Tuesday, February 28, 2006

2006 Spring Preview - Georgetown University

Georgetown is in a position similar to Stanford except that, well, it usually beats Stanford. Nonetheless, it's been bouncing around the bottom of the top five crews (mostly at four) for a few years and needs to break out. Unlike Stanford, however, the program has had a few changes recently, changes which may shake things up just enough. For years Jimmy King tried to coach both the heavies and the lights with the result, believe it or not, that the heavies seemed to come up with the short end of the stick. A year ago Georgetown split the lights away from the heavies to form their own program with King's assistant, Rebecca Besant, as head coach. Besant soon left (to go to Africa, I believe) and Georgetown hired Jim O'Conner to take over the program. That's where we stand now, with a new coach and a new hunger to win on the Hilltop.

Georgetown begins what it hopes will be its spring feast at the Jesuit Invitational. Last year only St. Joseph's contested the lightweight eight event with the Hoyas and I expect they'll do so again this year. This is a race I'm anxious to hear about because although I think Georgetown should take it, St. Joe's is capable of a surprise. There may be other crews racing, such as Holy "Blue, no Yelloooow" Cross, or perhaps Fairfield, but it will be a Georgetown/St. Joe's race. Two weeks later comes Radcliffe and MIT in Boston. Another good race as it's early in the season and Georgetown will have had the benefit of racing Jesuits while Radcliffe will have raced at Windermere. Prime time for an upset here. This race, by the way, is not listed on Radcliffe's schedule but, given that it has a name (the Class of 2004 Cup), I assume it will be raced. While not up to Georgetown/Radcliffe speed, MIT is coming along and should be closer to these two boats then in the past. A week later comes the big party at the Knecht Cup. Before the month is out the Hoyas will race Princeton and Wisconsin again in dual races. May brings the Sprints followed by the IRAs in June.

Georgetown has a good schedule this year, meeting the traditional powers several times as well as a few crews on the next tier down. Rumor has it that Jim O'Conner is working the women hard and is serious about winning some major races. I don't know if this is the year Georgetown will move into the top three, but I'm pretty sure that at the end of the season Radcliffe, Princeton, and Wisconsin will know that they are facing a new and improved Hoya lightweight crew. They knocked off Wisconsin last year, providing what may have been the shock Wisconsin needed to get in gear and win IRAs. This year, if any of the Big Three take Georgetown lightly, they'll be in for a big surprise.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Lightweight Women at C.R.A.S.H.-B.s

The results for C.R.A.S.H.-B.s are posted. A quick look at the top 10 lightweight college finishers shows something interesting: 7 row heavyweight in college, 2 row lightweight, and 1 is Canadian (doesn't count on FITD). One I've counted as lightweight rows for Marist so she probably rows as much heavyweight as lightweight. Another woman rows for UCF but is listed as a heavyweight. One problem here is that the weight limit for lightweights at erg races is 135. This means that women who couldn't make 130 but could just suck down to 135 can race lightweight. The funny thing here, is that that would mean there are heavyweight coaches who know that the best thing for their heavyweight racing athletes is to let their weight go where it would naturally while training, yet have them lose weight for an erg race. I could care less about heavyweights crashing the lightweight erg party because the sport, after all, is about crossing the finish line on the water first, not getting a digital readout to 2k first. But for all the heat lightweight coaches take about unsafe weight loss practices, I wonder if the most unsafe are these heavyweight coaches.

You must be wondering who that one lightweight racing erg monster is, right? It's Sarah Bates, Radcliffe's senior captain and stroke. By the way, of these top ten lightweights, at least three of them raced together in NYAC's Senior B eight entry at Canadian Henley last summer.

Bye Bye 'Bama Bantams?

Alabama, which will begin it's first season as a varsity program next year, recently named its club program coach as its first varsity coach. During his tenure as club coach, Larry Davis coached Alabama to a lightweight eight victory at the Head of the Chattahoochee. It would be nice to believe that this will make him sympathetic to keeping lightweight representation in Alabama crew, but the actions of other new varsity programs suggests this won't be so. No doubt Coach Davis is already preparing to begin the national heavyweight scavenger hunt in which demand far outstrips supply. I've already mentioned my belief that Big Ten schools are particularly prone to drink the heavyweight Kool-Aid, but more specifically, I think that the average weight of a school's women's varsity crew is directly proportional to the prominence of its football team. (Stanford and Wisconsin, with varsity lightweights, are two exceptions that prove the rule.) Think of Notre Dame, Michigan, and Tennessee. Then think of lightweight schools Princeton, Radcliffe, and Georgetown. I suppose we can call this the Football Theorem. I don't know why this is, other than to speculate that the student populations at these schools have already shown themselves able to tolerate the carnival atmosphere caused by having abnormally large people walking around campus.

In any case, perhaps Coach Davis at Alabama will prove this theorem wrong. [See my update here.]

