Monday, August 14, 2006

Lightweights and the CRCA

A few months ago a reader took me to task for criticizing the CRCA (Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association) without really understanding what the CRCA does. I thought that this was a fair criticism so I decided to write to Andy Teitelbaum, the president of the CRCA, to ask what that organization's attitude is toward women's lightweight rowing and how they have supported the category. I began by noting the existence of the CRCA lightweight committee and said that I was interested in how the organization as a whole, not the committee, views lightweight rowing. My questions were as follows:

One of the missions of the CRCA is to "Promote women's rowing as a collegiate sport." Given that mission:

- Does the CRCA support the continued growth of women's lightweight rowing?

- If so, what actions has and will the CRCA take to support that growth? If not, why not?

- Does the CRCA support a NCAA National Championship for women's lightweights?

- If so, what actions has and will the CRCA take to support that championship? If not, why not?

- What is the CRCA's involvement with the IRA Regatta, the National Championship regatta for women's lightweights?

- What does the CRCA believe is the most pressing issue in women's collegiate lightweight rowing today? What has the CRCA done to address that issue?

The pertinent part of Coach Teitelbaum's response was as follows:
The CRCA is a membership run organization. The activities and emphasis of the association are driven by its members. We have a Lightweight Committee. It is an opportunity for any coach (lightweight or otherwise) or CRCA member to be involved with issues and agenda items that specifically involve lightweight women's rowing. As President of the CRCA I entrust that committee to be the mechanism which brings issues pertaining to lightweight rowing to the rest of the membership.

Of course I wrote again and raised a few specific issues such as the inherent conflict of interest in the CRCA's sponsorship of a lightweight committee when most heavyweight coaches (as I've been told by a few) see lightweights as a drain on heavyweight resources. I also noted some more symbolic issues such as the ineligibility of lightweights for All-America honors and of lightweight coaches for coach of the year honors. I think a few quotes from Coach Teitelbaum's response will accurately convey his meaning.
There are many conflicting interests that reside within the CRCA. While it may be true that coaches have told you that lightweight rowing may cause a reallocation of resources at their school, there is still a place for a lightweight voice within the organization. As for the All America awards, perhaps the lightweight committee should bring up this issue to be considered by the awards committee or directly to the board. It doesn't seem fair to criticize the CRCA members or the Board for neglecting to address lightweight issues which the lightweight committee has never identified as a priority.

The CRCA is looking out for the interest of lightweight rowing exactly to the extent that the active members which represent that segment of the rowing population have expressed.

You are correct that lightweight rowing represents a minority interest in the overall membership of the CRCA. As such, much of the membership is not actively working on lightweight issues. It is for this reason that we created a special committee for lightweights in the first place.

The idea that the CRCA membership as a whole should be paying more attention to lightweight issues is unrealistic. The people who should be moving the lightweight agenda within the organization are the people who are most affected by it.

Chew on this for a day or two and I'll next post my thoughts.

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