Alcohol and Recreational Drugs Affect Performance

            As a Division 1 student-athlete, I have learned from many of my peers and role-models what it takes to be great. While it is always important to hone in on your craft and stay on top of the books, this can at times feel very overwhelming. From what I’ve observed, those who can find the perfect balance between school, training, and socializing, often end up being the most successful, all-around, student-athletes. Unfortunately, more often than not, those who take the party lifestyle too far, and those who become too overwhelmed and obsessed with their performance, end up struggling and not reaching their full potential, both on the playing field and in the classroom. Throughout this article, I am going to discuss some great athletes who have mastered the art of balancing work and fun, as well as some athletes who let their social life ultimately overtake their playing career.

            In 2014, a young man named Johnny Manziel stunned college football fans everywhere by becoming the first freshman in NCAA history to win the heisman trophy. However, after winning this award, he soon lost balance of his life as a student-athlete, and let his partying get out of control. Not only did this affect his play on the field for years to come, but it also affected those who loved him, and today, Manziel would be the first to tell you so. In a 2018 ABC interview, he admitted that the party lifestyle he was living, affected those closest to him. Although he is attempting to make a comeback, he has burned many bridges in the NFL, and has not been on an active roster since the 2015 season. When it’s all said and done, Johnny Manziel is a perfect example of how too much fame at a young age can go wrong, especially when you surround yourself with people who don’t help you handle it responsibly (Thorbecke & Condron, 2018).

            Someone who showed us that it is possible to be a successful NCAA and Pro Athlete while still having a social life is Rob Gronkowski. While Gronkowski could be found partying at clubs and enjoying beer during the offseason, he was a force to be reckoned with on the football field. A five-time pro bowler and three-time Superbowl champ, Gronkowski knew how to take care of business on the field. Even when Gronkowski wasn’t out drinking or at the club, he enjoyed dancing to good music and entertaining crowds of people. At Superbowl 53, Gronkowski was busting dance moves during the opening night of the Superbowl festivities (Camenker, 2019). The fact that Rob knew that there was a proper time and place to party and drink responsibly, is what I believe ultimately made him a great athlete.

            Sometimes, the responsibilities of a student-athlete can seem overwhelming. You may feel like you’re not getting anywhere and that you're stuck in a certain place. In times like this, it’s important to take a deep breath and realize all the hard work you put in to get that scholarship, and earn your spot on that team you’ve always dreamed of being a part of. Throughout the history of college athletics, there have unfortunately been a number of student-athletes who have decided to take their own life. One of the most notable deaths was Madison Holleran, a UPenn Track runner who was one of the best high school athletes to ever come out of New Jersey. No one knows quite why Madison decided to take her life, but it’s very likely she simply was just overwhelmed and going through a rough patch. She was only in the middle of her Freshman year at the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy-League school, and Division 1 track program. While her family and friends are left with simply a lot of “What if’s”, we can learn from this and make sure to be there for our fellow peers when they are struggling, and be that friend who helps them shake off a rough week with some laughs and even a beer when needed.

            Before making the decision to drink, it is important that the student-athlete knows the potential consequences of doing so. Specifically, here at UNM, students are subject to breathalyzer tests when reporting for a drug test. This would really only apply to a student who had been out drinking all night, and showed up drunk. If a student were simply to have a glass of wine with their meal the night before, then the alcohol would likely not show up on their drug test. However, student-athletes who are arrested for alcohol related violations such as DUI or MIP, also violate the student athlete code of conduct. Not only is the student-athlete hurting themselves, but they are also hurting their teammates. Along with a 16-week treatment course, the student athlete will be required to miss at least 10% of the competitions for the season, or at least one game (UNM, 2019). In terms of the NCAA organization, if one were to test positive for alcohol during an NCAA administered drug test, they could face up to a year suspension. At the end of the day, abusing any substance is not worth the risk, nor will it help your athletic career.

            While it’s perfectly fine to enjoy a beer here and there, consistent binge drinking ultimately can ruin an athlete’s career. Anyone under the age of 21 who is found with a blood alcohol level of .02 or higher, can be charged with a DUI or alcohol related offense. Therefore, if you’re under 21, there should be no reason for you to touch alcohol, especially as a division 1 athlete. All it takes is a random breathalyzer test to ruin your chances of reaching the full potential in your sport. Athletes who consume alcohol at least once a week are at a higher risk of injury than athletes who do not drink. Regular alcohol consumption not only slows down muscles from healing, but also prevents your body from absorbing key nutrients such as Vitamin B12 and folic acid. While some athletes get away with it early on in their career, the athletes who ultimately have the longest and most successful careers, are the ones who take care of their body and fuel it with the proper nutrients on a consistent basis (Stanford University, n.d.).


Written by Brandon Parrado, UNM Student

March 6, 2020


Works Cited

“Alcohol and Athletic Performance.” Alcohol and Athletic Performance | Office of Alcohol Policy and Education, Stanford University, n.d.,

Camenker, Jacob, and NBC Sports Boston Staff. “Gronk Is in His Element at Opening Night.” NBC Sports Boston, 29 Jan. 2019,

THORBECKE, CATHERINE, and COURTNEY CONDRON. “Johnny Manziel Reflects on His 'Huge Downfall,' Says He Hopes to 'Get Back to the NFL'.” ABC News, ABC News Network, 12 Feb. 2018,

“Student Athlete Training Team Substance Abuse Policy.” University of New Mexico, 2019.