Below is a guide to help coaches further understand their role in coaching young women toward overall health. It gives suggestions and resources that will aid in having this conversation with your own team.
This could be a very valuable resource for deepening your understanding of your athletes and further educating yourself on these topics. It may also be a good resource for your team to read.
Thank you for taking the time to understand and educate yourself and your female athletes. I want to see female runners learn how to reach their potential and accomplish big things without sacrificing their health. Let's bring women's distance running to a new level by reaching our goals the right way.
Female In Focus Series:
1. Hold a Team Meeting
- Use a podcast or article from "Resources" (below) to start the conversation. You could tell your team to listen to it or read it and then hold a discussion after.
- Create a safe and vulnerable space
- Approach out of love and concern
- Importance of getting a regular menstrual cycle
- Importance of fueling for regular menstrual cycle, injury prevention, and long term mental and physical health
- Female body image in and out of sport
- Positive, sustainable habits to prevent injury and support longevity
- Being open about struggles and mental health both in and out of running
- Comparison to teammates and media
- Balance and cultivating an identity outside of running
- Importance of understanding and meeting individual energy demands
- Prioritizing a process-oriented approach over being outcome driven
- Risk of unhealthy sacrifices for short term achievement
- Importance of owning the unique, individual paths to success
- Importance of being empowered by and finding confidence in identifying what works best for each unique, individual athlete
- Importance of celebrating what each female body can do when believed in and properly cared for
2. Hold regular individual meetings with your athletes
- Strengthens coach-athlete relationship
- Creates a trusting space where your athlete can hopefully feel comfortable being open and vulnerable if they are struggling
- Creates a space to better understand your athlete as both a person and a runner
- Relationship with running
- How athlete is doing outside of running
- Regularity of menstrual cycle
- Maximizing fueling habits for optimal health and performance
- Identify factors outside of running that may be hindering an athlete from reaching their potential (mindset, stress, comparison, pressure, insecurities, etc.)
- Identify what each individual needs to feel good, perform well, and experience longevity
3. Things to be cautious about as coaches
- Making negative or joking comments about food choices, portion sizes, weight, or appearance
- Coming across as prioritizing performance over health of the athlete
- Overtraining and excessive training volume/intensity leading to injury- what type of training is best for individual needs?
- Ignoring signs of injury
- Ignoring signs of restrictive eating
- Being aware of team culture and team "talk" surrounding food, weight, etc.
Podcasts - These are all short, impactful, and educational podcasts by professional runners about these topics that could help further inform you or your team or help open up the conversation.
Articles - These articles could also be used to start this conversation. These articles cover personal stories, why you should not be missing a period as a female athlete, and Mary Cain's vision for the future in female running.
Lauren Fleshman, a former professional runner and Stanford University alum, writes this essay on everything she wishes she knew as a young high school and collegiate runner.
This is written by me, about my personal story with running and my relationship with food.
Cain writes about her vision for the future of female running. She calls us to understand the true values of running and how to be healthy, both physically and mentally, in order to reach our biggest goals.
Rogers writes about her history with running, disordered eating and what it took to fully embrace change before achieving a healthier lifestyle.
Jessica is a 2019 graduate of Old Saybrook (CT) High School and a sophomore at the University of Delaware. This is the second of a five-part series dealing with the role athletes, coaches, teammates and families have in prioritizing the health of female runners, along with understanding the social and environmental dichotomies that impact how young athletes should balance their well being. Jessica was a multiple-time CIAC State Open and CIAC Class Class S Championship qualifier and placer, and held PRs of 2:22.78 in the 800m and 5:07.42 in the 1,600m.