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Teams–Games–Tournaments Alcohol Prevention

Ages 13-17

Rating: Level 2


Teams–Games–Tournaments (TGT) program is an approach to alcohol prevention that combines peer support with group reward structures. The program was developed through research on games as a teaching device, small groups as classroom work units, and the task-and-reward structures used in the traditional classroom. The TGT technique stresses group rather than individual achievement.

Five school systems in metropolitan, semimetropolitan, and rural areas of Georgia participated in the research. Within each participating school, students took part in a 4-week educational program providing alcohol information and encouraging the application of these concepts in the youths’ lives. All program activities emphasized the development of self-management skills and workshop skills that prepared teachers to lead the educational sessions and facilitate the tournament games.

The program begins with a 50-question pretest of alcohol knowledge. Based on their test results, students are classified as high achievers (those with high levels of knowledge about alcohol), middle achievers (those with moderate knowledge), and low achievers (those most lacking). The students are then grouped into eight-member teams containing two high achievers, four middle achievers, and two low achievers. Thus the average level is roughly equal across teams.

The alcohol education units are presented for 50 minutes each day for 4 weeks. During the first 3 days of each week, discussions and participatory activities cover alcohol-related concepts. On the 4th day, students work in their TGT teams. The teams complete worksheets in preparation for the tournament, which takes place on the 5th day. All activities emphasize the use of peer support to enhance learning and the acceptance of responsible attitudes toward drinking.

The first part of the curriculum covers the biological, psychological, and sociocultural determinants of alcoholism. Students learn how to make realistic judgments about their own present or possible future use; they also learn about the progression from responsible consumption to problem usage to alcoholism. During the program’s second part, basic principles of social learning theory illustrate the concept that all drinking is learned. For example, an individual with a drinking problem can learn to drink differently, and the drinker who currently has no problem can control circumstances so that drinking remains within acceptable bounds. With this knowledge, students then learn self-management tools: assertiveness, refusal skills, how to change their internal and external environment. The curriculum includes topics such as “Alcohol and Our Society,” “What is Alcohol?”, “Short-Term Effects of Alcohol,” and “Recognizing and Treating Drinking Problems.”

The tournament games consist of short-answer questions designed to assess and reinforce the knowledge gained in class. Team members compete individually against other team members of comparable achievement levels. Scores are kept for each individual during the tournament games. At the conclusion of the tournament, the top, middle, and low scorer at each table are awarded a fixed number of points for their team. The points earned by a student determine whether he or she will stay at the same tournament table or be moved to a table with higher or lower performing students for the next tournament. In this way, competitors change regularly and the competition is not skewed in favor of any group of achievers. The points earned by an individual are added to those earned by other team members to compose a total team score.


The evaluation of Teams–Games–Tournaments used an experimental design methodology. Five school systems participated in the study (one metropolitan, two semimetropolitan, and two rural school systems). A 200-item pool of test questions was developed according to the content contained within the curriculum. In all participating schools, students received either instruction according to the experimental TGT method of traditional instruction (treatment group) or no instruction (the control group). Random assignments occurred at the class level. In total, 526 students participated in the experimental TGT procedure. Twenty-one percent were seniors, 49 percent juniors, and 27 percent sophomores. The first follow-up of the program participants was conducted 1 year after completion of the educational programs. The second follow-up was conducted 2 years after completion of the educational program.

All research subjects completed surveys assessing four sets of variables for baseline, posttest, and follow-up data:

  • Alcohol-related knowledge (Engs Scale)
  • Attitudes toward alcohol use and abuse (Stumphauzers’s Behavioral Analysis Questionnaire for Adolescent Drinkers, Glickson’s Adolescent Alcohol Questionnaire, and the Index of Family Relations)
  • Current patterns of alcohol use (Index of Self-Esteem and the Generalized Contentment Scale)
  • Impulsive behavior


TGT participants showed significant gains in alcohol-related knowledge at posttest, relative to both the traditional and no-instruction control groups. Additional analyses confirmed that these effects remained significant at follow-up. School effects were not significant, suggesting that the characteristics of particular school systems did not affect the outcomes. Similarly, at follow-up the TGT participants showed significantly better attitudes toward drinking and driving, as well as reduced impulsive behavior, relative to the two other groups.

