Yes, I’m Emotional

On this #InternationalWomensDay2021, I’m choosing to speak out about gender bias and inequality I have felt as a rowing coach.

I’ve loved this sport since I learned to row in 2001. The connection to the water felt through the legs and through the oar. The predictable rhythm and the body awareness needed to keep it all together. The teamwork.

I loved it so much I rode my bike five miles to practice five days a week for years even when I was too young to race with my masters program because the AA category hadn’t been added yet.

I loved it so much I joined my club Board. 

I loved it so much that I got my USRowing Level I coaching certification and a couple of years later got my Level II.

I loved rowing so much I taught LTR sessions, novice programs, high school programs, competitive masters programs, and winter training programs.

I loved rowing so much that I was ready to commit to coaching full time, year ’round.

And then there was an end of season masters program survey that cut like a knife. “Rachel can get too emotional.” “She’s tempermental.”

These phrases were never used to describe the litany of male coaches who preceded me. Men whose devotion to rowing and coaching sometimes turned bitter when they yelled at rowers from the launch, or gave the team a stern talking to after a rough practice.

But me, a woman, was not allowed to have the same range of emotions. Frustration. Fire. A competitive drive. Borne of a passion for the sport and my rowers. 

I’m not saying that anger and loud voices are best coaching practices. They aren’t. But we’re all human and sometimes something bubbles up and has to be released. That’s why I always did my best to keep channels of communication wide open at all times, and follow up with a rational, level-headed explanation of my feelings, frustrations, and expectations.

And when those heart-on-my-sleeve moments were rejected as dishonest, that was a low point. Everything I’d worked towards as a coach for years felt like it had been wiped out.

I was too emotional, but the men before me were not.

#ChooseToChallenge the stereotypes. 

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