USD receives $30,000 ‘Choices’ grant from NCAA Foundation for alcohol ed program

USD receives $30,000 'Choices' grant from NCAA Foundation for alcohol ed program The University of South Dakota is one of 10 institutions that have been awarded a Choices Program grant through the NCAA Foundation with support from Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc.

USD, which will receive a three-year, $30,000 grant, will incorporate a collaborative alcohol education program for student athletes that features peer mentoring as a primary objective.

Titled Coyote Choices, the USD program will create a network of athletes, athletic staff, university professionals and certified prevention specialists working collaboratively to encourage low risk choices by USD athletes, the USD student body, and the Vermillion community, local students in grades K-12, and guests at USD athletic events.

This program will integrate Coyote Athletics in the on-campus and community network of information dissemination by encouraging abstinence and low-risk use, developing USD student-athletes as role models for community and regional youth, and enhancing the image of athletes as model citizens and students.

According to USD prevention specialists Dr. Matt Stricherz and Roy Kammer, this collaborative program will bring together students, staff and faculty into task force activities, advisory council responsibilities, promotional activities and crisis team participation. Coyote Choices will pave the way for integrating USD student-athletes into a comprehensive program.

The central focus of the Coyote Choices program is to focus on peer education, referral and mentoring of athletes. As part of the program, a peer education group consisting of two student athletes from each of the 17 Coyote sports programs will be created during summer 2001. Those representatives will be primarily first and second year students. After the group is selected, they will participate in a three-day training session in the summer of 2001.

As peer educators, these group members will be responsible for identifying fellow athletes affected by alcohol or drug-related issues and refer students to appropriate resources. These educators will also be networked with the Vermillion Police Department and the USD Department of Public Safety and be available as a support advocate for student athletes who have legal or on-campus judicial concerns related to substance use.

In addition, the educators will be trained to educate athlete peers on target issues that have been identified by the Student Athletics Advisory Council. The peer group will also coordinate alcohol education promotions at 75 percent of the Coyotes' home events.

The Student Counseling Center, in conjunction with USD Athletics, will introduce student athletes to a series of specific topics. The topics will include the perceived image of student athletes at USD, the physiological effects of alcohol on the body (i.e., effects of alcohol on athletic performance), and the policies of USD, the NCAA, and the North Central Conference in regard to student athlete alcohol consumption violations. As part of this program, the SAAC and the peer group will develop a student-athlete display, featuring information on the Choices Program.

To help maintain a positive image of college athletes and give back to the community, the SAAC will annually sponsor a National Athlete Day in which they will coordinate educational and services activities for Vermillion youth. Representatives from Coyote athletics also will serve on the campus-wide crisis team and participate in the USD Dakota Days Crisis Team.

In order to encourage alternative activities for athletes, an alcohol-free party grant will be developed for student-athletes and coordinated by the SAAC and Coyote Choices program graduate students.

The Choices Program, administered by the NCAA Education Services Group, strives to encourage NCAA institutions and conferences to implement and evaluate effective alcohol-education programs. It is a program designed to decrease high-risk consumption of alcohol by promoting low-risk choices. The 10 programs funded this year feature peer education components in which student athletes and other students receive training to lead teammates and classmates in discussions to promote alcohol education.

The NCAA Foundation 2001 grants total nearly $300,000 and now bring to 107 the total grants awarded since the establishment of the Choices Program in 1991. Approximately $2 million has been awarded to institutions through the program. Besides USD, the 2001 recipients include: Augsburg College, the University of Cincinnati, the University of Louisville, Morehead State University, University of Nebraska – Lincoln, State University College at Oneonta, St. Michael's College, Salisbury State University and Troy State University.

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