In a decision that had become widely expected by the rowing community, USRowing will no longer offer lightweight events at USRowing-run regattas. In addition, coxswain weigh-ins will be eliminated, as will requirements to carry 'dead weight' by coxswains, which was required previously by coxswains who weighed under the designated minimum for their event.
The changes will result in USRowing "eliminating athlete scales from USRowing-hosted youth regattas," the official release states.
Instead, USRowing will continue with the recent adoption of age-group racing; USRowing offered U17 and U19 events at Youth Nationals and Summer Nationals this year, and will be adding U15 events going forward.
The introduction of and emphasis on additional age-group events in recent months was understood as a move toward replacing lightweight events with age-group categories. Lightweight youth rowing events have become increasingly rare in the broader rowing world.
Lightweight events as well as coxswain weigh-ins will continued to be offered at USRowing club, masters, and elite-level regattas.
There has been a longtime debate over the ability of junior athletes and coaches to maintain and oversee safe and healthy weight loss and maintenance programs; read our report from 2018 on the issue here: Junior Lightweight Rowing: Solutions Will Not Come Easy.
The full release follows, and can also be seen on the USRowing site.
After careful consideration, USRowing has decided to no longer offer youth lightweight events at USRowing-run regattas, including the USRowing Youth National Championships and USRowing's Youth Regional Championships.
In addition, USRowing will no longer require coxswains to weigh in at these events and carry supplemental weight, eliminating athlete scales from USRowing-hosted youth regattas.
While we understand this may be disappointing to some, the health and well-being of our youth athletes is our primary concern. As we thoroughly considered the subject, the health risks of managing weight for developing adolescents is a dangerous practice that we cannot support. Most international rowing federations, including World Rowing, do not offer youth lightweight events at their championships. Beginning in 2022, this will be USRowing's policy as well.
Instead, USRowing will focus racing opportunities on age-based offerings. In 2020, we introduced a one-year lightweight protocol based on the support of most of the scholastic rowing organizations and USRowing's lightweight task force. Through this process, the athlete pool showed that nearly 75 percent of lightweight participants fell into the under 17 age category. In 2021, we introduced several U17 events to the USRowing Youth National Regatta, and we will be formally integrating both U17 and U15 opportunities into the national and regional regattas in 2022. More information on specific offerings will be available soon.
While we are implementing this structure into our USRowing-run events and encouraging our registered regattas to do the same, regatta organizers can make their own decisions on whether to offer youth lightweight events. If youth lightweight events are offered, it is our strong recommendation that a robust lightweight protocol is in place to ensure these youth athletes are natural lightweights. Please remember that encouraging athletes to "make weight" in an unhealthy way will be considered a Safe Sport violation.
For more information on this policy, please review the following Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).
Is USRowing banning youth lightweight rowing altogether?
No. USRowing will continue to sanction youth lightweight events for regatta organizers who choose to include youth lightweight categories. However, it is our strong recommendation that a robust lightweight protocol is created under the guidance of medical experts to ensure lightweight athletes are natural lightweights.
Is USRowing eliminating all lightweight rowing opportunities?
No, this policy is intended for youth events only. USRowing will continue to offer lightweight racing and coxswain weigh-ins at events for non-youth rowers including our Summer National Championships, Masters National Championships, Indoor National Championships and National Team Selection Events.
Will USRowing be introducing additional age categories?
In 2021, USRowing introduced several U17 events to the USRowing Youth National Regatta, and we will be formally adding U17 and U15 racing opportunities at the USRowing Youth National Championships and USRowing Youth Regional Championships in 2022, as a supplement to the open Youth events already on those regatta's programs. We strongly believe that an age-based approach provides broader competitive fairness for all rowers involved and a healthier and safer racing environment. The specific racing opportunities will be announced shortly.
Will USRowing event insurance cover my event if I decide to include youth lightweight events?
Yes. USRowing's event insurance will continue to cover registered or sanctioned regattas, including those regattas offering youth lightweight racing opportunities. As stated previously, it is USRowing's strong recommendation that these regattas have robust lightweight protocols in place developed in concert with medical experts to ensure youth athletes are natural lightweight athletes. Any pressure on youth athletes to cut weight to attain lightweight status can be considered a Safe Sport violation.
Does this affect my chances of being recruited as a lightweight rower in college?
This policy is for USRowing-hosted events. Other regattas may offer youth lightweight rowing opportunities, albeit, under USRowing's strong recommendation that a robust lightweight protocol is in place to assure athletes are natural lightweights. Also, USRowing reached out to several coaches of collegiate lightweight rowing programs regarding the new policy and its potential effect on recruiting. Many replied that they currently recruit athletes who row in lightweight, as well as open weight programs, with some collegiate programs prioritizing their recruiting from open weight programs. Overall, there was a shared concern on the dangers of weight management for developing athletes and many supported the new policy.
Is this the final determination by USRowing?
The USRowing CEO and staff with the full support of our medical commission spent a considerable amount of time on this decision and will not change this determination.
International Olympic Committee Consensus Statement on Youth Athletic Development-British Journal of Sports Medicine
The IOC consensus statement: beyond the Female Athlete Triad--Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S)-British Journal of Sports Medicine
How to minimize the health risks to athletes who compete in weight-sensitive sports review and position statement on behalf of the Ad Hoc Research Working Group on Body Composition, Health and Performance, under the auspices of the IOC Medical Commission-British Journal of Sports Medicine