Capital Region College Student Tragedy A Reminder to ‘Buddy Up’
After working at a college for a few decades, the bone rattling news that there has been a death on campus only gets more tragic each time it comes. The young man that tragically died at SUNY Oneonta last week reminds all of us to talk to our college students about the difficulties faced for that age group. The warnings aren't always heeded but through the years, I know that they help.
Sometimes you come across advice that rings a bell in your head, even though the words of wisdom were not intended for you. Early in my college administration career was sitting at a media table at a tournament shoot-around. One of the top seeds in the tournament was wrapping up their practice. The team was huddled around their coach, who most would say had earned legendary status. As he wrapped up his instructions, he roared, 'now Buddy Up 24-7. No one goes alone.'
I was a bit surprised. This was one of the top teams in the nation with college athletes that looked like full-fledged adults. Why would you tell them that they couldn't have any time alone? As an administrator, I was curious. So, I waited for the coach to finish talking to people and walked over to introduce myself. We chatted for a bit and I asked him what's with 'Buddy Up?'
He smiled and even chuckled. He said and this a paraphrase, "I recruit these kids. I tell their parents that I am going to take care of them and get them through college to graduation. I can't guarantee that if I let 18-22 year-olds make their own decisions. When we travel, it's 'Buddy Up.' When they go out on the town, it's 'Buddy Up.' We play as a team and we'll get through our college years as a team. We look out for each other. Now don't tell anyone my secret!" He laughed and smiled, shook my hand and walked away.
Sorry coach, I won't write who said it but the advice can help other college coaches and parents. Many coaches deliver the same message to their student-athletes just in different ways. Tell your college students that when they are going out 'Buddy Up.' Make sure that they are responsible for one of their friends and one of their friends is responsible for them. Make good choices in who that person is and be a good buddy. Some parent is counting on it.
The most recent statistics from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) estimate that about 1,519 college students ages 18 to 24 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor vehicle crashes. Some of these deaths could be prevented if the person wasn't alone. In no way am I inferring that the death in Oneonta was alcohol related. That young man was alone and outside for hours. Extreme cold weather can disorient you worse than alcohol. Be smart. 'Buddy Up'