Day: February 27, 2013

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week: Coxswains

Coxing Training & Nutrition

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week: Coxswains

Previously: Introduction || Eating disorders defined + explained || Signs + symptoms

Today I’m going to talk about coxswains and eating disorders. While lightweights have maximums, we have minimums when it comes to weight standards. In high school and college it’s 110lbs for women and 120/125lbs for men, respectively. As the smallest and lightest members of the crew we’re basically dead weight since we aren’t physically helping to move the boat and because of that, crews understandably want the least amount of dead weight to carry as possible.

For me, I’ve always been 15-20 pounds under the women’s minimum so at larger regattas I’ve had to carry weight in the boat with me so that I would be at 110lbs. Despite always being well below 110, I’ve still been pressured and felt pressure to keep my weight down. Coaches would joke or make offhand comments if they saw me eating fast food and say things like “better watch out, you’re not going to be able to fit in the seat if you keep eating like that”. There were also times where people would say “if light is good, lighter must be even better … what’s another few pounds if it helps your boat go faster?” Ah, the guilt trip. Obviously I always wanted what was best for my boat so this was the one that really got stuck in my head. I’d skip meals (usually breakfast and lunch since they were the easiest ones to skip), say that I wasn’t hungry or had already eaten, push food around on my plate to make it look like I’d eaten something, etc. I’m a picky eater to begin with so none of my habits ever appeared that abnormal to anyone. I knew it wasn’t normal but I still felt healthy so I continued on that trend for awhile.

Related: I’m currently a novice coxswain at my school’s club team. I weigh about 125ish. I’m thinking about transferring schools but I still want to do crew. One of the schools I was looking at was D3 and they said that coxswains should weigh less than 115. Do you think they would let me cox because I have already been doing that or would I need to lose weight? I try to work out. I’m planning on doing winter training but I’m not a good runner and I don’t have much erg experience so I don’t know if it would pay off.

All of this was way more prevalent my junior and senior year, particularly my junior year when I was coxing the lightweight 8+. I don’t know how much weight I lost but at most it was maybe five pounds so it wouldn’t have made a difference in my boat’s speed anyways, which I realized after I stopped coxing the lightweights my senior year. I gave up the weird eating patterns, etc. but I’m still overly aware of my weight, what I eat, etc. and it all goes back to offhand comments and jokes made by my coaches and teammates. None of it was ever malicious in any way but this goes to show that something you say to someone in passing can stick with them for a long time.

For coxswains who are above the minimum, they can sometimes have a lot of pressure put on them by their teammates and coaches to lose weight and get closer to racing weight, regardless of the fact that it might not be physically possible for them. Some coaches refuse to weigh their coxswains for fearing of instilling a “complex” in them but then freak out when that coxswain weighs in over racing weight three days before a regatta. Others don’t know how to approach talking about weight with their coxswains (especially if you have men coaching high school women) or how to address the issue of coxswains who are overweight.

Related: Hi! I have two questions about coxing, if that’s alright. I’m a varsity mens HS cox and I weigh around 122-123 on average. Is that a good weight for men’s? I used to cox women’s but the men’s coach asked me if I wanted to switch so I coxed both for a season before switching and the women’s coach kept asking me to drop weight. Also, can you recommend any workouts to stay in shape? I don’t really have much time to work out. Thank you so so so so much!! 

By overweight I don’t mean overweight for their body types but over the “acceptable” racing weight. I generally give coxswains a buffer of few pounds but I also think you have to be realistic and know that coaches aren’t going to pick, for example, a women’s coxswain who weighs 135lbs. The stress on the coxswain and the coach isn’t worth it.

Eating disorders and similar issues tend to arise when coxswains (or their coaches) set “goal weights” for them to be at by a certain point in the season. I think having targets to hit are a smart approach as long as they’re realistic and attainable in a reasonable amount of time. When they’re not, that’s when coxswains begin engaging in unhealthy weight loss tactics.

Throughout my time in this sport I’ve seen coxswains do some pretty ridiculous shit to get their weight down. Let’s just ignore the fact that a simple adjustment in diet or exercise would have been more than enough. Taking Adderall (whether it was prescribed to them or not) to suppress their appetite was a big one, as was purposely dehydrating themselves until they had to weigh in.

Related: How does getting weighed in work during the spring season? I’m a coxswain for a collegiate men’s team where the weight minimum is 125. I’m naturally under 110, so what’s going to happen? Sand bags? Will it be a problem?

Laxatives and diuretics were luckily never something I saw any of my friends use but that’s another thing coxswains turn to. The health consequences of engaging in tactics like this include confusion, dizziness, severe migraines, appearing more impatient or on edge than usual, slow reaction times, etc. in addition to heart and kidney problems from the amphetamines and laxatives. One of the symptoms of laxative use is a really sore back (due to stressed kidneys), which coxswains can easily wave off as it just being sore and/or bruised from hitting the back of the boat.

So, how can weight issues with coxswains be avoided or alleviated (before they become a problem)?

Don’t make offhand comments to them about what they’re eating, how they aren’t going to fit in the seat tomorrow, etc.

