“I wish I could eat sugar, my coach said that we can’t eat it any more.”
One female student said this to another as one was carrying a Tupperware container full of brownies. Both of the girls are athletes, and both are involved in a sport that weight matters-crew. As a disclaimer-I am not her coach, I coach swimming and water polo for the high school, and would never promote this attitude.
The weight of an athlete can be incredibly important. From a cyclist’s, runner’s, wrestler’s perspective (the list could go on to include almost all sports), your weight plays a large part in your success. The sports listed are primarily concerned with the power to weight ratio, with the goal being as strong as possible at a particular weight.
Some athletes choose to go to extreme measures to lose weight. While anorexia is a widely known issue among models, what isn’t widely reported is sports related anorexia (you could easily include other eating disorders). Athletes who already working out for hours on end are not eating enough, and/or not eating healthily enough to replenish what they are losing through workouts and training sessions. This is not a blog post that outlines the health risks of being anorexic and being a serious athlete, but a post on the issue that I have with the coach’s statement to the student.
As a coach, my goals are to make the athlete a better person, and then a better athlete. Sports can be used to teach a lot to an athlete-to work through adversity, become more disciplined, to become a leader, to accept success with humility, to work for a team towards a common goal, etc.
In the effort to improve an athlete’s success as an athlete, the coach pushes the athlete within practice, and promotes discipline throughout the life of an athlete. A rule by a coach that an athlete can’t eat sugar is outrageous. It does not promote discipline, or healthy behavior. It promotes a negative self image, that an athlete is not deserving, and sets an impossibly high standard.
Having seen first hand how anorexia can play out in some friends of mine and how damaging it can be, it makes this statement that much more frustrating. As an athlete in a sport where these pressures exist, I sympathize with the student who has this coach-she is trying to appease her coach and improve as a competitor. As a coach, I worry about the other athletes that this coach is potentially influencing. I hope that this was just a twisting of the coach’s words that were actually something about eating healthy, rather than a statement on what is acceptable to eat.