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  • Writer's pictureCoach Knickerbocker

Finish this Sentence

2014 Willamette Women's 4+ prepping to race.

A strong woman is...

What's the first thing that popped into your head? Or did your head draw a blank?

I have several answers that would fit the sentence.

A strong woman is powerful, secure, confident, able.

To those sexist insecure types out there she could also be threatening, unapproachable, scary, a B---H.

Here's what I I'm thinking, and I'm just speculating here, but in my opinion there is a connection between becoming an athlete at an older stage in one's life, and navigating the experience of clearing out those old sexist messages in order to find a strong woman (YOU!) underneath.

When a woman grows up with consistent messages from others and society, that being outspoken, having an opinion, claiming your space, having a strong body, etc. are all ways that you should NOT be, how does she then enter into a new athletic/competitive experience and feel successful or be able to access that natural side of her that IS an athlete, a competitor, a strong woman?

If the consistent drip, drip, drip of influence has taught her that she should be a good girl, always smile, don't be so pushy, don't get big muscles, don't fight for what you want, always acquiesce, then how will this woman approach her process of becoming a strong athlete at age 49 or 55 or 62 or ...?


It's a combo deal. Meaning that the process requires several different strategies.

There is no silver bullet but I do have some ideas on how to push through these ingrained and most likely unconscious belief systems.

1. Let's start with just the act of learning something new, like rowing. Doing that with other women that are also learning this new thing creates a camaraderie, a cohort of support and an acceptance of oneself and others who are reprogramming their brains to experience their given strength.

2. Having other women around who model being strong physically and mentally with regards to the sport and their method of being rowers is another crucial element to pushing past internalized sexism. When you see other women around you being strong athletic women your age, who balance families and rowing and careers, you realize that it is absolutely possible for you to do that same thing.

3. Consciously and deliberately participating in the lifting up of other women around you. Encouraging them to experience this empowering feeling of athleticism. Letting them know that they can do it. Sharing your experience with them and assisting them to be the best rowers, athletes, competitors they can be.

4. Finally, and in my experience as a coach this is the most challenging one for many masters women, considering yourself a competitor.

Do you? Do you consider yourself an athlete? Why or why not?

Do you consider yourself a competitor? Why or why not?

Competition is a loaded subject for many masters women out there, but that's the topic for the next post.

I'll leave you with a quick recap:

Becoming a masters rower if you are of a certain age can be challenging in many ways, but especially on the level of self-perception based on the sexist societal messages all women have internalized just by virtue of growing up female in this culture.

Women need the support of other women who are experiencing the same thing or have walked through that experience, in order to discover or re-discover their athletic selves.

How you think about yourself in terms of being a strong woman matters if you want to progress as a strong athlete.

Your mantra for today?

I am a strong athlete, a strong rower, a strong woman.

Coach Knickerbocker

Row hard, row well, compete, have fun!

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