Duck Track coach: “A good mathematician probably could be a good track coach.” Except for the fat-shaming part of the job.

Ken Goe has the story in the Oregonian here:

Robert Johnson, who became UO’s track and field and cross country head coach in 2012, has guided the Ducks to 14 NCAA championships while elevating what already had been one of the sport’s premier college programs.

Under Johnson the Ducks increasingly have embraced expensive and advanced technological tools such as blood tests, hydration tests and DEXA scans. A DEXA scan is a medical imaging test that uses X-rays to precisely measure bone density and body fat percentage.

DEXA scans, in particular, have become a flashpoint for some athletes, who say the precise body fat percentage measurements can trigger unhealthy behaviors.

Johnson contends his scientific approach largely removes human bias from judgments about athletes and allows the UO coaching staff to design workouts precisely tailored to each athlete’s needs.

“Track is nothing but numbers,” he says. “A good mathematician probably could be a good track coach.”

Some athletes contend this innovation comes at a staggering personal price.

An athlete who graduated from Oregon at the end of the 2020 school year emailed UO deputy athletic director Lisa Peterson, senior women’s administrator, in October 2020.

In the email she says she had been receiving text messages and Snapchats that fall from former teammates so worried about upcoming DEXA scans they were starving themselves.

She tells Peterson in the email: “I have seen and experienced an absolutely disgusting amount of disordered eating on the women’s track team, all because the coaches believe body fat percentage is a key performance indicator.

“We are not professional athletes. We do not have access to a bounty of organic food. We do not have unlimited time to cook. We cannot plan our days around our nutrition, and we are not the 30-year-old Olympians that coach Johnson seeks to compare our body fat percentage to.

“While knowing body composition may be helpful for some athletes, I have seen it be nothing but destructive.”

The athlete says Peterson responded by thanking her for the email and saying she had passed it on and said that Peterson thought the allegations would be investigated. A public records request did not turn up a report of an internal investigation. …

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7 Responses to Duck Track coach: “A good mathematician probably could be a good track coach.” Except for the fat-shaming part of the job.

  1. The UO has a knack for inviting great press says:

    And now a new article in People magazine: “University of Oregon Female Runners Say They Were Body Shamed and Pushed to Lose Weight”

    This is not an isolated situation but part of a large and deep dysfunction at the UO in which the mission of the public university and the well being of students is corrupted in the interests of individual staff (from on high and down low) who are incentivized to pursue short term gains. It is fundamentally a failure of leadership.

  2. Mike says:

    From the Oregonian article. This seems like criminal behavior to me…..” A third athlete says that during her freshman year Johnson called her over during a workout and asked if she was on birth control.

    Stunned by the question, she stammered “no” and returned to the workout.

    “It was very crazy,” she says. “I was like, ‘What is going on? This is not happening. I am not having this conversation with him right now. This is just wrong. It’s none of his business.’”

    She returned to ask Johnson why he wanted to know.

    She says he told her: “Well, I noticed your hips have gotten wider, and that comes along with that kind of stuff.”. “

    • just different says:

      He means hormonal birth control like the pill. It’s not completely out of bounds for the coach of an elite athlete to want to know this because it affects performance. But the “wide hips” thing….ick.

      • uomatters says:

        Thanks, I should know that. I’m a co-author on a loosely related paper. Maybe coach read it?

      • it's just plain wrong says:

        “Elite athlete”. It doesn’t fucking matter. These are student athletes. It is none of the business of any coach whether or not a student athlete is using any form of birth control, for any reason (both the question and the purpose). This is ridiculous.

        • just different says:

          What’s ridiculous is the whole notion of “student-athlete.” The reality is that they signed up for an elite track program, which means that they signed up for a certain amount of monitoring of their bodies. That would certainly include whether any medications they are taking interferes with training or competition.

          If you think that being a DI athlete is exploitative, I agree. And I also agree that Johnson doesn’t seem to like women very much or have their best interests at heart. But you’re playing the same disingenuous game the NCAA is by calling them “student-athletes.”

  3. angry says:

    They could just make it simple: If your periods haven’t ceased, you can’t run.

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