Hey, quick question: I’m a coxswain on a collegiate club team and lately we’ve been having some issues with sick people missing practices. Our (very old-school) coach’s opinion is unless you’re dying, you’re at practice, but some of my teammates want to stay home if they’re feeling a little sick because they think rowing while sick will make the illness a lot worse and take them out for longer. I’ve also heard that it’s safe to row if the sickness is below the neck but that you should stay home if there’s an issue with the head or throat, but I’m not sure if that’s medically accurate. So I was just wondering, at what point is someone “too sick to row” in your opinion?
I’ve got a post on this exact subject scheduled for next Thursday so keep an eye out for that. The “above the neck/below the neck” adage is pretty standard and what most athletes tend to follow (typically on the advice of their athletic trainers, coaches, or family doctors). Runny noses and sore throats are generally OK to practice with (just back off on your workouts for a day or two and you’ll be fine) but if you develop a fever or your cold makes its way into your chest (like with bronchitis), then you definitely need to take a step back and rest for a couple days.
We’ve got several guys on the team sick right now (one with mono who is out for the fall, one with bronchitis who I haven’t seen in like a week and a half, another who found out last week that his persistent cold is actually asthma (on top of him actually having a cold), etc.) and as tough as it can make putting lineups together, it really is in everyone’s best interest that they take time off to recover and get back to 100%. The guys that have a standard cold will come and erg, row in the tanks, bike, or go for a run in lieu of rowing so they’re still getting a decent workout in but they’re able to go at a more “relaxed” pace (or stop midway through if necessary) based on how they’re feeling. No one abuses the coaches understanding and generosity when it comes to giving them time off or an alternate workout when they’re sick and in return, the coaches trust the rowers when they say they’re sick and as such expect them to follow up with our trainers/doctors accordingly.
As far as what defines being “too sick to row…” … I don’t know if you can say what being too sick to row is because it’s going to be different for everyone. Obviously if you have a fever, a cough that’s making it hard to breathe, or something like that then you should definitely not be at practice but if it’s just a regular cold then I think you have to trust the person who’s sick when they say how they’re feeling. I would give them the benefit of the doubt if they say they need a day off because faking your symptoms just to get out of practice or whatever is just pathetic (especially as a college student/adult) and if they’re an otherwise committed member of the team, you don’t really have any reason to not believe them when they say they’re not feeling 100%.
Since you’re a club team, I assume that the majority of the policies in place are enacted by team-elected student officials…? It might be worth discussing with them some sort of official “sick” rule that lays out when people should and should not be at practice, what the alternative workouts/plans are if you’re not well enough to go on the water but still OK to practice, and then present that to your coach so that there’s no (or at the very least, fewer) issues going forward. Old-school coaches tend to be very set in their ways (I had two in high school and while they were great in so many ways, we did occasionally have issues similar to this) and of the opinion that if they can survive all the ailments and maladies they had to deal with growing up (without the benefits of modern medicine), then the rest of us should be able to do that too. Different times call for different measures though so sitting down with the team leaders and hashing out a “team sick policy” is probably your best long-term solution.