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August 04. 2013 5:19PM

NHIAA joins substance abuse battle

The New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association is on the offensive against substance abuse.

More than 170 coaches and 200 student athletes will attend workshops this week and participate in a substance abuse prevention and health/wellness program, “The Life of an Athlete.”

Today from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. coaches will attend the workshop at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord. On Tuesday, the student-athletes will attend a session from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

“The goal of the program is to change the lifestyle of an athlete,” said Hank Basil, assistant director of the NHIAA. “We’re here to change the culture and promote a healthier lifestyle.”

Basil said the NHIAA program targets substance abuse, including alcohol, marijuana, prescription drugs and steroids. He said he began meeting with regional substance abuse advisors in July 2012 to help kick-start the NHIAA program.

“Right now New Mexico, Oklahoma and New York, through their state high school associations, are actively involved in a substance abuse prevention program,” said Basil. “Since the program was implemented in New Mexico, a report was recently released from that state saying there’s been a significant decline in the use of alcohol.”

Basil, who cited former NCAA All-American and World Masters Champion John Underwood as the founder of the Life of an Athlete program, said he’s been amazed over the stories he’s heard and read about substance abuse.

“It’s my understanding one night of drinking alcohol can negate 14 days of training by an elite athlete,” said Basil. “Could you imagine the impact of what one night of drinking could do to an average high school athlete?”

On its website, the NHIAA, referring to a survey of 215 high school athletics directors, reported 59 percent have personally encountered intoxicated student-athletes.

“We’re going to have substance abuse specialists speaking at our workshops all week,” said Basil. “Preventing substance abuse and how to live a good lifestyle will be addressed. We also want to talk about how one can reach their peak performance in sports. This isn’t just about the high school level. We’re targeting junior high and elementary level students as well. We believe our program will have a positive and powerful message to kids at every level in our state.”

Basil said that, later this summer, the NHIAA will require parents to attend a substance abuse presentation as well.

The NHIAA recently hired Donna Arias to oversee the Life of an Athlete program. Basil said Arias was a substance abuse counselor for the United Way in Nashua for many years.

The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, according to Basil, has made a 10-year commitment with the NHIAA to help fund the program.


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