The Neanderthal Man Still Exists
I still remember the setting - the 1986 NCAA Track & Field Championship at the IUPUI stadium in Indianapolis, my eyes as big as an owl's when I looked across the field of women at the 10K starting line. You would have sworn five or six of them didn't have the money to eat - the females far too slender.
You'd think we would have learned.
Sadly, some still haven't. For those of you who aren't old enough to remember the meet, that was the year Kathy Ormsby broke the collegiate record in the twenty-five lap race weeks prior to the NCAA meet - halfway through the 10K race in Indianapolis the NC State runner exiting the track, climbing over an 6' fence, and jumping off a bridge two blocks away.
That was 37 years ago but some coaches are still clueless.
Is it not clear there are physiological differences in the development of men and women? Alberto Salazar, Greg Metcalf, Robert Johnson, and a host of far too many other males, most recently the coach at Jacksonville University who "fat-shamed" and mocked one of his female distance runners, still haven't learned.
In the latest Florida case the end result was a tragic suicide. A beloved daughter is dead. A dream lost. The ignorance of this group is tragic. And all of it is because of a male ego.
These guys are a different kind of stupid.
This didn't need to happen and shouldn't have happened. The welfare of the athlete is every coach's #1 responsibility. You don't have to like them but you do have to treat them with respect and dignity - not distain and belittlement. Coaches like these should be banished from the sport.
And yet for as much as I blame some coaches, I also blame the athletic directors for a lack of "institutional control" - NCAA lingo for a leader who doesn't keep in touch with the very coaches he/she hired. Shame on you.
Act like you are in charge.
And shame on parents who care more about their daughter's success than they do for her welfare - willing to look the other way when the coach is abusive or mean, ignoring or encouraging their child's suspect eating habits. All in the name of a spot on the team or a gold medal on the bulletin board.
We need to change the environment, treat females like females, and males like males. All coaches acknowledge there are differences, but when push comes to shove they travel down the same tired paths, use the same old cliches, rationalizing that they treat the males and females exactly alike.
Maybe that's not such a good thing to brag about.
Whether you are a male or female coaching young women, more than anything else, you need to talk about the importance of monthly periods and the mental health of each athlete. Avoiding this can lead to tragic consequences.
Speak up. Say something. Struggling females can be some of the greatest actresses in the world, refusing to acknowledge to anyone - even parents, that they have a problem. The best coaches make it fun and the athletes look forward to the daily grind. If they don't, maybe you are the problem.
This tragedy has gone on far too long.