Sunday, February 26, 2006

2006 Season Preview - Stanford University

Stanford has been bouncing around the bottom of the top five nationally ranked crews for several years now, and it's time they make a move. Their first opportunity comes at the Sacramento State Invitational. Although other lightweight crews may compete, Stanford's major worry should be the Cal Lights. As the two major lightweight crews in the West, these two boats will run into each other several times during the season. Two weeks later comes another big race at the Windermere Classic. Here the Cardinal should meet up with Princeton and Radcliffe, and get an early, probably too early, read on their season. One week later comes the Crew Classic and Wisconsin, as well as Cal once again. Haven't had enough yet? OK, head straight to the East Coast for the Knecht Cup and see Wisconsin, Radcliffe, Princeton, and Georgetown. Now, take a week off.

Whew! What an opening schedule! Stanford has an opportunity to make a name for itself quickly this season, or get pounded for three straight weeks. Despite being a West Coast school, by the time of the Knecht Cup Stanford will have had the most experience in the field racing the major powers - only Georgetown will have been unseen by the Cardinal. That will make the trip interesting because Stanford has been closest to catching Georgetown the past few seasons.

After Knecht comes Cal (again), St. Mary's, and Santa Clara. At this point Stanford will know if it has an easy week or a dogfight since it will have raced Cal a few times already. Next listed on the schedule are the Cal heavyweights. This looks unusual, but I'm guessing the Stanford heavies are racing and the lights though they'd tag a long and see what they could do. It will be motivating to race heavies, but I'm not sure this is the right match-up for an upset. A few weeks later are the Pacific Coast Championships (another date with Cal, most likely), and then the IRAs. I hope the Cardinal has the PCC date circled on their calendars, because I'm pretty sure UCF does. UCF has something to prove on their trip west, and they have it to prove to Stanford. The loss to Stanford at last year's IRA cost UCF quite a bit in the final standings and this will be their first chance for revenge. As much as they'll be missed at Dad Vail, UCF's presence at the PCC will be great for Stanford and West Coast rowing.

Stanford is certainly going after it this year, scheduling tough crews and putting their season on the line. This is the only way to improve and Stanford has been treading water long enough. Some schools might be happy with a fairly constant 5th or 6th in the nation, but I don't think Stanford is one of them. When this school makes a sport varsity, they do it for one reason - to win, and the learning curve is just about over. I'm not sure Stanford is ready to break out just yet, but I do think they'll be knocking on Georgetown's door. One way or the other, we'll see Stanford break into the top three in the next few years.

Friday, February 24, 2006

2006 Season Preview - University of Dayton

Dayton had perhaps its most successful year last year, winning the lightweight varsity eight at Dad Vail. I wish they had gone on to race at IRAs, but I assume there was a scheduling conflict of some sort that didn't allow it. Dayton enters Spring 2006 as the school to beat among Dad Vail competitors.

The Flyers open the season March 25 at home against Duquesne, who has raced lightweight boats the last two years. This race should be a nice tune up to start the season. Next up are Cincinnati, Eastern Michigan, and Indiana. I don't think any of those programs has lightweights, although I seem to recall that Eastern Michigan was talking about adding them not too long ago. The first real test for Dayton will come at the Knecht Cup. As I've mentioned, this race has become a great event for lightweights as the top crews in the country usually compete and I think this year is no exception. This will give the Flyers an early read on where they stand.

Dayton then gets into its championship season as two weeks after Knecht is the A-10 championship. Dayton will be the crew to beat here, although URI might put on a good show, and I just have a feeling that St. Joe's has a lightweight surprise or two up its sleeve. Three weeks after A-10 is Dad Vail. Only time will tell who actually shows up at Dad Vail, but it's guaranteed not to be a cakewalk. Despite the sometimes low number of entries at Vails, as I've noted before, the Vails lightweight eight was a bit of an anomaly in 2005, given that the times were much closer to the heavy boats than one might expect. Dayton will be the crew to beat, but they'll have their hands full, even without UCF. After Vails comes IRAs and as it is listed on their schedule, it looks like Dayton plans to race. I expect they'll earn their attendance and should put in a good show.

Dayton was a relative newcomer to the top ranks of lightweight rowing last year. Their inability to race at IRAs robbed them of an opportunity to see if they really deserved membership in the Big Dog Club. This is the year for the Flyers to step it up. They tasted victory last year and know that it's sweet. The only thing more motivating than remembering what a gold medal feels like around your neck is wondering what one feels like. Those crews chasing Dayton are wondering. This is the year for Dayton to pull out all the stops - they CAN compete with the top crews, but WILL they?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Weigh-In Rumors

Some readers have written asking about rumors they've heard concerning new weigh-in procedures. Specifically, there are questions about a possible hydration test and about the possibility that anyone racing as a lightweight at IRAs will have to weigh in throughout the year even if rowing heavyweight. I've looked into this and the only thing I can report now is that they are still just rumors. The CRCA has told me that the "lightweight committee has made NO recommendation regarding a hydration test -- or a requirement of such." I assume, however, that this doesn't preclude them from making such a recommendation at a later time. Some of the top programs, however, have instituted these tests on their own. Although I think this test can be extra sensitive, using it within a program is a good move. We must be able to trust coaches and trainers with their own athletes. If a coach can't be trusted in this regard she or he should be fired. The hydration test, when used by coaches, trainers, and physicians who know their rowers and understand the sport can only be a good thing. As FITD readers know, I'm not so sure about using it at weigh-ins.

