There are all sorts of preparatory programs in place to assist high school student athletes for what’s to come as they take their athletic abilities to the collegiate level. These programs offer insight into course load management, social integration, economic mobility, and even campus safety. However, we suggest that these student athletes should also be afforded an education on the risks of problem gambling. Does such a thing seem a little too categorical to be considered for college sports prep? Not when you consider what we’ve laid out below. Read ahead to learn why problem gambling prevention programs should be integrated into the high school athlete curriculum.
Why Early Intervention is Needed to Prepare High School Student Athletes for the Threat of Problem Gambling to Come with Collegiate Sports
Already More Vulnerable to Gambling Disorder
Educators and high school administrators are well aware of most outside threats that seek to derail their students (all students) chances at success. Harmful substances, gang recruitment, and youth violence top the list. But what you won’t find in statewide threat assessment guides for schools, is the mention of gambling. Unfortunately, America already has a teenage gambling problem, and it impacts young athletes more than the rest.
Athletes have a greater propensity to gambling than most of the general population. Innate personality traits and sociocultural influences in sporting environments (more on this below) are credited for this unfortunate attribute. Consequently, high schoolers are heading into the octagon of collegiate sports at a serious disadvantage. Keep in mind that this piles onto the mental health issues that are already evident in college student athletes.
Increased Exposure to Sports Betting Marketing
High school student athletes entering college are about to be exposed to a greater number of triggers to gamble. They are already provoked by endless sports betting advertisements when watching the likes of NCAA March Madness (etc.) on TV with the family, but now they are about to enter an environment without parental protections in place. Their exposure to sports betting and casino promotions increases on and near college campuses. If they are not made aware of the threat before they enter this new environment, the complicity would be somewhat analogous to not informing young female students about the risk of walking campus grounds late at night.
Targets for Blackmarket Bookmaking
High school student athletes who enter the collegiate environment are the targets of blackmarket bookmakers:
“Match fixers bank on the financial insecurities of high school, college, and even professional athletes. These athletes live under the constant fear of having their dreams and financial security ripped away with a single achilles tear or loss of competitive edge. The resulting anxiety and stress can impair their decision making ability, which may lead to them accepting bribes to throw games and shave points from corrupt individuals, bookies, and criminal organizations. This sort of thing is especially concerning at the amateur level and in leagues that are generally rostered with individuals from lower income households”Match Fixers Betting on Athlete Mental Health Vulnerability
The best defense against those who seek to incentivize (and eventually threaten) high school student athletes is to arm them with mental health coping mechanisms prior to their entry into college.
What’s Being Done
There are a growing number of problem gambling prevention plans in place at the collegiate level. The University of Oregon (view details) and the University of Colorado, Boulder (view details) are taking a comprehensive and coordinated approach to mitigating the risk. In addition, more than 20 collegiate athletic programs in Colorado will soon be able to receive mental health support through the Colorado Athlete Wellbeing Program.
However, we suggest that even more must be done at a high school level. Kindbridge is already developing partnerships to make this happen. In St. Louis, Missouri, an organization called Mindset Sports is integrating problem gambling education into their coaching of high-school student athletes. In this early intervention initiative, they are tapping into the power of Kindbridge Behavioral Health’s services to offer holistic support for high school student athletes’ mental health. You can learn more about this exciting development here.
What More Can be Done
The work that Kindbridge is doing with Mindset sports can serve as a model to be scaled across high school athletic programs throughout the United States. We encourage school administrators to use the contacts provided below to begin with a discussion about how Kindbridge can help initiate college preparatory programs for problem gambling prevention.
Concerned Athletic Organizations and Institutions
CALL +1 (877) 426-4258