It used to be that kids would join little league teams excited to play baseball, football and hockey. Young boys all over the country had dreams of being the next Mickey Mantle or Roger Staubauch. These days, as kids innocently join teams ready to begin their dream of becoming a professional in their chosen sport, and as parents cheer from the stands hoping that their little one doesn’t get hurt, the pressure to be bigger, faster and stronger than the other guy gets harder to ignore.
With professional sports contracts paying out millions of dollars for each player every year, a kid’s dreams can bring him fame and a pretty big fortune. But only if he is successful at beating out every other kid with the same dream. Out of the 1,500 or so active professional football players, there are maybe millions of kids who dream of being a great pro quarterback. With those odds, kids, sometimes coaches, and sometimes even parents begin looking for an edge for their child. Even though they are illegal to use more and more kids are turning to steroids to give them the edge they are looking for.
Steroids are hormone drugs that make athletes stronger and more muscular. This is an obvious advantage on the football field. Kids realize that their high school sports years are when college recruiters are going to make offers to the best players to play on a college team. Being recruited by a major college means that the player will get not only a free ride scholarship to the college but will play on a great team and then maybe get a job on a pro team. This is true for high school baseball, soccer, and hockey team players too. Kids are sometimes introduced to steroids as young as junior high school and sometimes the pressure to be the best makes the steroids too hard to resist. Also, some kids are given silent permission to use steroids by their coaches and parents because these adults may recognize the signs that a teen is using steroids but not do anything about it.
Steroid use can cause some pretty complicated side effects. Young men who use steroids can become larger and more muscular very quickly. They can also have bad acne breakouts, they can be shaky, have bad body odor, mood swings, and become aggressive and hard to get along with. For girls, using steroids can make them moody, and give them facial hair and a deeper voice. Unfortunately, many of these things are present during the teen years anyway. Some of the more scary side effects are heart damage, liver damage, and shrinking of the testicles.
Even over the counter steroids have side effects. Protein drinks and steroid powders are available in health food stores and kids have easy access to these products. Since teen steroid users are not done growing the damage that steroids do can mean much more to them than to adults. Even over the counter steroids can cause kidney damage and heart damage.
As many as thirty million kids play a sport in this country and up to 11 percent of those kids have at least tried steroids. Steroids are a drug and using them is illegal. Sometimes kids are introduced to steroids by their coach. There have been some recent stories in the news about coaches who gave their players steroids or who suggested that the player give steroids a try to become a better player. Most often, another player introduces them to the drug either because the user brags about using steroids or a weaker player befriends the stronger one and the steroid user shares his secret.
Because steroid use has become such a problem for teenagers, parents, coaches and other adults are taking steps to stop the use of steroids. Some students learn about using steroids in health class. Some schools require that their students who play sports attend a lecture about steroid use in sports. And some other schools pass out a flyer or a pamphlet about steroid use to sports team members. Even the National Football League has become involved in teaching kids not to use steroids to enhance their sports performance. These organizations have developed an approach of education to keep kids from trying steroids or to get them off steroids once they have started. Kids know that if they are caught using steroids, they can get kicked off of their sports team. But they also know that if they take steroids, they can be bigger, stronger and play better than some other players and that they have a better chance of winning.
For years kids have been learning that smoking, drinking and drugs are not good for them. But kids still continue to smoke, drink and do drugs. Even adults smoke, drink and do drugs. Some people say that teaching kids that these things are wrong is all that is needed to keep them from doing it. Other people say that if adults, mostly parents, don’t smoke drink or do drugs, kids won’t do it either. Since kids are still smoking, drinking, and doing drugs, including steroids, it’s obvious that this approach is not really working. Education will work for some kids, but it obviously doesn’t work well enough. The only way to get the majority of kids off of steroids is to perform random drug testing for high school sports team members. Since steroids are still an issue even after years of education and millions of dollars spent of getting the word out, it’s obvious that kids need a stricter sports environment.
If random drug testing for teen sports players is done along with a program of education, we are bound to catch the majority of steroid users soon after they start. Maybe in areas where steroid use is really a problem, mandatory testing can be done on a regular basis. Once kids see that high school sports programs are serious about keeping steroid use out of high school sports, the use will probably decrease even more than with education alone. There will probably always be some kids who will try to get away with using steroids and a system has to be put together to handle those kids also.
Once an athlete has tested positive for steroids, a policy of zero tolerance can evict him from sports for a period of the rest of the school year. He can be welcome to try out again for the team the following year. The policy should include a three strikes and your out policy too. Once a player has tested positive three times, he won’t be allowed to play school sports again. Professional sports should be even tougher. Any player caught using steroids should be banned from the game forever. By educating, enforcing and treating the use of steroids, high school sports should become steroid free.