I've also been told that the CRCA has "come up with some revised weigh-in recommendations that will be adopted at the IRA this year." These recommendations have not been communicated to coaches yet so they obviously won't be released to me. As soon as I get them I'll post them so if you don't hear anything from your coaches you can look here.

This idea of weighing-in even if racing heavyweight is a curious one. On the one hand I understand it - rowers shouldn't be losing a ton of weight just before IRAs to try to go out and win a gold medal. That's dangerous and not fair to true lightweights. On the other hand, how would it be policed? Would you need a document certifying that you've made weight all year? What if you missed weight one weekend? I can see it now, the first words from the scale attendant's mouth will be, "Paperz pleeze." A few years ago, when Wisconsin blew the field away by 12 seconds at IRAs, there was a rumor going around that about half the boat was heavyweights who dropped down just for the race. I tried to check this rumor out at the time and as far as I could tell it was false. [Update: See the comments on this post for confirmation that this rumor IS false.] I also think the rumor was a bit insulting. If Wisco was racing 2 heavy eights and a heavy four at NCAAs (and assuming those girls wouldn't be messing around with their weight) that means that the 21st through 24th best rowers on Wisco's heavyweight crew simply had to drop to lightweight to win an IRA gold. Sorry, as much as heavyweights want to believe that can happen, it can't, and certainly not when racing Princeton, Radcliffe, et. al.

Sorry for going on here, but the upshot is, keep checking this site and I'll let you know as soon as I have solid information.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Does the NCAA Govern Lightweight Rowing?

A reader commented on my last post saying, “the ncaa governs womens rowing. lightweight rowing is not its own sport-it is simply an event -like the pair, four etc. -within womens rowing.” This is an interesting statement, and one that I think is worth exploring a bit. First though, we need to ask if it really matters. I think it does because it determines if the NCAA has any power over women’s lightweights and it also has an effect on the likelihood that lightweights will ever have an NCAA championship. Readers of this blog know that I’m conflicted over whether the latter result would be a good thing. I think the answer is yes, ONLY if it increases participation in the sport (or is that “event?”).

As you may remember, not too long ago I posed a series of questions about women’s lightweight rowing to Tina Krah at the NCAA. Some of her answers support my reader’s contention that lightweights are simply an event, while others do not. Her answer to the first question suggests that lightweights are an event as she discusses lightweights in the context of what constitutes a team – eights and fours. In the second question she says that “the championship is in place,” again suggesting that lightweights are just another event. It’s at Question 3, however, where things really get interesting. I ask if schools have to follow NCAA guidelines in their lightweight women’s programs. Her answer is, “The institutions would determine this.” Whoa! That doesn’t sound like the NCAA governs lightweight rowing. This says to me that if Georgetown was caught giving it’s lightweight recruits new Cadillac Escalades when they enrolled, the school could simply say, “We have chosen not to follow your guidelines with women’s lightweights,” and the NCAA would say, “Oh, ok.” Tina does go on to say that this depends on “how the institution is counting the sport on their individual campuses.” I’m not sure what that means – can a school say that they are not counting the sport as an NCAA sport? Maybe it has to do with whether the sport figures into Title IX numbers, my next question. Again, Tina says that whether lightweight rowing counts as a women’s sport for Title IX purposes is “an institutional decision.” These two answers suggest to me that the NCAA has no authority over lightweight rowing unless the school chooses to allow it. Even if it had the authority, how would it exercise it? It couldn’t punish violators because there are no scholarships to lose and no championship to deny. My conclusion – the NCAA does not govern women’s lightweight rowing.

Now, let’s look at this idea that lightweights are an event, not a sport. I don’t want to get caught up in the meaning of sport, I really want to explore if lightweights are simply an event and what the answer to that question means to lightweight rowing. If lightweights are an event, that means that to race in an NCAA championship, coaches (or the NCAA rowing committee) would have to vote for the inclusion of that event. If the event were included, that means that lightweights would count toward the team championship and schools would need to add lightweights to be competitive. I can’t imagine this EVER happening. The committees advising the NCAA are made up almost solely of heavyweight coaches, most of whom believe that adding lightweights would detract from the resources needed to run successful heavyweight programs. Uh oh, that doesn’t sound like just another event to me. (By the way, I think this undue emphasis on “team championships” is an NCAA concoction. I want to laugh every time I see members of a losing varsity eight hoisting a team championship trophy.) I’ve never heard coaches say that they can’t race pairs because they would need to bring in separate coaches and recruit separate athletes. If the NCAA decided to add a pairs event to its championship, teams would just go out and buy some pairs and send the 13th and 14th rowers out to race. You can’t do that if lightweights are added. In fact you do need to recruit completely different athletes and completely different coaches. No, I don't think lightweights are just another event. The women who race in the lightweight varsity eights are the top rowers in their programs. The heavyweight women in the NCAA governed sport cannot simply race a new event – they don’t qualify, that’s the point of lightweight rowing. I think the NCAA’s inability to know its own mind on this point is another sign of that body’s lack of understanding of the sport of rowing.

