Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Murray Blue? Murray Gold? How We Tried to be Delicate About a Non-Issue

Natchitoches Spring Break 1997: (bow to stern): Shelly, Jenny, Jenny, Christina, Olivia, Elaina, Jodi, Christine, and Dan
The first tryout for Murray State’s rowing club in the fall of 1996 drew an impressive number of perspective rowers—over 170! In the weeks that followed, Coaches Steve Marshino and Dan Lavit were pressed to find a reasonable way to manage such a large group of novice rowers. It was decided to split the group in terms of gender and weight.

Following U.S. Rowing association rules, teams can field lightweight squads if all members weigh 160 lbs. or less for women; or 135 lbs. or less for men. For a very short time, there were enough members to field both lightweight and open weight women’s and men’s 8s. However as the inaugural year progressed, many dropped the team. By the start of spring 1997, there were just under 30 founding members organized in three squads: an open weight men’s 8, an open weight women’s 8, and a lightweight women’s 8.

And now the rest of the story...

For the remainder of the club’s first year, the women’s squads were referred to as “the blue team” and “the gold team.” This nomenclature emerged as coaches Steve and Dan attempted to manage impressions related to how the team was divided. According to Lavit, “we were hesitant to differentiate the first group of women in terms of weight. We thought that by singling out half of the women’s team as ‘lightweight,’ we might come across as shallow.” Thus, coaches and athletes referred to our lightweight women’s squad as the “gold team” and our open weight squad as the “blue team.”

In the following years, we moved past the uncertainty and naivety of a novice club that was just learning the culture of the sport of rowing. Since then, there has not been a “blue team” or a “gold team.” But, it is nice (or, perhaps quaint) to reflect that the emergence of this peculiar terminology was the result of our first coaches' efforts to be sensitive to everybody's feelings.

SIRA 1997 (left to right): Susan, Jenny, Karen, Jodi, Elaina, Julie, Jenny, Stephanie, and Sara

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