Mike Gimbel has been there.
He is the former drug czar for Baltimore County, a recovering drug addict and marathon runner.
Now Gimble, as director of St. Joseph Medical Center’s Powered by Me!, wants to help young athletes understand the dangers of drugs, coupled with the pressure of performing both at work and in sports.
Powered by Me! is a St. Joseph initiative, which educates high school and college students on the dangers of associated with being a young athlete. The program started out as a means to curb steroid use among athletes. However, six years later, the focus has widened.
"We’ve expanded the message over the years to alcohol abuse, domestic violence, to concussions, injury prevention and gambling," Gimbel said. "All aspects of an athlete’s life, we’re trying to teach these young athletes to play safe, fair and drug free."
That is the hope for Tuesday’s annual conference for student athletes, an all day event featuring workshops and speakers devoted to helping high school athletes in the Greater Baltimore region.
"We’re covering the whole gamut of what is going to make these kids better athletes in the right way," Gimbel said.
The conference will spotlight domestic violence and dating violence in sports, in light of the death of University of Virginia lacrosse player Yeardley Love.
"What happened with Yeardley Love is just the tip of the iceberg. We all know that," Gimbel said. "It happens every where. These kids are drinking like crazy and they’re doing really stupid things and they’re hurting themselves.
“What struck me in the Yeardley Love case was when George Hugely’s teammates said ‘We knew he was an alcoholic. We knew he had a problem. We were going to talk to him after the NCAA tournament.’ Like the tournament was more important than helping their friend," Gimbel said.
The hope is that students and coaches who attend the conference will relay the information back to their respective teams.
So far, all public high schools in Baltimore City and Baltimore County have registered for the event, according to Gimbel. Fifteen private schools are also signed up as well as outliers in Howard County.
"And we’re expecting more in the next day or two," Gimbel said.
The conference is not the typical "don’t do drugs" lecture most students will receive at one time or another. Aside from outlining the dangers of drugs and alcohol, sports professionals will actually coach players in ways to develop muscle and build speed safely.
In the past, keynote speakers have included Baltimore Raven Ray Lewis, the Orioles’ Brian Roberts, Yankees’ shortstop Alex Rodriguez, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Former DC United playmaker and international soccer star Santino Quaranta will make the keynote address this year.
Quaranta, now retired from professional soccer, was just 16 when he was offered a contract to play for DC United in Major League Soccer.
An early rise to fame was punctuated by an injury that lead to a bad drug habit. Quaranta kicked his habit and rejoined United before retiring last year.
He is now the co-founder of Pipeline Soccer Club, based in Baltimore County, where he coaches youth academies.
"It was a really easy decision for me to do this because it helps kids," Quaranta said. "I’m in a really good situation. Everybody makes mistakes in their life one way or another. The greater the mistake, the more it’s magnified. Every athlete in that room is not going to make the same mistake that I did. If one of them listens to this and hears some of the situations that I’ve been through, it could help them."
The conference is scheduled for Tuesday May 1 from 8 a.m. to 1:30p.m. at the Crowne Plaza in Timonium.
Do you have a young athlete at home? Can you see the pressure he or she might be facing to succeed? Start the conversation in the comments section below.