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I know it's a sore subject and parents, teachers and coaches don't like talking about eating disorders. I find myself in a awkward situation and really not sure how to handle this situation
I've spent the past 2 years going in and out of different schools, one school over the past 2 years I have watched children grown and become great sporting pupils and have carried on through to secondary school. One child caught my eye when at primary, a little over weight friends used to make comments about his weight yet this didn't bother him, he was full of enthusiasm and drive and really good at basketball, he joined the local basketball team and started loosing weight, a year later at secondary school playing hard at basketball and lost even more weight. Over the past few months I have noticed the athlete has lost even more weight and doesn't look very well. I confronted one of my work colleagues as I knew he coaches the player in the mornings before school I told the coach about concerns of weight loss and how I'll he looked, I asked had he noticed anything, the colleague said yes and that he had confronted the player, the player said he had been going to the gym and was addicted to exercise coach had reported to school teacher but nothing yet has been done.
I have noticed the child over the past 6 months become thinner and thinner, why hasn't his club coach noticed or done anything, I feel it's not my place to say anything yet I feel I'm not thinking about the child's welfare.
I think how you approach this subject is very important - it's such a volatile area that we all at some point, will most likely have to deal with.
I think the approach should be made by someone who the athlete knows well and trusts - you say that someone has "confronted" this player and he's admitted exercise addiction. The important part of this was how was he asked, in what environment, around any other players or peers etc.
The worrying thing to me is that the term exercise addiction has been mentioned and yet not expored further as there could be deeper issues surrounding this.
I've had a pupil experience an eating disorder - in a way i was lucky because she was open with her eating habits and the help she was seeking. It didn't affect our coach-pupil relationship other than she was forbidden to exercise at one point due to her weight being too low. When she did attend a lesson, I kept it fun, social and kept the lines of communication open, allowing her to divulge as much or as little information that she felt comfortable. I'm happy to say now that she has come out the other end, has been discharged and is keeping her weight stable.
As awful as this may sound, do you think the lack of action surrounding this player is due to gender? Although there has been a rise in the recognition of males with eating disorders, it's often associated with young females.
Fortunately I've not had to deal with the disordered eating issue as a coach, but overtraining is something I've seen far too much of. I think the issue in large part is with a widespread under appreciation of overtraining. Sportspeople are constantly hammered with the message that working harder is the answer - how many motivational memes have we all seem to that effect?! This causes problems with the athlete always believing they need to do more but the reality is recovery is every bit as important as the training, and not all of that training can be heavy.
In this particular case it sounds like a good deal of this is coming from the lad himself, but education may be the answer. If he is doing too much because he thinks he needs to do it to improve performance then understanding the different times it takes for energy supplies, muscles and tendons to recover, the increased risks of injury and the need to be sufficiently recovered to get something out of high intensity sessions could go some way towards resolving the issue. My mantra with the over-eager athletes I coach is 'Any programme can make you tired. A good programme will make you fast.'
In terms of the overloading being caused by pressure from schools and clubs, I think we as coaches certainly have a key part to play in understanding what else that kid is doing away from their time with you. I think many coaches are quite good at checking that to adapt what they do in their own sessions, but don't necessarily take the extra step to discuss the overall training load with the other coaches/teachers involved in that kid's life. Personally I've found schools to be the biggest challenge on this front and there is no guarantee that the person you try and speak to is necessarily going to hear you, but we owe it to those that we coach to at least try.
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