The average height of our team is 5’4…so?

There are a few physical attributes of rowers that people who either know little or nothing, or even people engaged in the sport will first mention when they talk to a rower. The one I am going to discuss is height. I am 5’4.5, for our team here at UCSD I am by no means the shortest. We have girls who are 6’2 and girls who are 5’2. Like runners, or any other sport, rowing is a time trial. The way that we train off the water is on the erg (short for ergometer), the erg gives you a split per 500 meters and then an average over the total length of your piece on the erg. There is a stereotype that exists among rowers that the taller you are, no matter your actually body type or mentality, the lower your splits are for 500 meters. No exceptions. If I pull a 2:05 per 500 on a 4000 meter piece I will get a pat on the back and some brownie points from my coaches. If a girl who is 6’1 pulls that on a 4000 meter piece, they will probably be ignored and told they need to go much harder. I have found that the amount of impact that your erg scores have directly corresponds to your height and weight. There are many reasons for this to make sense seeing as being a foot taller then someone will in theory give you that much more “length” on and off the water.  In a way, when you are short AND strong you become seen as a strange case and when you are tall there are standards that are set much higher no matter your experience.

            Am I guilty of using this stereotype to impact my judgement? Sometimes. There have been days when I was either coxing or rowing that I have looked at someone tall and judged their scores purely based on their height and size. But, I do think that it is important in this sport and any other sport not necessarily to recognize people based on their physical attributes. If you go hard, it doesn’t matter what size you are, your going hard and really that’s what matters

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One Response to The average height of our team is 5’4…so?

  1. Sarah McCullough says:

    This is an interesting insight into rowing. It sounds as if physical attributes and abilities influence expectation, which in some ways is not surprising, but I like how you complicate it to show that height is not a simple formula that can be equated to ability. This could easily be expanded to thinking about gender, since men tend to be taller than women. Would this then imply that men are better rowers? What about the elite history of rowing at Ivy League colleges (specifically for men)? Does this not also affect the stereotype? The popular representations of crew (in movies, books, ads, etc) tend to cluster around this ideal of an elite, rich, white male. Your stereotype implicitly challenges this, but calling this out explicitly and analyzing it is worth thinking about more.

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