So what does all this mean? Well, it means that I honestly don’t know how women’s lightweights would ever end up with an NCAA championship. I don’t know the inner workings of the NCAA rowing committee so I’m sure I’ve made some wrong assumptions, but I still believe that the NCAA tries to meddle in lightweight rowing for political reasons while it discourages the sport through active neglect.

Lightweights at St. Joe's

St. Joeseph's University plans to race lightweights this season. I'm starting to think this may a good year!

Ohio State Update

The Ohio State coach wrote to say that OSU WILL be competing at Dad Vail this spring, followed by a quick trip to ECACs to defend their title the next day. I also didn't mention OSU's race against Ithaca the weekend after the Purdue race, mainly because Ithaca hasn't been putting out lightweight boats. OSU hopes they'll have an eight this year. Ohio state's lightweights will be racing against heavyweights as the 2V most of their races.

By the way, the conflicting dates of Dad Vail and ECACs brings the ECACs back to their roots as Dad Vail spoilers. I wrote about this once before and wasn't contradicted, but if my memory serves me correct, ECACs were started by some of the men's crews who got tired of Temple winning every Dad Vail. They thought it was about time for Temple to move up to IRAs so in protest they started their own regatta. The only school I recall as one of the ringleaders is Georgetown.

Bucknell's Erg Armageddon

The results of Bucknell's Erg Armageddon are out - check out the lightweight times. I know it's old school of me to say this, but whenever you look at erg scores just remember, ergs don't float.

Monday, February 20, 2006

USRowing Medical Commission on Lightweights

The December 3rd USRowing Board of Directors meeting minutes states that the USRowing Medical Commission is creating "procedures for safe weight loss for lightweights." The Commission will write a recommendation paper on this subject. The group working on it is pretty impressive - Kris Carlson, Jo Hanafin, Larry Klekatzky, Tim Hosea, a representative from the NCAA (huh?), Paul Fuchs, Charlie Butt, Greg Hughes, and Andy Card. I suspect the death of Scott Laio at last year's Dad Vails prompted, or at least increased the urgency of, this project. The rumor I heard is that this group, or at least Tim Hosea, the head of the Commission, would like to institute hydration tests at lightweight weigh-ins.

It was quite interesting, though, that it fell to Wisconsin heavyweight coach Bebe Bryans to ask that a lightweight coach be added to the group (no word on if that's been done). Bryans was Michigan State's head coach for years and is now at Wisconsin - both Big Ten schools. I think of Big Ten programs as quintessentially heavyweight. At Wisconsin Bryans is responsible for the lightweight program too, so given that the lightweights are the most successful program in Wisco's boathouse (men or women) it only makes sense for her to take care of them.

The results of this group will almost certainly have an impact on collegiate lightweight rowing in the US. Even if its recommendations come out too late for this season, they will probably go into effect quickly.

What's up with the inclusion of an "NCAA representative?" Are lightweights an NCAA sport or not? They give lightweights none of the benefits of being an NCAA sport yet somehow want a say in making the rules? Since the Commission refers to NCAA wrestling rules, perhaps the rep is there just to give input on wrestling. Whatever, but isn't that like the NCAA - "I'll have my cake and eat it too."

Sunday, February 19, 2006

2006 Season Preview - Ohio State University

If they're lucky, Ohio State opens their season with a dual race against Purdue on March 26th. As usual with these schedules, it's not clear if the lightweights are racing against Purdue, but there is some hope that they will because Purdue does field lightweight boats, although they didn't do so last year. They've recently won Dad Vails though, so they should have some motivation to get back in the mix.

The next race with lightweight potential is probably the Ohio Cup, which is scheduled to include a lightweight four event. Since this is OSU's race, it doesn't seem to be a particularly good sign that there isn't an 8 on the schedule and I wonder if OSU is thinking of just racing a 4 this year. They couldn't have been too happy with their race against Dayton in the fall, although you never know the circumstances leading up to that race. Plus, a good winter can do wonders for a crew.

