Monday, January 23, 2006

Why Aren't There More Lightweight Programs (cont.)?

A few months back I began discussing the first of three reasons given me by the head coach of a women’s heavyweight program at an Ivy League school for why there aren’t more lightweight programs. The first reason covered was a lack of resources. The second reason given, which I’ll discuss now, was that many schools have “close-to lightweights rowing in priority boats.”

The argument here is that pulling lightweights into their own program would slow down the heavy boats. The major heavyweight schools, those that hope to win the NCAAs each year, generally don’t have lightweights in their priority boats. Of course, there are a few exceptions that prove the rule (Kok atVirginia and Peters at Columbia), but the recruiting scavenger hunt that heavyweight coaches conduct each year just doesn’t result in lightweights. This argument, therefore, does not apply to the major heavyweight programs and they are back to claiming poverty.

So what about the smaller schools? There is no question that there are lightweights rowing in heavyweight boats at Dad Vail schools and some of the smaller Division I schools. These schools need to take a hard look at the size of women they can recruit (this is mostly on-campus recruiting), the success they’ve had as heavyweights, and the likelihood that they can recruit ever larger girls, and then decide where they can have the most success. Why get knocked out in the semis of the Dad Vail heavy eight when with some focus you might be able to win the light eight (see Dayton)? And, the Dad Vail winner always has a good shot at making the IRA final. The Dad Vail heavyweight winner is sitting at home during NCAAs while the lightweight winner is racing for the national championship at IRAs. Do they compare? There will always be heavyweight programs that race lightweight when it turns out that they have enough for a boat. Why aren’t there lightweight programs that race heavyweight when they have enough heavies for a boat? Villanova seemed to spend a couple of years doing that and they won the lightweight national championship at IRAs. Then they started to concentrate on heavyweights and now they occasionally bounce in and out of the Dad Vail medals. Once they stopped focusing on lightweights, they gave up their chance to win a national championship. Can lightweights be that hard to find on college campuses? We’ve already seen that a typical lightweight falls into the national average size for college age women.

Programs that think pulling lightweights into their own boats would hurt their heavy eights should reassess their programs. They might realize that trying to boat a heavy eight every year is eliminating their chance to win the lightweight national championship. I understand that the heavyweights are seen as more glamorous (racing wise, I mean) than the lightweights, but I also know that winning an IRA medal is more glamorous than sitting at home hitting the refresh button on your computer during NCAAs.


Anonymous said...

If you want more lightweight rowing, then you have to have more rowers period. The V8 is always going to be filled first with whoever is faster, LW or HW. This goes for ALL schools that field LW4 or LW8 boats at IRA, Dad Vail, and ECAC; they won't have someone in the L8 that is head and shoulders better than someone in the V8. However, if its close, the tie may go to the heavy so the light can row light. Someone passionate about LW rowing may say otherwise, but in reality the V8 is always filled first with the fastest people regardless of weight. It's just the way it is until the NCAA changes its championship.

The NCAA will never have a lightweight event as long as they race two Junior Varsity boats at the national championship (the 2V and V4) If you want more lightweight rowing, advocating the NCAA to change the designation of rowing from a 'team' sport to an 'individual' sport will do the most for LW rowing because it would open up the number of boats that compete for a national championship.

JW Burk said...

Yes, I agree that the heavy eight is always filled first with the fastest people, my point is that is that maybe it shouldn't be if you can trade a mediocre heavy eight for a fast light eight.

I've actually sent several questions to the NCAA about lightweight rowing, and they've promised to answer them. I'll post the answers when I get them. I didn't, however, ask about the "team sport" designation. You have an interesting point there, one on which I may be able to follow up.

Anonymous said...

the open boats don't always get filled first... i've always been in the lightweight boat and there's only 1 open woman who can regularly beat me. but we are a smaller school, so we're talking about two 4's instead of 8's... maybe that's different?

Anonymous said...

If you have 4 lw's and 4 hw's, its hard to split that up into two heavy 4's. Generally at the big schools the head coach picks her top 8 girls and the rest of the boats are developed from there.