Thursday, December 08, 2005

Should the Weight Limit be Raised?

An argument I've heard several heavyweight coaches make is that it's not realistic to expect college age women to still meet the same 130 pound weight limit that high school girls meet. The difference between a high school freshman and a college senior is huge in all aspects - physical, mental, and social - and the weight limit needs to be higher in college. Underlying this argument, I think, is the notion that college women have to lose too much weight to get down to 130. I have two points in response to this, one more obvious than the other.

My first point is that I'm not sure the high school weight limit is relevant. The claim is that 130 is too low for college women, but maybe it's too high for high school girls. There may be an argument to be made that high school and college weight limits should be different, but that is independent of any argument about what the college weight limit should be. I've addressed that topic in a previous post. There I took a look at national height and weight figures which lead one to the conclusion that the average 19 year old woman is a 130 pound lightweight. I don't know how the 130 pound limit was originally arrived at, but I've not heard an argument why it should be different for college, only why it shouldn't be the same as high school. One argument would be that the average athletic woman will weigh more (muscle weighs more than fat) but, again, I haven't heard that.

Now for the obvious point. Raising the weight limit will not result in fewer women who need to lose weight to row lightweight, it will result in the same amount of heavier women who need to lose weight to row lightweight. Raising the limit simply shifts the "possible lightweight" weight range up by the same amount the limit was raised. Any issues with weight loss still have the same solution - responsible programs with responsible coaches who only race natural lightweights.

There may be an argument for raising the college weight limit, but if so, it has nothing to do with what the high school limit is. Actually, 130 seems about right to me. Lightweights now get pretty close to heavyweight boats and a boatload of 140 or 145 pounders would be right on them. The weight limit needs to be low enough to provide an obvious strength difference from heavyweights, but high enough to include a large proportion of the population. One-thirty seems to do a pretty good job on both counts.


Jeff in CA said...

Hi. This is off-topic (not about LW rowing), but I am wondering if you would happen to know about this and be able to help me out. I have been Googling all over the web and have run out of resources.

I am looking for a list of the U.S. colleges that won the women's national collegiate rowing championship each year during the 1970's. My information says this college title for women started in 1974, but I could be wrong. Which of these championships were sponsored by the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW)? Was there an organization that sponsored these prior to the AIAW?

This is the list I have now:
Before 1974?
1974 UCLA
1975 Wisconsin
1976 ?
1977 ?
1978 ?
1979 Yale
1980 Cal-Berkeley
1981 Washington
1982 Washington


JW Burk said...


I'm not sure I can help, but you might try one fo these two women who have been working on a history of American rowing:

Sandy Culver, 312.927.0608,

Trish Brubaker, 312.927.0609,