Next is the Indianapolis Invitational Regatta, which usually consists of largely Big 10 schools - a gathering of heavyweights. Then comes MACRAs which may have lightweight events, perhaps at minimum a lightweight four. Wisconsin has raced there in the past, although mostly in heavyweight events, so there may be some (in the case of Wisco, top) lightweight competition. ECACs follow and OSU has a title to defend. OSU should run into URI here, and that would be a good test for both schools, making this regatta one to watch. The Buckeyes then finish the season with IRAs. Dad Vail is not listed on the schedule, which I find quite disheartening. At this point, two of last year's five competitors at Dad Vail aren't racing this year. Usually someone else steps into the gap, but it looks like this year's race will be up for grabs. [Update: OSU WILL be at Dad Vail this year.]

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Radcliffe Update

The Harvard web site published a short update on the Radcliffe lightweights after their Florida training trip. The important mention here is about the strength and depth of the lightweight squad. In fall of 2004 Radcliffe was unable to field a lightweight eight for the Head of the Charles. This past fall they raced two freshman eights at the Belly of the Carnegie. I don't quite know where the varsity eight is, but this program is back.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

College Freshmen at Risk for Positive Energy Balance!

A new study done by Rutgers University researchers suggests that college freshmen are at particular risk for disordered eating. The study showed that on average students gain 7 pounds during their freshman year in college. This results from a "positive energy balance" of approximately 112 excess calories per day. If left unchecked, this could result in a staggering 27 pound weight gain by graduation! In addition, this leaves these students particularly vulnerable to the college freshman triad of Type II diabetes, hypertension, and hypercholesterolemia, commonly known consequences of obesity (are we allowed to say that word or do we need to come up with a euphemism using the word "open?"). The Council of College Presidents is expected to issue guidelines for recognizing and treating disordered eating of this sort. The authors noted that recognition begins with the patient looking downward and determining if she can see her belt buckle.

Ok, ok, poor attempt at humor, but isn't this simply the opposite of what everyone seems to be up in arms about with female athletes?

2006 Season Preview - Bucknell University

The next season preview should be UCSB, but their coach tells me they won't be racing lightweights this season. Instead, rather than skip a spot, I'll cover a team that didn't have much national impact last year, but which I expect to have some this year - Bucknell.

Bucknell opens their season March 25 at the Murphy Cup in Philadelphia. Last year there was only a lightweight four event, although I suspect that some lightweight programs entered the heavyweight events. The lightweights, then, may have a chance to race there. This regatta is followed by a home race against Penn State, but the lightweights won't be there. It's too bad that doesn't work out because Penn State made some noise in the fall, winning the Head of the Occoquan and the Philly Frostbite. The competition may have been a bit suspect there, but a Bucknell/Penn State lightweight eight race would be a good early season race. Instead, though, the Bucknell lightweights travel to Princeton. That's a tough way to start the season. The Bisons are getting serious about lightweight rowing and this is one way to find out where they stand. I wouldn't be surprised to see close race here. Early in the season crews come along at different rates, often trying to peak at different times, and with differing goals for early races. (No one's goal, however, is to lose.) By the way, the schedule doesn't list the freshmen as traveling to Princeton. The Bucknell frosh boat that did so well at the Head of the Schuylkill contained mostly lightweights so a frosh lightweight race at Princeton could provide a surprise.

On April 8 is the Lake Wheeler Invitational. Last year this regatta had a light four race, but that was it. I can't tell if the lightweights are going to this or not. The next likely race for lightweights will be a home race with Buffalo. Last year Buffalo raced both a lightweight four and a lightweight eight so this should be more competition. At the end of the month is the Patriot League Championships, which do not have lightweight events. It's not clear to me why, though, since both Bucknell and Lehigh will be there, as will Holy Cross which considers racing lightweights every now and then.

May brings the Championship Season with Dad Vails, followed by IRAs in June. In UCF's absence, I expect Bucknell and Dayton to duke it out at Dad Vail. I may revise that opinion if someone like URI shows up, or Lehigh or OSU shows some real speed, but that's the way I see it right now. I also expect Bucknell to make a run at IRAs.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Evidence of Growth

Businesses only launch products when they see evidence of demand, and Kaschper has just launched a new flyweight (<138lbs) single.

Santa Clara Will Race Lightweights

Santa Clara announced their schedule today which included a Stanford Lightweight Dual as well as a race against Sonoma State and Cal lightweights. We don't know if these races will be eights or fours, but since they are going to the trouble of scheduling them it seems they'll be eights. Last year Santa Clara raced a light four at WIRA.

Sunday, February 12, 2006


MedPage published a review of the IOC's new treatment guidelines for the female athlete triad. In the review, the writer quotes the guidelines' authors as saying, "Disordered eating with athletes typically involves a willful attempt by the athlete to create a negative energy balance. Part of this attempt is based on the premise that a thinner or leaner body can enhance performance (e.g., lightweight rowing, distance running) and/or a thinner appearance can render a better score in sports that are judged (e.g., diving, figure skating, gymnastics)."

