Thomas G. Kimball, Ph.D., LMFT


Fall is upon us. School has started and students have descended upon university campuses across the country. The beginning of the fall semester is always full of hope and promise. It is a new school year, a chance to start over, to begin again, or continue the journey toward graduation. Education aside, we can feel the imminent shift from hot to cooler weather and soon the leaves will begin to change. At Texas Tech, as we walk across campus, we hear the famous
‘Goin’ Band from Raiderland’ practicing just behind the Student Union Building. The sounds of music and marching fill the air. In West Texas, Marching band is second in popularity to the long anticipated return of what many refer to as The King of Fall: Football.

By now, college football is in full swing and teams across the country are competing and fans by the millions are filling stadiums or tuning in on their televisions, computers, and smart phones. Surrounding almost every college football game are time honored traditions related to pre, during, and post-game rituals that often involve large quantities of food and an abundant supply of alcoholic beverages. There are plenty of people who partake in the festivities, food, and drink without negative consequences. For people in recovery, the potential consequences of embracing the drinking culture are treacherous and potentially deadly. The good news is many individuals in recovery who love college football have learned how to successfully navigate and participate in the festivities without drinking or partying to extreme.

As we kickoff a new season, here are 3 Things for every college football fan to remember that may prove to be helpful as you cheer for your favorite team.

1. Be a Student of the Game
Football is a highly complicated and beautiful game where multiple strategies are utilized on offenses, defenses, and special teams. A lifetime could be spent trying to fully understand the variety of options that are available to coaches and players on both sides of the ball. Understanding the rules of the game, why and when penalties are called, and why coaches and players make decisions at certain times makes the game come alive. Being a student of the game also means exploring your team’s history and tradition and knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the players and coaches. I believe the full joy of football can only be experienced as a sober student of the game.

2. Host a Sober Tailgate
An emerging trend at many colleges involves students in recovery who organize and gather for sober tailgates. Sober tailgates include all the fun and festivities as other tailgates without the alcohol. Great music, smart football talk, and tasty food set the stage for a successful sober tailgate. The best part is the community and camaraderie of interesting people who come together and share the love and support of their team and the game. Sober tailgates also offer anyone who makes a lifestyle choice to not drink a great setting to get to know people and enjoy the festivities. Sober tailgates should be offered on every college campus across the nation.

3. Create a Student in Recovery Section at the Game and/or Attend with People in Recovery
My students at Texas Tech’s Collegiate Recovery Community attend football games together. They meet at a convenient place and walk together to the game. Imagine 50+ students in recovery sitting smack dab in the middle of the Texas Tech student section enjoying the game and all of its thrills from a sober perspective. It is my experience that students in recovery are just as loud and enjoy the game just as much as the students who are drinking alcohol. Attending games together also solidifies relationships and gives the students opportunities to talk and connect. When people attend together they naturally make plans afterwards to be together extending the recovery support to well after the game ensuring that everyone is safe and has a great time.

Enjoy the football this fall. May your team rise to heights of glory and victory. Becoming a student of the game, organizing and attending sober tailgates, and attending with people of recovery may enhance your football experience and your recovery. Most importantly, may you enjoy the rituals and traditions of football in a sober and safe way.

Dr. Kimball serves as the Director of the Center for Collegiate Recovery Community and holds the George C. Miller Family Regents Professorship at Texas Tech University. He is co-author of the book, Six Essentials to Achieve Lasting Recovery, Hazelden Press. He is also a Clinical Director with MAP Health Management, LLC.