Measures of alcohol consumption also favored the experimental group. From pretest to posttest the experimental group decreased its consumption by 12.7 percent, while the traditional control groups showed no reduction at all. The experimental group also had a significant reduction in the amount of alcohol consumed at any one session. The group’s single-session consumption dropped by about 40 percent, compared with almost no reduction for the traditional and control groups. The experimental group increased almost 15 percentage points in regard to time elapsed from the average participant’s last drink. Relatively no change occurred in the traditional and control groups.

Follow-up data showed that the positive effects of the program weakened over time; however, the decrease in “maintenance” for the TGT group was the smallest.

The TGT participants showed positive outcomes on measures of the consequences of drinking. On the Engs Inventory, the experimental group revealed a significantly increased score (from 32.14 to 50.93) for the TGT groups; the other groups had relatively no change. This indicates not only that TGT students reduced the amount of alcohol they consumed but also that the consequences they suffered were smaller.

Risk Factors


  • Anti-social behavior and alienation/Delinquent beliefs/General delinquency involvement/Drug dealing
  • Favorable attitudes toward drug use/Early onset of AOD use/Alcohol and/or drug use
  • Poor refusal skills


  • Low academic achievement
  • Negative attitude toward school/Low bonding/Low school attachment/Commitment to school
  • Truancy/Frequent absences


  • Availability of alcohol and other drugs
  • Low community attachment


  • Association with delinquent and/or aggressive peers
  • Peer alcohol, tobacco, and/or other drug use
  • Peer rejection

Protective Factors


  • Healthy / Conventional beliefs and clear standards
  • High expectations
  • Perception of social support from adults and peers
  • Positive / Resilient temperament
  • Positive expectations / Optimism for the future
  • Self-efficacy
  • Social competencies and problem-solving skills


  • Effective parenting
  • Good relationships with parents / Bonding or attachment to family
  • Having a stable family
  • High expectations
  • Opportunities for prosocial family involvement
  • Rewards for prosocial family involvement


  • Above average academic achievement / Reading and math skills
  • High expectations of students
  • Rewards for prosocial school involvement
  • Strong school motivation / Positive attitude toward school
  • Student bonding (attachment to teachers, belief, commitment)


  • Clear social norms / Policies with sanctions for violations and rewards for compliance
  • High expectations


  • Good relationships with peers


  • SAMHSA: Model Programs


Wodarski, John S. 1987a. “A Social Learning Approach to Teaching Adolescents About Alcohol and Driving: A Multiple-Variable Follow-Up Evaluation.” Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry 18(1):51–60.

———. 1987b. “Teaching Adolescents About Alcohol and Driving: A 2-Year Follow-Up.” Journal of Drug Education 17(4):327–43.

Wodarski, John S., and Marvin D. Feit. 1995. Adolescent Substance Abuse: An Empirically Based Group Preventive Health Paradigm. New York, N.Y.: Haworth Press.

Wodarski, John S., and Lois A. Wodarski. 1993. Curriculums and Practical Aspects of Implementation: Prevention Health Services for Adolescents. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, Inc.

———. 1998. Adolescent Violence: An Empirically Based School/Family Paradigm. New York, N.Y.: Springer.

Wodarski, John S., Lois A. Wodarski, and Catherine N. Dulmus. 2002. Adolescent Depression and Suicide: A Comprehensive Empirical Intervention for Prevention and Treatment. Springfield, Ill.: Charles C. Thomas.

Wodarski, Lois A., and John S. Wodarski. 1995. Adolescent Sexuality: A Peer/Family Curriculum. Springfield, Ill.: Charles C. Thomas.

Wodarkski, John S., Lois A. Wodarski, and Heather Parris. 2004. “Teams-Games-Tournaments: Four Decades of Research.” Journal of Evidence-Based Social Work: Advances in Practice, Programming, Research and Policy 1(1):23-43.


John Wodarski, Ph.D.
324 Henson Hall
College of Social Work
University of Tennessee
Knoxville, TN 37996–3333
Phone: (865) 974-3988
Fax: (865) 974-4803