Alcohol has no place in junior sport

We adults are important role models for girls and boys, and we therefore carry a great deal of responsibility for the children and young people in our clubs and teams.

Wins and losses, ups and downs – these are all part and parcel of sports. We experience and express many different emotions both on the pitch and on the sidelines. Whether we’re celebrating a win or lamenting a defeat, every one of us shows our feelings in our own way. However, alcohol has no place in junior activities. We must shoulder our responsibility for the important and significant part we play as role models for girls and boys.

The way adults behave when they’re drinking looks different through a child’s eyes than it does to us as adults. Very few of us are able to put ourselves in a child’s position and really understand how a child feels. While writing this, I’ve been searching for information and articles about alcohol use through a child’s eyes. The children’s own stories and experiences make harsh reading, and get this adult man wondering how we can do something about this in our club through our own behaviour. The least we can do is talk about it and create an alcohol-free space for our children. Those of us who run clubs can offer support to children – something to help them get through an otherwise alcohol-soaked daily life.

Too many under-18s are growing up in families in which one parent has a problem with alcohol or drugs. We can create a space where children and young people can live without alcohol. There should be no space for alcohol in junior sport.

Adults’ drinking has a significant impact on a child’s future attitudes and drinking habits as an adult. By providing an alcohol-free example, we’re also impacting our children’s future. Every one of us wants the best future for our own children. We adults carry a great responsibility for the children and young people in our clubs and teams.

Football is the most popular sport in Finland with over 140,000 licensed players, which is why all of us adults involved with football have the responsibility – and also the opportunity – to show the right example to children and young people. In football, as in other sports, our great responsibility for supporting children and young people’s growth extends beyond the pitch.

At club level, everything stems from the club’s values, which should be visible in all of its daily activities. The club should draw up clear rules for behaviour at all club events. Every team – that is, everyone from players and parents to staff – should discuss the principles by which the team should be run. It’s much easier to keep to principles that you’ve discussed and agreed on together. Training, matches, tournaments and other events are not a place for drinking alcohol. It doesn’t matter whether it’s our leisure or holiday time – when adults are present at a team’s events, we should show the right example.

I challenge all Finnish football clubs to discuss whether alcohol should be part of their club events, and thereby take part in Alko and the Olympic Committee’s A Child’s Burden campaign with hashtag #child's burden.

Olli Tuominen

Chair/Kaarinan Pojat ry
Sports Club of the Year 2017