My teammate’s keeper?

The blog has been “all Anglican, all the time” lately, and I’d like to change the pace a bit.

I’ve been thinking a lot about teens and alcohol recently, in part because I have a son who will be entering high school in September. I’d previously thought of alcohol consumption as a personal matter, as long as you didn’t get behind the wheel of a car. But the issue presented itself to me in a new light in the context of youth sports.

Championships in a few of the scholastic leagues that I follow were influenced by the suspension of players who had shown up to school functions drunk. Because my son is a serious baseball player, it was easy for me to imagine him as the teammate of one of these players, and to imagine how he would feel having his season damaged by a star player’s drinking.

And that got me thinking about the whole array of alcohol-related concerns he will have to handle in the coming years. First, he has his own choices to make about consuming alcohol. Obviously I hope he chooses not to drink, or delays drinking until, well, until he is of legal age. But suppose he makes the right choice and some of his friends don’t?

Does he discuss it with them? If discussion doesn’t help, does he remain friends with them? If so, does he do anything about the fact that he thinks his friends need to stop drinking? A few words with an authority figure? How likely is he to take this step? What would be the consequences in his peer group?

Now suppose a teammate who is not a close friend is drinking? Suppose it is clear that if this person gets caught, they will be thrown off the team? And that without this player the team will suffer—that kids who may have scholarships on the line and kids who are playing their very last season of organized sports, will be deprived of something dear to them? What would a good teammate do in that situation?

For some reason, adding “team”—you could substitute the word “community”—to the equation made me take another look at the ways in which self-destructive behavior extend beyond the self. I feel myself being nudged toward becoming what a few days ago I would have thought of as a more meddlesome person. As an introvert, I am having a hard time figuring out how to respond to this.

Getting back, briefly, to the presenting issue, I don’t have problems talking about this sort of thing with my own children. It isn’t parenting tips I am after. But I’d be interested in hearing people’s thoughts on the individual’s duty to intervene in other’s lives, and how one acts on that without alienating, oh, everyone.

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