Catch the problem here? Lightweight rowers do not believe that a thinner or leaner body, once below weight, enhances athletic performance. And making weight is done because it is required, not because lower weight enhances performance. There is absolutely no incentive to lose weight below 130 pounds. The incentive is to be as close to 130 as possible, while still ensuring that you make weight. No rower in her right mind would want to create a "negative energy balance." Of course, an individual with an eating disorder could be seen as not being in her "right mind." The point here, however, is that unlike non-athletes, lightweight rowers actually have an incentive not to create this negative energy balance. This would suggest that any worries about what making weight does to the fragile psyche of those delicate lightweights is balanced by the offsetting incentive not to go below 130.

One of the worries about the proposal to add hydration testing to lightweight weigh-ins is that it DOES provide an incentive to go below 130. Some weight would need to be reserved for water alone. Because you can never know for certain before actual testing on race day if you meet the hydration requirement, you'll have to drop below 130 to make room for the extra water you'll have to consume.

By the way, the actual Olympic triad guidelines mentions a study by Brownell and Rodin which it says suggests that "athletes have more problems with eating, dieting, and body image than nonathletes, and the problem appears to be greatest in sports in which there is an emphasis on thinness, either for performance or appearance. Athletes most at risk would be those involved not only in sports that emphasize a thin body size or shape (e.g.,
distance running) but also in sports that utilize weight categories (e.g., rowing, martial arts)..." I don't have Brownell and Rodin's book so I can't read what they actually conclude, but as usual the statement is mushy. Rodin, however, is the former president of Penn - maybe that's why there are no lightweights there?

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Just a Question...

What are "openweight" women? Men are lightweight men and heavyweight men, but women are lightweight women and "openweight" women. My spellchecker flags the word and it doesn't seem to show up in other sports. (Well, that's not quite true.)

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Dayton Notes Lightweights' Success

A University of Dayton press release listed the lightweight eight's achievement of reaching a #6 national ranking in the USRowing poll in 2005 (also their final ranking in FITD's Best in Show!). Somehow they missed the fact that they won Dad Vail!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Tis' the Season?

Another article about women athletes with eating disorders appeared on Monday. This is two in about a week and a half.

These stories all have the same flaws. They talk about "eating disorders" which includes simple dieting (according to the American College of Sports Medicine), they don't compare female athletes to female college students, and they substitute intuition for facts when suggesting that lightweight rowers are more at risk.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, as long as dieting is considered disordered eating, 98% of college women evidence disordered eating. These researchers do themselves a great disservice here because when I see the words "disordered eating" I know that what follows is essentially useless to me. Yes, some serious eating problems are also included in disordered eating but using the broader category is not helpful.

This article actually does present some numbers. The first statistic is that about 1/3 of female athletes have some type of disordered eating. Huh? Can you imagine only 1/3 of college women answering "no" to a question like, "Over the past six months, have you dieted?" What was their definition of disordered eating? Again, this is useless. The next statistic is that 43% of female college athletes said they were "terrified" of becoming too heavy! "Terrified?" I'm terrified when I open my closet and find the Alien in there. I'm terrified when my parachute doesn't open. I'm terrified when... well, you get the idea. This has to be BS, and therefore, useless. Finally we learn that "2% to 3% of female college athletes have full-fledged, diagnosable eating disorders." Then we learn that this is, uhh, about the same as the general population. My next question - "How does that compare to the college female population?" Athletes may actually be lower, but we aren't told.

Then we have the gratuititous lightweight rowing comment, "Female athletes who seem especially vulnerable to disordered eating and excessive exercise are in either the 'thin-build sports' or activities that require a lean body weight, such as ... lightweight rowing, says Beals." [Emphasis mine.] Is this an opinion or a study result?

Eating disorders are a terrible, life threatening problem, but I've yet to see anything to suggest that they are a greater problem among lightweight rowers.

New Weigh-In Procedure?

A reader wrote in a comment to the CRCA post that the CRCA lightweight committee is re-evaluating weigh-ins and is advocating that part of the weigh-in procedure will be a urinalysis. This test would measure hydration. I discussed these tests before and noted that it is very easy to turn up as dehydrated. My guess (and that's all it is) is that if you or I were tested right now we'd both show up as dehydrated. The problem is that the only way to ensure you pass this test is to overhydrate. Even a rower whose natural weight is 130 pounds, just the kind of woman you'd want rowing lightweight, can't risk overhydrating before a weigh-in. Does this mean she's taking risks with her health? Of course not. It means she weighs 130 and can't afford to be bloated with water before a weigh-in. This procedure may actually result in rowers losing weight to 125 so they can fill up with 5 pounds of water before weighing-in.

