U.Va. Marks 23rd Year of NCAA-Funded Conference on Substance Abuse Prevention for Athletics Departments

January 15, 2014

More than 220 student-athletes, athletic trainers, coaches and administrators representing 40 NCAA-member colleges and universities are expected to attend the 23rd annual APPLE conference, hosted by the University of Virginia Friday through Sunday at the DoubleTree Hotel in Charlottesville.

U.Va.’s APPLE conferences are the leading national training symposiums dedicated to substance abuse prevention and health promotion for student-athletes and athletics department administrators.

(APPLE is an acronym for the program’s original name, Athletic Prevention Programming Leadership Education. The program has since been renamed Promoting Student-Athlete Wellness and Substance Abuse Prevention, but the familiar acronym was retained.)

Beginning with a welcome from U.Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan, the program will feature opening and closing addresses, breakout sessions, panel discussions and group activities. Topics to be addressed include alcohol, marijuana and performance-enhancing drugs, hazing, sexual health, bystander intervention, peer education and effective prevention programming. According to conference director Susan Bruce, director of U.Va.’s Gordie Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, the APPLE model is “a comprehensive approach to promoting student-athlete wellness and substance abuse prevention.”

“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,” she said. “As part of a comprehensive approach, we strongly encourage schools to employ peer-to-peer education and provide resources from the U.Va.-developed Student Athlete Mentor program.”

Each participating school sends four to six representatives, including at least two student-athletes. Prior to the conference, each school’s team contact completes a survey to assess its athletic department’s programs and policies within each of the seven prevention areas. The Gordie Center then provides confidential feedback to each team to identify strengths and areas for improvement, and each team then uses a detailed template to develop a customized action plan that encourages ownership by all areas of the athletic department, including student-athletes, as well as prevention colleagues from across campus. 

The APPLE conferences are designed to encourage administrators to seek out and listen to the opinions and experiences of their student-athletes and create an opportunity for student-athletes and administrators to work collaboratively toward a common goal. Throughout the weekend, participants are encouraged to think creatively and strategically so they head home feeling motivated to take action, Bruce said.

Since 1992, U.Va. has partnered with the National Collegiate Athletic Association to disseminate the APPLE model at more than 500 NCAA-member colleges and universities. Evaluation results have shown significant gains in student learning, including increased comfort in confronting teammates.

A second APPLE conference will be held Jan. 24-26 in Newport Beach, Calif. Thirty-two schools have registered more than 175 participants for that event.

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 Gordie Center), and Joe Gieck, professor emeritus of sports medicine at U.Va. In 1988, they created the Student Athlete Mentor peer-based prevention approach to help student-athletes receive early intervention for alcohol concerns. Gieck is co-director of the APPLE conferences.