Managing Risk

It’s October, school is back in full swing. Are you making sure that you are doing all of the right things when talking to your athletes? You are stressing teamwork and doing your best over being the best... Check. You are discouraging teammates and parents from pressuring individuals into extreme dieting...Check. You are not criticizing anyone’s body size or weight, instead focusing on individual fitness and improvement...Check. So is there still a possibility that someone on the team is struggling with an eating disorder?

Genetics vs. Environmental
Coaches and physical education teachers could run a health-based program with plenty of positive support and students/athletes could still fall prey to an eating disorder. Current research suggests that there must be BOTH genetic and environmental factors in place to trigger Anorexia, Bulimia and Binge Eating Disorders. However, the environmental trigger can be found in any aspect of a student’s life and in any form.

Why Bother?
While a positive, health-based training pro- gram will not guarantee that athletes will not develop an eating disorder, it eliminates a common trigger, weight loss. Many sports fall under one of three categories: appearance- based, weight-based, or performance-based. Each of these categories brings on its own dangers to anyone susceptible to an eating disorder.

Sports such as wrestling connect weight with success because of the weight class divisions. While a student, or parents, may stress this connection on their own, a coach’s attitude about dropping weight to make it into a lower weight class can play a large role in how an athlete approaches competitions.

Sports like swimming and track and field stress final results—performance. Consequently, if increased training and dieting is connected with improving performance an athlete may go overboard and an eating disorder can be triggered.

Sports like gymnastics and cheerleading stress the athletes’ overall appearance. If your program places high value on a thin body shape, students already in the program, as well as students who want to enter the program, may feel a strong pressure to achieve the desired body image.

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