Trying to get a handle on weight control issues is a good thing. The problem is that no test or rule will ever really work. The only thing that works is having responsible coaches in focused lightweight programs working with good trainers. As this reader noted, serious lightweight programs have trainers and team doctors who weigh rowers away from coaches to make sure weight control is being handled properly.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

2006 Season Preview - University of Central Florida

UCF will be a team to watch this spring. Except for a bad race at Dad Vail, they had a good season last year. Although during the season they lost to some of the same teams they lost to at Dad Vail, I don't think their 4th place finish there reflected their true speed at the end of the year. A drop from 6th (2004) to 7th (2005) at IRAs may not sound good either, but they got pipped by Stanford in their IRA heat and were relegated to the petites. Had they made the grand final they may very well have beaten Stanford. I think UCF is serious about lightweights and within a year or two they should be a model for how to become national players.

I have to say, the UCF schedule listing is one of the most uninformative listings around. Every race is a named race so no opponents are listed. The first four races listed are the Metro Cup (which I thought was with Rollins), the Rollins Invitational, the Rollins Tri-Meet, and the Spring Break Race. Sounds like a lot of racing with Rollins, which doesn't usually put out a lightweight boat. I guess we just don't know who they'll be racing, but given that I can't think of any Florida crews who can really give UCF a run for their money, I'll consider these races early season tune ups.

In early April UCF travels to Camden, NJ for the Knecht Cup. As I mentioned below, this has become a premiere race for lightweights and this will provide the Golden Knights' first real test. UCF doesn't race again for a month or so, when they head out to California for the Pacific Coast Rowing Championships. This race should give UCF an opportunity to avenge losses last year to Stanford and UCSB. Unfortunately this race takes the place of Dad Vail on UCF's schedule. There was only a five boat V8 race at Dad Vail last year so UCF will be sorely missed. It is good, however, to see some intense lightweight racing on the west coast and it does give the rowers a great trip to look forward to. UCF's coach came from USD which no doubt played into her decision to bring the team (heavies go too) to California. The PCRC is followed three weeks later by the national championship race at IRAs.

I have no doubt that UCF will belong at IRAs this year and I expect they'll be ready to put on a good show. It looks like last year's IRA boat only lost the coxswain to graduation so they should be at least as fast again this year.

CRCA Update

Stephen Kish wrote me to say that in fact, Cecil Tucker, Radcliffe's lightweight coach, took over the chairmanship of the CRCA lightweight committee the day after he left office. The notes and minutes on the web site made it seem as though there might have been some difficulty in filling the spot - apparently that's not the case.

I think that Cecile Tucker's chairmanship is especially good news. While Kish's crew, Bucknell, does (and intends to continue doing) some serious lightweight rowing, he is head women's coach and also has to concern himself with heavyweights. Tucker will not have these dual loyalties. In addition, Radcliffe's role in the development of women's collegiate lightweight rowing was seminal and I think the school has a real interest in seeing it grow.

The CRCA, though, seems to be the Trilateral Commission of collegiate rowing - just what are those guys up to? And in particular, what does the lightweight committee do?

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Is There a Benefit?

So is there a benefit to having a NCAA championship? I can only think of two. First, there are no doubt some athletic directors who don't consider a sport a sport unless it has a NCAA championship. If such a championship would cause more schools to race lightweights, that's a benefit. Maybe more important though, is the organization the NCAA provides. By organization, I mean the self organization such as that found in the CRCA as well as the NCAA's committees. The CRCA supposedly concerns itself with lightweights but it currently doesn't even have a chairman of the lightweight committee (Stephen Kish has taken another role).

Speaking of committees, just who are these NCAA committee members? You can find them here. You'll see that there are some schools represented that have lightweights, but it's doubtful that the individual representatives care about, or even know much about, lightweight rowing. Bryn Mawr's representative is the tennis coach!

Lightweight coaches though, could create their own organization to govern the sport. I'm not talking about a revolution, simply a group to make rules, address issues of interest to lightweights, and yes, promote the sport. Does this exist?

The NCAA Talks Lightweight Rowing - Comments

The NCAA's answers to my questions (see below) amounted to a punt. A punt because the answer to most of the questions was, "We do whatever the membership wants." I'm not suggesting that this is wrong or untrue, only that it seems a bit disingenuous for the most powerful sports governing body in the country to act as if they only do the will of their members. Nonetheless, let's look at each question.

As for the question of whether the NCAA intends to make lightweight women's rowing an NCAA sport (for better or for worse), the answer is no. Of course, it's up to the rowing committees, and they apparently have no interest. In fact, viewing rowing strictly as a team sport, it appears that lightweights would almost never have a NCAA championship because a lightweight eight would have to be made a component of the team. This is why a reader wrote a week or two back to say that the best move to help lightweights get a championship would be for rowing to move from a team sport to an individual sport. Currently, however, some V8s are invited to the NCAAs without the rest of the team when the full team doesn't deserve an invitation, which suggests that if desired, lightweight eights could be invited as single boats also. It's far from certain, by the way, that a NCAA championship would be good for lightweights, but it probably would signify an increase in popularity.

