January 19, 2006 — More than 250 student-athletes, athletic trainers, coaches and administrators representing 46 colleges and universities from NCAA-member institutions will gather at the DoubleTree Hotel in Charlottesville to attend the 15th annual APPLE conference on Jan. 20-22, 2006.
The University of Virginia’s APPLE program is the leader in national training symposiums dedicated to substance abuse prevention and health promotion for student-athletes and athletics department administrators. The APPLE model is a comprehensive approach to promoting student-athlete wellness and substance abuse prevention. During the weekend-long conference, attendees evaluate their athletics departments’ programs and policies and develop a customized action plan to take back to their schools.
“Some schools come every year,” said Susan Bruce, director of U.Va.’s Center for Alcohol and Substance Education, which organizes the conference. “They may already have a good program but they want to see how they can improve.”
Each school sends four to six representatives, including at least one student-athlete. Student-athletes are active participants in the APPLE conference by helping develop their team’s action plan and learning how to implement or improve a Student-Athlete Mentor program at their schools.
“It is a chance for students to problem solve,” Bruce said. “They can learn how to confront their teammates on their behavior.”
The APPLE model provides a method for athletics departments to assess and improve their substance abuse prevention programs by examining seven areas that impact student-athletes: recruitment practices; departmental expectations and attitudes; education; alcohol and other drug policies; drug testing programs; sanctioning procedures; and referral and counseling services. The U.Va.-developed Student-Athlete Mentor model is a peer-based prevention approach designed to create a safer, health-enhancing atmosphere for teams and to help students receive early intervention for alcohol concerns.
“These conferences have provided great benefit to schools around the country,” said Craig K. Littlepage, U.Va.’s director of athletics. “It is an opportunity to evaluate policies and brainstorm.”
Littlepage said U.Va. is involved in the conference every year, either by sending a team or providing facilitators and presenters. A key benefit of the conference, he said, is identifying student leaders.
“They can look out for their peers,” he said. “They are a key factor in an athlete’s success, not just athletically but socially and academically as well.”
Since 1992, the University of Virginia has partnered with the National Collegiate Athletic Association to disseminate the APPLE model at 390 institutions. Evaluation results have shown statistically significant gains in student progress toward conference learning outcomes, including increased comfort in confronting teammates.
U.Va. will coordinate a second APPLE conference in Anaheim, Calif., from Jan. 27-29, 2006. Twenty-six schools have registered 142 participants.
The APPLE model of substance abuse prevention was created in 1991 by the late Susan Grossman, founding director of prevention programs at U.Va.’s Institute for Substance Abuse Studies (now the Center for Alcohol and Substance Education), and Joe Gieck, professor emeritus of sports medicine at U.Va.