If you follow me on Instagram then you’ll know that I’ve been going through about 40 years worth of rowing magazines over the last month. I was going through my latest stack this evening and came across this letter to the editor from the July/August 1991 issue of American Rowing that I thought was worth sharing.
What I appreciated about this letter was that it was coming from a coach (and a very successful one at that) who actually appears to understand how difficult the process of making weight can be for a coxswain.
I’ll be honest, I really don’t see that same kind of concern from coaches these days and that’s pretty upsetting. The number of emails I’ve gotten from both male and female coxswains describing the things their coaches have told them to do to lose weight or the nasty offhand remarks they make about their size disgust me. I’ve witnessed it in person too and it’s taken a lot of restraint to not say anything (although in retrospect I always feel like I should have).
Saying “oh, just do what you have to do” and/or looking the other way when you know that one of your athletes is taking drastic measures like this is really offensive. I mean really, all it does is perpetuate the idea that coxswains aren’t real athletes so why does it matter if they’re doing stuff like this to their bodies? It does matter and for the exact reasons that were stated in the letter – there are serious physical and psychological effects to depriving your body of energy and nutrients and those effects will be felt on race day.
I’m mainly sharing this because I thought it was interesting but if you take anything away from it, I hope it’s that resorting to extremes like not eating, making yourself throw up, taking laxatives, etc. are all dangerous behaviors that will have a serious impact on your ability to perform your duties at the level you need to. Be realistic about your weight and don’t try to force your body down to a number that it’s not capable of being at. Also keep in mind that your skills on the water are worth far more to your crew than whatever the number on the scale says.