More than 30 Sutherland Shire junior footballers have taken part in a pilot program developed to help educate young athletes on the dangers of drugs.
The Don’t Mess with Drugs Foundation held the first session of their program with 32 young players from the Sutherland Shire Football Association and Sutherland Sharks NPL club at the Harrie Dening Centre, Kareela on Thursday night.
It was the third installment of the pilot program, with the foundation having previously worked with Blacktown Football Association and Hockey NSW. They will run a fourth pilot with Netball NSW in late January, with the program focusing on both performance enhancing and recreational drugs.
DMWDF communications manager Tony Peters said the main difference between their program and others was that it was proactive, rather than reactive.
“Everything else on the market is essentially ‘here’s the problem, here’s some money, now go and try to deal with it,’” he said.
“We’re trying to get the answer to the problem before it becomes a problem, focusing on making sensible decisions before deciding to take drugs.
“We have three programs, one aims at players obviously but then programs aimed at parents and coaches. Which helps parents start a conversation with their kids when they might have previously been uncomfortable or not known how.
“It was very well received. The kids were really engaged. The first one had a lot of graphic stuff that I think shocked a few. Next week is more interactive where we put the kids on the spot with role play activities and things like peer pressure are brought into it.”
The Sutherland Shire junior footballers will take part in their second session this Thursday, led by educator Chloe Kerr.
The foundation have applied for NSW state government funding and hope to roll out the program in full by the middle of next year through Sport NSW. They also have plans to expand and are looking to work with the University of NSW and ASADA as well as bring in high-profile ambassadors as part of a mentoring system.