The 48-hour rule is something that athletes at Elizabethtown College are well aware of. This rule states that players cannot consume alcohol within 48 hours of participating in an athletic event. While each team handles drinking in different ways and with different punishments, there are two conclusions that all of the coaches seem to agree on: no athlete under the age of 21 is permitted to consume alcohol, and excessive drinking is detrimental to an athlete’s performance, regardless of their age.
“We emphasize to our players that they are held to a higher standard because they are athletes,” Bob Schlosser, head coach of the men’s basketball team, said. The basketball team’s rules and regulations state that players who are 21 or older cannot drink alcohol if there is practice or a game the following day. It then goes on to state that if there is no such athletic event, athletes are to act responsibly for there could be serious consequences otherwise.
Michael Faith, head coach of the women’s lacrosse team, has 24 and 48 hour rules for his team. Players who are 21 are not permitted to drink alcohol within 24 hours of a practice and within 48 hours of a game. “If the players break this rule, let’s just say their legs are going to be really tired the next day from all the running they and the entire team will do,” Faith said.
The men’s baseball team, coached by Cliff Smith, does not have a set number of hours that limits drinking before a practice or game. Instead, he and his team created a “punishment guideline” for any trouble that his players may get into. He also seriously emphasizes to his team how important it is for them to make the right decisions. “I try to talk a lot about commitment and making appropriate decisions with our team. I believe it should be understood that, if you are trying to be the best athlete and team that you can be, drinking alcohol will affect how you perform on the field,” Smith said.
Since the men’s baseball team has developed their own rules, they have also developed their own punishments. “We set out a number of different punishments dependent on whether a violation takes place in season or out. Usually a first offense is a physical punishment like running. Subsequent violations result in suspension or dismissal,” Smith explained.
Faith believes that it is necessary for athletic teams to have such rules. “Everyone is on the same page, and we don’t have one person doing their own thing. Everyone has the same level of expectations,” he said.
However, Smith does not believe that such extreme precautions are necessary. “Students are adults and must make their own lifestyle choices, hopefully positive ones,” Smith said.
Although Faith and Smith do not agree about installing specific guidelines as to handling such situations, they both feel that consuming excessive amounts of alcohol is not a smart thing for anyone to do, whether they are an athlete or not.
Faith has found his rules to be effective thus far in the school year because he has not had any issues with his players regarding alcohol. “I also feel that I trust my players enough that they wouldn’t do it anyway because it would directly affect their performance on the field,” Faith said.
Smith also feels that the rules his team has established have been effective because they were made up by the players and not the coaching staff. “No written rules are effective unless there is buy-in from the team. I cannot be around our athletes 24 hours a day,” he said. “They are adults; it is up to them to make the decision about how they act off the field and what sacrifices they are willing to make to be the best that they can be in a given endeavor. I can only talk to them about making good decisions, and then hold them accountable for their actions if they make a poor one.”
All three coaches understand the pressure that many of their athletes are under. “I do feel that the students need some sort of outlet and somewhere to go just to hang out with a group of friends without worry about getting in trouble for a noise violation or something else,” Faith said.
Schlosser agreed with Faith and empathizes with his team. “We as coaches understand that there is a great deal of peer pressure regarding this topic,” he said.
Alcohol consumption is an issue that every college and collegiate athletic program must handle. “I do believe the players in our program take our rules seriously and, more often than not, handle themselves in a mature fashion,” Schlosser reported.
Neither Schlosser, Faith or Smith believe that Etown has more issues regarding alcohol consumption than other institutions. “Life is about making choices and the choices that you make, if they are bad ones, can affect your life and even something as small as how you perform on the field. As a teacher and a coach, I try to talk to our players about making the right choices, and getting them to understand the consequences of their actions when [they] are in the heat of the moment,” Smith concluded.