A Message For the Rocky Mountain Rugby Union
Updated: Nov 5, 2019
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When my cousin, whose legal name is BUBBA tells you to act better, you ain't #winningatlife.
Hi! I’m Coach MK and This is The Morning Mantra.
*cue intro music*
Hi, my name is MK Fleming. I'm a run coach based in Denver, Colorado. But this isn't a podcast about running, exactly. Don't tell my clients, but *whispers* we're never really talking about the running. When you know a crap-tastic event is coming it helps to have a mantra to keep you centered and focused as you move through it. You don't have to be an athlete to be hashtag #coachedandloved by coach MK. And if you are here, then you are hashtag #winningatlife.
Today’s Mantra is: Don’t Shit Where the Cows Eat
Last night I got an email from my husband. Over the weekend, he had volunteered to referee a rugby game, and a referee coach was present. We referenced this in a livestream on my personal FB page last month, it’s one of the cooler aspects of rugby- the development pipeline for the referees.
“In my professional opinion as a physician, needs to lose some weight.”
That was it. THAT was his performance review. On a card for everyone else in the tri-state area to see. On a card to be seen by the next person who will work with him or evaluate him. This isn’t a private message, this is in his FILE: "Alex is still fat". This is their response to a volunteer, who loves this sport so much I rearranged my weekend on the WORST WEEKEND POSSIBLE for me professionally and paid a sitter to take my kids to watch Daddy volunteer his time, our family time, my work time during the only period of the week when I have a backup parent present...and was reminded, once again, formally, in a performance review, that he is great at his job...but too fat to be really GOOD at his job.
I was APESHIT. I still am. My husband insists that rugby is a sport that welcomes fat people and treats women equally. I hold my tongue while he waxes poetic about the sport; I get that he loves it but I don’t care why. his performance review is a pretty clear signal of what rugby values, that they don’t love him back.
To hear him tell it, when he walked into a room of rugby players the first time, they got excited. ‘you’re gonna be a great forward’ they told him. To do the heavy pushing around, you need heft. You need size. Rugby is a game of possession, and the forwards control possession. They control the ball. They define the game. The fat guys matter, rugby NEEDS them.
That’s true….to a point. There are two kinds of rugby, 7’s and 15’s. In 15’s you need 7-300lb guys to make the other 7 small ones on the field look good.
This year, Rugby was admitted as an Olympic sport. Rugby 7’s to be specific, the version of the game without the fat guys. Forwards do the work but they don’t go to the Olympics.
Fat guys do the work and skinny guys take the credit. That’s the narrative of rugby. It’s not remotely controversial, that’s just rugby. Even my husband agrees with that - you look around and know your place. Like so much else in life, your place is pre-determined by your size; thin people are prioritized.
Alex would make a great forward but only a good referee. Referees need to be fit enough to keep up with the skinny guys. They move faster, it’s just a given, AMIRITE?
In a game of possession, where possession is controlled by larger people, the discussion is centered around not-them. I’m not okay with that.
In Berlin over the weekend, 3 running influencers who happen to be fat were ECSTATIC to be in Berlin, and had I not been up to my neck in October videos, I would have followed them more closely. It’s probably better that I didn’t- when Coach Sarah casually asked if I had seen a certain instagram story that broke her heart, I went apeshit….again. These people had been invited to Berlin to help promote the event, NO ONE was more excited to be there than they were. These influencers who encourage participation in our sport, whose mere presence makes everything better, expressed concern about the 6 hour time limit. They were assured that this would not be a problem, they would get medals and would be allowed to finish. This promise was not kept. Not only can you qualify for Boston and be shut out, you can finish a marathon and still not get a medal.
I will never be convinced that rugby is truly an accepting space for fat people until I see actions at the top that align with that idea. Rugby makes my husband happy, so I won’t directly tell the rugby union to go fuck themselves or that physician in particular that in my professional opinion he is a goddamn asshole who has no business practicing medicine or remind him that he has NEVER EVAULATED MY HUSBAND'S HEALTH so he is just being a judgy bastard and completley unprofessional, simultaneously. There’s nothing I can do to make a difference there, nothing will move the needle.
Running though….that’s different. I am a small woman with a big mouth and a growing platform….and I don’t know if you heard but we don’t pay Coach Sarah yet, or Krissy, or Cara the Wayfinder, or her sister who clearly likes working for free...and now, I’m mad. I’m math-doing mad. I was so mad I got in a Google spreadsheet and asked myself, “if my mouth wrote a check, would my ass be able to cash it?”
I can’t make anyone do right, but there are a whole bunch of people working for free right now trying to make real change happen in the running world, bring real support to those who need it most. In case I’m not clear, and I DO hate it when I’m subtle, the people who need support the most are the least able to get it. We aim to fix that.
I’m not ready yet to run my mouth….but I’m pretty close. If you are listening to this podcast and have finished a race but were told you were too late to receive an official finish time and/or a medal, if you have registered for those races knowing the shirts offered will be too small IF YOU STILL participate knowing there’s a chance you could finish with neither shirt nor medal, I see you now. I am SORRY i did not validate you sooner. I am SORRY it took me this long to get here. Excuse me while I determine my best next step, so while my mouth is shut and I’m doing math, know that my ears are open. My inbox is, too.
If you are one of these runners, even if you don’t train with me, if you know people who fit that description, please email email@example.com and tell me about your experience. I promise I’m not going to lambast the race, I can’t make them do right…..but I can do right by you. I CAN make this sport a safer place for my athletes. I just need a little more data before I open my mouth.
So, the mantra: If you were visiting my cousin Bubba (he lives with his granny) and walked out his back door towards the outhouse, he’d tell you- “HEY! Don’t shit where the cows eat”, and I think that’s advice that race directors and rugby unions alike could benefit from. If you want to be smarter than my cousin Bubba, then you need to act like it. Just in case I was being subtle again, I don’t know how that happens! GUYS, YOU ARE FAILING.
THE FACT THAT THIS EXISTS UNDERSCORES THE DEPTH OF YOUR PROBLEM: https://www.fatblokesevens.co.uk/ A SOLUTION STARTS WITH AN APOLOGY.
Coach MK Fleming founded Fitness Protection, LLC because she believes that high-quality coaching should be widely available and easily affordable. She combats shame and fatphobia at every turn, reminding her clients they are #coachedandloved and #winningatlife. She is married to the sexiest man alive; don't be jealous.