Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Prevention Network: Honor the Code

Many high schools have policies on record that prohibit alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use by student athletes. However, not all schools have developed strategies to ensure consistent implementation and enforcement of such policies. Honor the Code inspires student athletes to uphold and embrace their high schools’ athletic codes regarding substance use and other risky behaviors and instead make safe and healthy life decisions. Originally piloted in four rural and suburban high schools in central New York, this yearlong program prepares athletic directors, coaches, students, parents, and others to consistently implement and enforce their schools’ athletic codes.

Honor the Code

With high school athletic directors, Honor the Code facilitates monthly steering committee meetings to assess the effectiveness of existing school policies regarding substance use and develop strategies for educating coaches and student athletes about such policies. Honor the Code also directly educates coaches, via a 30-minute training each fall, on the impact of alcohol and other drug use on brain development and athletic performance, as well as on the importance of consistent implementation and enforcement of the schools’ athletic codes.

To educate student athletes and broaden the program’s reach, schools select up to four students per school who serve as Honor the Code student athlete leaders. These leaders attend steering committee meetings; receive training on alcohol and other drug use, mentoring of younger athletes, awareness of the school’s athletic code, media literacy, and media presentation skills; and attend a weeklong prevention summit. Following this training, these leaders lead a specific prevention component of their choosing and speak to the media, parents, and others on the goals and importance of the program. Other student athletes and their parents participate in one-to-two training programs during the school year that focus on the impact of alcohol and other drugs on adolescent brain development, athletic performance, and team participation.

Funds from SAMHSA’s Service to Science Subcontract to Build Evaluation Capacity of Evidence-Based Interventions will be used to expand types of outcomes measured and corresponding data collection efforts. Specific evaluation enhancements will include:

  1. Conducting key informant interviews with athletic directors to gather qualitative and quantitative data related to the types and reporting of code violations and the consistency and efficacy of the school’s response to those violations.
  2. Surveying a representative random sample of all student athletes to assess their attitudes, peer perceptions of norms, and behaviors related to alcohol and drug use.
  3. Conducting a minimum of two one-hour focus groups per school to better understand student alcohol and other drug use, as well as the effectiveness of Honor the Code campaign messages.
  4. Conducting brief interviews with students following immediate exposure to Honor the Code to collect real-time data and feedback on their understanding of the program and the normative messages it conveys.


Philip Rose
Program Coordinator / Underage Drinking Prevention
Prevention Network
906 Spencer Street
Syracuse, New York 13204
Phone: 315-471-1359