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.


rowlightpullhard said...

Hi! I'm trying to convince my coach that we want to row a strong Lighweight 4+ this year. (Our team is small & can't fill 8's) Our options right now are to row a decent Lightweight 4 with the 4 Lightweight varsity girls, and then let the novices row a strong novice boat. Two of the girls in this novice boat though are lightweights who would make the Varsity Lightweight 4 go considerably faster. How do I show the coach that the field at Dad Vails in the Lightweight 4+ is predictable, while the Novice 4+ is not? Our school has medaled in the Lightweight 4+ at Dad Vails the past 5 years but never in the Novice 4+, so from that I know that if we use the 2 novices, our lightweight 4 will have what it takes. Any suggestions on how to show a coach who's a heavy man that the Lightweight 4 should be given priority over a Novice 4? Thanks!

anonymous wisco light said...

I have raced in the Wisconsin lightweight eight for the last 2.5 years and I just wanted to clear up the rumor about putting heavies into our IRA boat in 2004. I'm not sure what prompted this rumor but if you compare pictures of our boat from IRA's and Easterns you will notice that there was only one difference; bow seat. The rower who was switched into bow seat for IRAs was a sophomore who had rowed lightweight at Wisconsin since freshman year, including competing in lightweight boats earlier that season. The rumor might have also stemmed from the fact that we had a new face in the boat at Easterns (and then again for IRAs) but she wasn't a heavyweight rower either. In fact, she was a senior who had been injured and spent the entire year working to get well enough so that she could race at IRA's. In the end she made it into the boat for easterns and then again for IRAs.
Both of these women had always been lightweight rowers and were integral in our IRA performance.
You are right in saying that it was extremely insulting for people to assume we had to put heavyweight rowers in our lineup in order to explain our IRA win by 12 seconds. I just hope that everyone has gotten past this petty, excuse-making behavior and that we can all be mature competitors from here on out.

JW Burk said...

Thanks for clearing up the rumors about the 2004 Wisconsin eight. You confirm pretty much what I thought. I should say though, that I heard the rumor from a high school coach who has no real connection with any of the teams in that race, not from any competitors. I thought of it more as an attempt by uninvolved coaches to explain something that didn't fit their "true" understanding of rowing, than as an attempt to make excuses by competitors. Anything I've heard about it from competitors has been an acknowledgement that they got whupped and a determination not to let it happen again (only partially successful!). Now, maybe you can tell us how you did it?

On the light four vs. novice four - need to think about that a bit...

JW Burk said...

Some thoughts on the lt4 vs. novice 4 problem:

- You can point to my Dec 1st post on Dad Vail 4s to suggest that for some reason the light 4s at Vails are a bit slower than they should be. The problem, though, is that we don't know if the heavy 4s are really a bit faster than they should be.

- You can suggest that more schools are likely to row light 4s as boats of convenience (just happen to have some lightweights hanging around with no other boat to row in) so with a little focus you should have an excellent chance (your own past experience will tell you if this is a good argument or not)

- You can point out that you want to focus on a varsity race (light 4) vs. a novice race

- If you really want to look at predictability take a look at the spread from the top boat to the 6th place boat in each final. Last year the novice 4 spread was wide, while the year before it was pretty narrow. This suggests that you may be right in your contention about there being more variability in the novice 4. You'll have to check that one out though.

- Look at where the novice 4 time would have placed in the lightweight finals and then run time trials with the top combination for each boat. Compare the times and see how they stack up relative to each other and the relative times in the Dad Vail finals. You'll have to look at these times over a number of years, though.

- Finally, and perhaps the best way, is to convince him to race the top lightweight combination against some of the better Dad Vail 4s (if you race them). Nothing convinces like on the water success.

I'm not sure if any of these ideas will show what you want them to show, but at least they're a start. I hope this helps. Good luck!