Sunday, November 05, 2006

Building REAL Confidence in Kids

The Boston Police Department recognizes the power of preventative education. They know that four percent of high school students admits to using anabolic steroids. Their police recruits, will have plenty of opportunities to talk with young people ¬and adults about anabolic steroid use.

Recently I talked to recruits at the Boston Police Academy. They were young, earnest and attentive. The topic was steroids. I showed our DVD Steroids: True Stories Hosted by Curt Schilling and booklets Words Can Work: When Talking About Steroids.

The executive director of the Center for the Study of Sport in Society, Peter Roby – a tall, distinguished man - presented the workshop with me. As a former college coach, he told the recruits that in law enforcement, just as in athletics, there’s a desire to build strength. “It’s a way for some to try to command respect and develop that ‘Don’t mess with me’ aura,” he explained.

When an officer walks down the street, he or she wants people to know they’re in control. Some people, Roby warned, may be tempted to build muscles with steroids to achieve that goal.

I asked for alternative ways of commanding respect. Hands shot up. One young man with a sureness about him answered, “By being confident.”

When I asked him for an example he said, “The way a person carries himself or herself. You can tell if they feel good about themselves.”

I thought of Craig in the film Steroids: True Stories Hosted by Curt Schilling. He describes his five-year addiction to steroids. He looked huge – like a cartoon caricature– according to his mother. But inside he felt tiny. “I was never big enough,” Craig says. “I was never strong enough, I was never ripped enough. It was never enough.”

I told the recruits that I’ve notice that a confident person 4’11” can fill a room with his or her presence more effectively than someone who is 6’6” but feels inadequate. Roby told the recruits that people can pick up on that lack of confidence a mile away, and in police work that’s a matter of life and death.

After the workshop, the young recruit who’d raised his hand to answer the question about confidence talked with me. “I work with kids at a Y,” he said. “I’m always trying to build their confidence.“

How does he do that? He watches for things the boys and girls do well and then praises them. Over and over again. “I stay on them, “ he said.

I got the sense that this recruit will walk his beat holding himself tall and commanding full respect. By the way, he stands about 5’ 6”.

Resources
Steroids: True Stories Hosted by Curt Schilling
Boys on Bullying
The Power of Girls: Inside and Out
Words Can Work: When Talking About Steroids

Related Issues and Answers columns
A sister’s story
A story of addiction
Avoiding steroids
Girls and steroids

Related columns for young people

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