As a coxswain, be proactive and note your weight at the beginning of the season. If you’re more than 8-10ish pounds over the minimum, start paying closer attention to what you’re eating, how much you’re working out, and how much you’re sleeping. It’s literally that simple.

Don’t wait until the last minute before a big regatta where you know you’ll be weighed in to see how much you weigh. This only leads to you being that fool running around the regatta site in sweats and a trash bag. It’s unhealthy, it’s stupid, and you’re hurting yourself more than you’re helping your boat.

If you’re a coxswain who is currently engaging in tactics like this, stop for a second and think about all that. Is it worth doing permanent damage to your body? Even if you think what you’re doing is minor (“I only did this for those three races in the spring…”), it’s still a problem. As I said before, you have to be realistic about where your weight’s at and take responsibility for/not ignore the fact that being aware of your weight is part of the job.

Image via // @kevrlight
What questions should you ask coaches during the recruiting process?

College Recruiting Teammates & Coaches

What questions should you ask coaches during the recruiting process?

Below is a (not at all comprehensive) list of some questions you could ask coaches when you talk with them throughout the recruiting process. Many of these are things I asked, wish I’d asked, or things you might not think to ask.

What is the practice schedule like? Times, for how long, number of times per day, how many days per week, etc.

How do you get to the boathouse/practice facility? Bus, carpool, walk, shuttle, etc.

Team dynamic, structure, hierarchy? Is there a student board, team elected or coach appointed captains, etc.

Athlete retention rate – do people stick around or quit after one season.

Do you work with our schedules or do we have to manage our classes around crew (instead of the other way around)?

How many hours a week can you expect to spend doing rowing related activities? Practice, travel, lifting, team study tables, outreach. and/or team activities, etc.

Do you like competing in the ____ conference and why?

Is the university looking to change conferences any time soon?

What does each season consist of, training wise?

From a coach’s perspective, what do you see me bringing to the team? Have a counter statement ready.

What is your relationship like with the professors? Frequent interaction, no interaction, on good terms, ever had any issues, etc.

Graduation rate of those on the team

What kind of academic support is available? Athletic adviser, mandated study tables, peer advisers, etc.

Do athletes have priority registration and if so, how far in advance of regular registration?

What’s the team GPA for the past semester/year?

How much class time is missed due to traveling?

Will my roommate be another rower/coxswain on the team?

Do rowers/coxswains tend to be housed in certain dorms or are they housed all over?

Is the opportunity available to earn a scholarship in the future if my performance merits it?

What are the factors that go into determining who gets a scholarship?

Would you consider your program more, less, or equally as demanding in comparison to other similar programs in this division, conference, etc.

How do you compare the program to out-of-conference competitors?

How do you determine lineups?

How do you use freshmen recruits in lineups comparison to freshmen walk ons who have rowing or coxing experience?

Has anyone transferred from your team to another university and team? What were their reasons for leaving, if you know?

What would your team say are your biggest attributes? Have a counter statement ready.

What would they say they like the least about you? Have a counter statement ready.

What is your coaching style and philosophy?

Would I still have the opportunity to study abroad? Has anyone done it, how does it effect team standing, are you welcomed back when you return, etc.

How much school support does the team receive?

What is the relationship like with the athletic department/athletic director? Does he/she make it a point to get to know all the teams, etc.

Have you had the chance to see me row or cox in person? Thoughts, opinions, etc.

How would I fit in with the team and what could you see my role being?

What are your expectations of your athletes, both on and off the water? This is an intentionally vague question.

How do you handle discipline if it’s a serious issue but not something that merits the university’s or athletic department’s involvement?

What are your short term and long term goals for the team?

Where do you place your coaching emphasis?

Who are the assistant coaches? What are they like, what are their specialties, what do they bring to the team, how do they interact with you/each other, etc.

What is the typical day like in the life of a University of ____ rower?

Are you planning on leaving soon (contract expires, looking for new opportunities, etc.) or will you be here for the foreseeable future?

What are the policies for missing or being late to practice due to academic or extracurricular club commitments?

How many credits are required to be on the team and/or maintain my scholarship?

Where do your rowers come from?

What is the biggest/proudest achievement, both on and off the water, during your tenure?

If I’m injured and on scholarship, what happens?

How do you determine whether or not to renew scholarships? What’s the criteria, etc.

What do you know about my major? Thoughts on how it might interfere, etc.

Can the application fee be waived for athletes? (At least one of mine was.)

What is the team/athletic department’s standing with the NCAA? Any team violations, etc.

What are the most popular majors amongst the members of the team?

How can rowing help me as a college student? Again, intentionally vague.

What kind of alumni support do you have?

Where do I stand amongst other recruits?

How many people are you actively pursuing and has anyone signed their NLI yet?

Can you have a part-time job or do work study at the same time as being a full-time student-athlete? How it’s worked for other rowers, do other rowers do it, what kind of jobs do they have/have they had, etc.

What are the next steps in the process?

Is there anything I can provide that would help you in the evaluation process?

When can we touch base again? There are NCAA rules so make sure you find out the specifics to avoiding being caught in a recruiting violation.

This is all just the tip of the iceberg but hopefully this gives you some stuff to think about before you meet with the college coaches. For more advice on recruiting, check out the “recruiting” tag.

Image via // @drveuros