An online course has been developed for coaches in athletics clubs so that they can see more quickly when an athlete is eating incorrectly. The association hopes that the information will also reach other associations via the umbrella sports organization NOCNSF, so that a national approach can be taken to the problem that also occurs in other sports.
Running and triathlon coach Rob Fair contributed to the unit. Two years ago, he knocked on the door of various unions in Holland and Belgium with a plan of action, but there was little or no interest on the part of the fifteen unions to which he sent his screams for help. They will be afraid of the negative image if you find out that there are all kinds of problems in your sport. You hear such stories with some regularity. Then everyone shouts “Woe woe again” and then we move on to the arrangement of the day.
As a result of abuses in the world of gymnastics, an investigation into cross-border behavior in the entire major Dutch sport was recently announced. Eating disorders are also taken into account. According to Veer, these issues happen everywhere, especially in endurance sports where it pays to be light and in sports where you have weight classes, such as rowing and judo.
The Wastenburg story was crucial for the athletics association to free up the financial resources to do something with it. Wastenburg is one of the best long-distance runners in the Netherlands. For years she felt like she needed to be as light as possible to perform well. At her lowest point, she weighed 55 kilograms with a height of 1.80 meters, had not had periods for eight years and suffered from depression and injuries due to hormonal imbalance.
The Westenburg story does not stand alone. The debate over the ill effects of malnutrition in America has been sparked by the promise of Mary Kane, who is now claiming €17 million in damages against her former coach Alberto Salazar. The controversial athletic trainer is said to have weighed Cain in front of the group so the rest of us could see her weight. Cain was reprimanded for not being skinny enough and eating so little that she missed her period for three years. She broke five bones due to osteoporosis due to her poor diet.
Great Queens, the national middle-distance athletics coach, says malnutrition in major sports is all too common. She herself sees approximately four to six cases annually in very thin athletes, both men and women. According to Koons, things often go wrong at the level before athletes break the absolute top. I now have two players in my group who had an eating disorder with a former coach. It’s going well now, but you can see that they’re still struggling with a few things. A girl left me because I was on her so much. You must undergo a behavioral change to get rid of it.
The course developed now contains examples of how you as a coach can signal that an athlete is engaged in unhealthy nutrition. Queens picks issues like these days. If the percentage of fat is too low, a layer of lower hair can form on the body. The body tries to isolate itself in a different way. Head hair is often thin as well and you see a very clear muscle pattern. Sometimes there are hardly any muscles because the body is eating itself.
Malnutrition also changes behaviour. Athletes who eat too little can lose their emotional balance and develop symptoms of depression. “They’d also be weird with food. If you put a treat on the table and someone suddenly had to catch the bus and take it, you know it’s in the bush then.”
Ask about your menstrual cycle
Queens has changed its approach over the years. She immediately asks the women who come to train with her if they have had their periods. If not, it could be a sign that something is wrong. When taking the measurements, you ask the boys not to share their fat percentage with each other because what’s healthy for you varies from person to person. Sometimes you see guys who pride themselves on having 5 percent fat. Don’t do that, because others may copy it and think that’s the norm. While 7 or 8 percent may be better for someone else.
Queens are happy when you get the little ones who have a little bacon on their bones. “That’s just an advantage. Because they weigh more, they learn to walk more vigorously. They recover better. You shouldn’t look at weight in youngsters at all. Just don’t weigh them, I will say.”
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