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A new study has found that while B.C. youth are more active today than kids were a decade ago, more is not always better where physical activity and a healthy lifestyle are concerned.
That's because of a direct correlation between heavy involvement in sports and heavy use of alcohol and chewing tobacco among older teens.
It's a risk factor that Terry Fox Ravens football coach, and former BC Lions player, Tom Kudaba said he has seen at all levels of the game.
Participants in elite sports often split themselves into two camps, Kudaba write in an email to The Tri-City News: those who avoid toxins such as alcohol and tobacco in order to perform at their physical peak and those who are "led astray by the culture of the team."
"If the culture of the team is dominated by the traditions of negative influences, then those types of players will play along," he said, adding that it's up to each athlete to decide which camp he or she falls into.
But where do these negative traditions come from and why must young athletes choose between "belonging" and their health?
Annie Smith, McCreary Society director and a co-author of the report, told The Tri-City News that some of the blame for popularizing binge drinking and chewing tobacco among youths lies with some professional athletes in sports such as baseball, football and hockey who tend to espouse a party lifestyle as part of the game at those higher levels. It's up to the coaches and team leaders in youth sports to combat these stereotypical behaviours, Smith said.
"We saw much better injury-prevention behaviour among the kids who are heavily engaged in sports — they're more likely to wear a helmet, more likely to wear a seatbelt — so, clearly, they're getting those messages," Smith said. "So if we could sort of give the same messages for alcohol and chewing tobacco, then I think we'd be onto a winner because definitely young people look up to coaches."