Stoned college athletes may be on to something
The recent NCAA announcement about moving to stop testing for cannabis soon got me thinking about my former life as a college athlete. Before diving into weed journalism or embarking on my path in the Ashtanga yoga lineage, much of my energy went into playing soccer. By college, cannabis joined the party, and I became part of a team sub-group: the stoners.
Now, I think from time to time about how our body’s cells are always changing. After ten years, our makeup is new compared to that body from a decade ago. With that in mind, I realize that after 14 years, my muscles, organs, and bones don’t belong to the sport. But mentally, kicking an errant ball to some kids on the playground or watching some footy on TV brings me right back to the pitch.
College athletes are pushed to extremes, balancing being on their own for the first time with a rigorous practice and game schedule on top of schoolwork at a heightened level. This all compounds with the fact that they’re often sore from lifting, conditioning, and scrimmaging–at least I was.
College culture has long dictated that alcohol is the answer to blowing off steam. Throughout the decades, college films like Animal House, Revenge of the Nerds, and Old School have glorified binge drinking. Cannabis, however, was often made into a joke about someone who lacks ambition.
In my college experience, cannabis was a brilliant tool for overcoming the stress of a heavy schedule and new social settings. It was also at the center of where I made my most cherished friendships with the soccer team.
Most of my teammates bonded at keggers or parties at the house where some men’s soccer players lived. These nights of excessive drinking, messy dance floors, and inevitable drama always left me with more anxiety than conviviality. Instead, my most cherished moments I was smoking cannabis with a small group of teammates on a random weeknight and watching TV together.
I felt more safe and in my body while stoned. When binge drinking I often felt disconnected and uncomfortably disoriented. But still, choosing to consume cannabis was dangerous. The NCAA and the university tested athletes for drugs, and weed was on the list.
Additionally, you’d be punished if a coach saw you smoking or stoned. That could mean extra laps at practice or bench status for a game. At worst, you could be cut from the team, losing any scholarship money you had. At the time and to this day, it feels silly that the admin turned the other cheek to dangerous binge drinking but sought out the potheads.
As NCAA division governing bodies now consider whether to follow guidance and stop testing for cannabis, I’m flooded with memories. Memories of how the plant helped me navigate high-stakes athletics during my first years at college. Memories of how consuming cannabis was a vital thread in the tapestry of friendships I built that first year. If more college athletes felt safe responsibly utilizing the plant, I have no doubt it could improve their experience too.