Over the roughly five years that I have been writing for the Times-Union, you all have been very open to giving me ideas of new columns, and I have appreciated that very much.
Most of them were good ideas, and many of them I ended up turning into a column. Some of those ideas were too obscure to write into the space I had, and others were just offered out of their own personal agenda (like “you should write about how X coach at X school should be fired”).
But I cannot put this one off — not anymore.
Consider this an open letter to parents, grandparents, guardians and anyone else who is responsible for kids from fifth grade through high school at 6A schools and 1A schools alike.
I am asking you for a favor. No, I am actually begging you to do something for me, and for you, and for those kids.
I want you to pull them aside — somewhere quiet, without anyone else around — and ask them this question: “Do you vape?”
Here’s a hint, if they drop their eyes to the floor, take that as a “yes.” Another hint: if they say “no” but their eyes look down and to the left, take that as a “yes” also.
Either way, follow up with “If you took a drug test right now, would there be any question that you would pass it?”
You’re looking for the same responses as the ones I listed before.
When I was in school in the 1980’s, we all understood that there were kids who smoked occasionally, drank alcoholic beverages and/or did drugs (mostly during the summer). I remember having to stop the team bus on the way home from a soccer game as a sophomore because one of my older teammates was having trouble breathing.
I was naïve, and didn’t understand what was really happening until much later. Once I did know, I was at a point in my life I didn’t have the confidence and courage to speak up.
I am not 15 years old anymore.
According to a report compiled using Center for Disease Control data, 20% of Indiana students say they vape at least 20 days each month, and another 6% say they use e-cigarettes that often.
Please, don’t be blind to the truth. Athletes are doing it too. Not just trying it, doing it…regularly.
Maybe they are using the flavored kind, somehow. Maybe they are mixing in a little “pot” with it.
You may say “none of your business” or “worry about your own kids.” You don’t understand — your kids are my kids. And we’re not just talking about Warsaw athletes here. I care about Wawasee kids, Triton kids, Tippecanoe Valley, Manchester and NorthWood and Whitko and Lakeland Christian kids too. Non-athletes and athletes alike. However, in my job as a radio announcer and sportscaster, I focus more on athletes. So does this column, generally.
My grief comes from the fact that I am watching kids work all year long, put in hundreds of hours of time in the weight room and conditioning, going to camps and then throwing it away because they are vaping.
Why? How did they start? Who helped them start?
I can’t answer any of those questions.
What I can do is beg you, again, to pull your child — girls as well as boys — into a room and have one of the most important conversations you’ll ever have with them.
And it starts with that simple, powerful question: “Do you vape?”
The biggest problem on the team your kid plays on may not be playing time, or whether they throw the ball enough or if the person playing shortstop should be playing short or third. Simply by the numbers, one starter on every basketball team, two starters on every baseball and softball team, one golfer, one tennis player, multiple football players — are vaping.
Ask the question.
No matter if they see their classmates doing it and the physical harm it’s doing or has done, they are still doing it. Teammates gets suspended for it, they’ll still doing it.
Ask the question.
Can’t happen here.
Not in my family.
We’re tight.
We live in a certain neighborhood.
Ask the question.
Can’t happen to the kid you know? Maybe that’s what the parents of twin 17-year olds at Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich. said. One of their sons had an emergency double-lung transplant last month, and has started a non-profit organization to help spread the word about the dangers of vaping.
He was a runner, but not anymore.
His twin brother? Well, he’s still vaping. He can’t stop.
Just.
Ask.
The.
Question.