicated or high, you may also see signs such as slurred speech, memory impairment, incoordination, and impairment of attention; smell of alcohol, smoke or other substance on your child’s breath or clothing.
  • Smell of alcohol, smoke, or other chemicals on your child’s breath or clothing.

Changes in Behaviours

  • Periods where there is obvious intoxication, dizziness, or bizarre behavior.
  • Change in dress, appearance or grooming.
  • Loss of interest in things that s/he used to enjoy doing.
  • Withdrawal for long periods into his/her own room.
  • Loss of interest in physical hygiene, manner of dress or hygiene.
  • Secretive and suspicious behaviour, such as being secretive about one’s bedroom (out of fear of drugs being discovered).
  • Wearing of sunglasses even when its not appropriate (in order to hide red eyes).
  • Wearing of long-sleeved clothing even in summertime (to hide possible injection marks).
  • Drug paraphernalia or drug items at home, e.g. pills, cough syrup bottles, tin foil, spoons, pipes, syringes.
  • Needing more money (in order to buy drugs), which may lead to:
    • Borrowing money from others.
    • Always asking for more money.
    • Stealing items from home school or work.
    • Money (or possessions) going missing from the home, siblings or parents.
    • Disappearing items from home which they may be pawning off.
    • They may report ‘losing’ his/her possessions, which are in reality being sold in order to help pay for drugs.
    • Signs that they may be stealing (or selling drugs) might include.
    • Always having cash.
    • New expensive gadgets like iPods that were a “gift” from a friend.
    • Frequently staying out very late


Learn what you can about drugs and drug use in children and youth.

There are many good websites for this, such as the National Institute for Drug Abuse in Bethesda, Maryland ( or the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto,Ontario ( See the end of this article for more links.

Learn ‘how to talk so your athletes will listen, and how to listen so that they will talk’.

Allow them to talk about their feelings freely. Don’t lecture or give long monologues. Create a supportive environment so that they will feel comfortable talking about the stresses and issues they face.

Build self-esteem and self-confidence, which will help them to resist peer pressure and be able to ‘say no’.

Look for persistance, and praise it.

Find times when they have worked hard at something, no matter what the outcome. If they succeed, then praise, but emphasize the effort, not the outcome. For example, if your athletes train hard and gets good results, emphasize the hard work, not the good results. Similarly, if they work hard but get poor results, nonetheless remember to still praise the effort.

This teaches athletes the importance of hard work and persistence, which in the long run, is the more important strength to have.

If you do need to give constructive criticism, then criticize the behaviours or actions, and not the individual. It’s the behaviour that needs changing; not the individual.

Teach them to make his/her own decisions.

Whenever possible, give them the opportunity to make his/her own choices, as opposed to simply telling them what to do. Later on, when faced with peer situations, this independence will help them make his/her own decisions rather than relying on others.

Keep youth involved in healthy pursuits such as sports and hobbies, to reduce boredom and lack of things to do.

Teach about peer pressure and acceptance.

Talk to your athletes about how it is important to be able to be yourself, and that a real friend accepts you for who you are. Real friends do not make you do drugs just to feel accepted.

Be clear about sport rules for use of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs.

Expand the Reach is a web based resource for coaches, athletes of all levels, parents and community organizations to support Mental Wellness, and early intervention for better performance in sport & life. 

Contact us for more information