The NCAA states that to be considered for a championship 40 schools would have to sponsor lightweight rowing. As my previous research shows, well over 40 schools race lightweights, although only 30 or so lightweight V8s race. With a championship invitation at stake, however, I think the schools racing only fours would be able to find their way to racing eights. I don't think the 40 threshold is a problem.

I thought the next two answers were very interesting. The NCAA said that schools themselves determine if they have to follow NCAA rules with their lightweight programs (recruiting, etc.), depending on how the institution counts the sport. What does that mean? How CAN an institution count the sport? I suppose it refers to my next question, which asks if lightweights count for Title IX purposes. The NCAA's answer is that this is an institutional decision. I suppose that is really a trick question because, although I'm not an expert, I think that if a school is sued under Title IX, it will not be the NCAA making the determination to sue or not. Which sports count will be up to a judge or jury. Ultimately, I don't see how the NCAA has any leverage at all over a sport for which they don't offer a championship, which would suggest that lightweight programs are on their own. Nearly all varsity programs, however, follow NCAA guidelines because it would be too hard to separate out what the lightweights are doing versus what the rest of the teams are doing.

The NCAA says that it would be very complicated trying to hold other championships (men's and lightweights') with the heavy women. I really can't imagine why - a fair, well run regatta is fair and well run for everyone.

In answering the last question, the NCAA suggests that rowers care much more about winning a championship sponsored by the NCAA than one that is not. I don't understand why this would be so. People worked pretty darn hard to win championships before the NCAA and those not under the NCAA's rule still work hard to win them.

There was a lot of talk here about growing the sport, but there was never any inkling that supporting lightweight rowing might aid that growth. But then again, it's all up to the membership, isn't it?

(Gratuitous insult - when "NCAA's" is spell checked with Blogger's spellcheck, the suggested word is Nazis.)

The NCAA Talks Lightweight Rowing

A few weeks ago I sent seven questions to Tina Krah, Associate Director of Championships, who handles the women's heavyweight championship for the NCAA. My purpose was to try to get a better understanding of the NCAA's view toward women's lightweight rowing. My questions and Tina's answers, both unedited, are below.

1. Do you intend to make lightweight women’s rowing a NCAA sport? If not, why not?

The NCAA National Office does not determine what the format is for any of the championships, the committees do. At this point in time, the NCAA Rowing committees, made up of college coaches and administrators, do not have intentions to add lightweight rowing to the women's championship format. We have had and will continue to have discussions on the format as well as what defines a team at all three divisions. Presently, Division I defines a team as I Eight - II Eight - Four; Division II defines a team as I Eight and Four; Division III defines a team as I Eight and II Eight.

2. Is there a minimum number of schools that have to race lightweight women’s boats before you consider sponsoring a NCAA championship?

Certainly to add lightweight rowing we would want to know the membership feels there is a desire to add this event to the format. I do not believe there is magic number of institutions that needs to have lightweight rowing. Presently, for the women sports, we would need to have 40 institutions sponsoring the sport to consider it for a championship. Since we have the championship in place it would be a matter of considering if lightweight rowing is what the membership wants to add this to the present championship format. As stated in the previous answer the committee has been discussing the championship format with the rowing coaches.

3. Since the NCAA doesn’t sponsor a lightweight women’s championship, do schools have to follow NCAA guidelines in their lightweight women’s programs (recruiting, etc.)?

The institutions would determine this. It would depend how the institution is counting the sport on their individual campuses. It is not determined by whether there is a championship or not.

4. Do varsity lightweight crew programs count as a women’s sport for Title IX purposes?

This is an institutional decision.

5. Is it the NCAA’s intent to discourage women’s lightweight rowing?

The national rowing committee has been in discussions with the rowing coaches to determine how to continue to grow the sport of rowing. We have not discouraged any event. The decisions to add or change the format of the championship are driven by the membership. The rowing committee continues to look to the membership for direction.

6. Why is the heavyweight women’s championship regatta separate from the men’s and lightweight women’s championship?

The NCAA championships are exclusive to the events that are considered for crowning the champion. If the lightweight events would want to be held at the same time but not be included into the NCAA championships there would be restrictions on how the lightweight event would be run. There would be several issues and would be complicated in having both events at the same time especially since at this point in time we do not have a men's championship. You would have to keep the events completely separate.

7. What do you think has been the major benefit NCAA sponsorship has brought women’s heavyweight rowing?

I am sure for every sport on a college campus the ultimate accomplishment is winning a national championship not only for the schools but more importantly the student athletes. The fact that rowing has been determined as a team sport the direction collegiate rowing has been heading is (as far as championships) is to keep the team concepts in place. I would hope establishing an NCAA championship in women's rowing has given those student athletes that have a passion for the sport an opportunity they did not have previously on their campus. I would also hope it has aided in continuing to grow the sport at all levels. The fact we have a championship in all three divisions shows there has been growth in the sport.

My comments follow in the next post.