Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Male Practice Players

Double-A Zone notes that the "NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics has issued a position statement calling for a ban on the use of male practice players in women’s sports." Also, the Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee has recommended legislation to the Division III Management Council to restrict the use of male practice players.

My first thought upon reading this was to wonder what effect it would have on those lightweight women who often practice with men. In some programs this is unheard of while in others it is relatively common. Given the right length of piece, a good heavyweight men's four can provide a great sparring partner for a light eight and a men's eight running up your rudder can provide good motivation in a head piece. In addition, we've all seen occasions when men fill in for missing rowers in women's boats so that the boat can get on the water. We've also seen men race in mixed boats with women.

After reading the NCAA committee position statement, however, it's pretty clear that this rule is not aimed at these kinds of practices. It discusses "recruiting male undergraduate students, not to participate on men’s varsity teams, but solely for the purpose of participating in practice with female athletic teams." The men women row against in my examples are on the men's varsity team. Nonetheless, well intentioned NCAA initiatives have run into trouble when applied to rowing in the past, and some diligence will be needed here to make sure any future rule has the proper language defining a "male practice player."

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