Audio Journal

Episode 9 - Using the Parent Playbook to Coach Your Family

The Game Against the Opioid and Addiction Crisis that Parents Must Win

We’re coming to the end of the college football season where an elite group of teams will realize their dreams of winning their division, being tapped for a bowl game or being selected for the national championship playoffs.  Every one of the teams had one thing in common; they started their season with a game plan, did their research and homework to create the plan and adjusted it dynamically for each and every game.

Coaches like Nick Saban of Alabama, Kirby Smart of Georgia, Dabo Swinney of Clemson or Ryan Day of Ohio State lead their staff to look at the talent they’ve recruited, understand their opponents, analyze the impact of playing at home or away and spent  countless hours crafting a game plan that will produce a win.

If you are the coach of your family and have children, particularly adolescents, the most important game you will ever play and one you cannot afford to lose is against the disease of addiction brought on in large part by the Opioid Crisis.  You have to have a game plan, a playbook, an understanding of your opponent and get help from your “assistants”

Here is an overview of what college football coaches do to win each and every week and the lessons that we, as the coaches of our families, can learn when we are on the field, fighting against the drug use that sidelines our kids, takes them out of the game, and cripples or kills them.

First, you have to prepare for game day.  Football coaches don’t start preparing during the game; they start way in advance by scouting the competition, evaluating their players, understanding what produces results and just committing the time to do their homework.  Your child may or may not ever use drugs or get addicted, but the reality is that 1 in 10 high schoolers will develop the disease of addiction so you may be the ones that have to take the field. 

You need to act “as if” you will get the call to play in the game of your life and be prepared in advance.  Learn the factor that contribute to make your children more at risk.  Ask yourself what are the telltale signs of drug use?  Understand your opponents: the drugs, the bad friends, the dealers so if you get the call, you’ve done your homework.

And think about how much harder it is to play defense when your child is already using vs. offense where you focus on prevention.   Learn how to control the game by being proactive, educating your child, monitoring them, and executing a prevention strategy.

Become data driven.  Nick Saban at Alabama implemented a GPS tracking system to monitor his player’s activity in practice so he could better predict if his team’s practice strategy wore his players out or kept them ready to go, particularly in post-season play.  He relied on data as much as his experience and instincts to create the right practice plan.

If you are walking on the field in the fight against substance misuse and addiction and have none of the data you need to make strategy decisions, then be prepared to have a much more difficult time.  You need to have the data drug tests provide to know if your child is using and if so, what drugs are in their system.  You need to get the facts about how they perform in school to see if there has been a drop off.  You need to know where your kid really is, who they are with, and what they are up to.

Good coaches don’t commit unforced errors.  Every college football coach cringes at unforced errors that can make the difference between a win and a blowout.  Think about all the games that have been won or lost based on turnovers, missed assignments, dropped passes, or interceptions.   Often these unforced errors result when players or coaches don’t stick to the game plan, are unprepared or just not paying attention.

There are number of unforced errors that parents make that cause them to make critical mistakes leading to big problems when it comes to drugs and alcohol.  They fail to notice the warning signs.  They don’t hold their child accountable for their actions.  They don’t have a handle on where their child is, who their friends are and what they are up to.  These unforced errors can make it much more difficult to get the result you need.

Know when to pivot.  I’ll never forget the National Championship, Georgia vs. Alabama, Kirby Smart against Nick Saban.  I sat in Mercedes Benz stadium watching the Bulldogs pummel the Crimson Tide in the first half.  But in the second half, Saban adjusted, pulled out his starting quarterback, changed the game plan and beat us in overtime.  He pivoted when he needed to.

Ben Franklin tells us that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result.  It’s time to pivot when your attempts to get a correction from troubling and dangerous behavior your children are engaging in that aren’t working.  A pivot means changing the game plan that may include seeking treatment for your child, random drug testing, monitoring locations where they say they are and requiring check ins, a change of schools or a host of other decisions that can change the trajectory of the game.  Be willing to make a game time decision when you are not getting the right result.

Rely on your assistants.  Good coaches know that they don’t have all of the answers.  That’s why they rely on their assistants. Back to Nick Saban of Alabama.  He has hired the best assistant coaches, relied on their advice, and let them take the lead in their area of expertise. Managing your child when he is oppositional, defiant, losing ground at school, and using drugs that can cause overdose at any minute is not something parents should try and manage without help. 

There are plenty of good assistants out there to help parents adjust their strategy, send in better plays, protect their children, and know when they need to change the game plan completely.


I’m sure many of you listening to this are thinking that you may never have to take the field because your kids are never going to be those 1 in 10 who use drugs, get addicted, and have their lives changed forever.  I was one of those parents who lost their daughter to overdose 2 years ago.   I was never prepared to play the game because I didn’t do my homework to understand the reality of drug use in our community, now known as the heroin triangle.   I didn’t have a good game plan, the right assistants or pivoted quickly enough.  The result was that Laura struggled with addiction off and on for 15 years, only to lose her battle at age 29.

Parents, you are the coach of a game that you have to win.  Winning requires hard work, strategy, persistence, getting help when you need it, changing what doesn’t work, and keeping your child safe.  This is the first in a series of Audio Journals that take the parent playbook, break it down for you, and help you coach a winning game.