He says there was no help with eating disorders when Dag Cass started as a coach for the national team in the 1970s. Now he is taking responsibility for not everyone receiving equally good care in his national teams.
After his career as a coach for the women’s national junior cross country team, head coach of the elite women’s national team and athletic director for the entire skating federation, he has also been a key driving force in building the Olympic summit.
Even today, the 74-year-old is tied to the Olympic pinnacle on the basis of the project. Or he said in his words a twinkle in his eye:
– I’m staying updated.
The bleak background to our soon-to-be interview with Kaas is about the exact opposite: There was no recent knowledge about eating disorders in cross-country skiing when he entered the circus in the late 1970s.
On a bench outside the main entrance to the Olympic summit, Kass sits with Dagbladet. Despite the fact that the epidemic’s grip on society has loosened the ceiling, journalists are still banned from entering the bastion of professional sports between 08 and 18. The contrast was remarkable when Cass took over as coach of the budding national team in 1977. At the time, the sport was Norwegian is still an amateur field.
Cass tried to do something about it, and one of the things he tackled was post-training recovery and nutrition. A minefield, to this day.
Over the past six months, Dagbladet . has been Dive into the physical and mental health issues of our national sportAnd cross-country skiing. Some of what we found You can read about it here today And in the coming days and weeks.
A comprehensive survey of Norwegian national team runners from the 1970s and 1980s documents that many of them suffered permanent injuries after losing their body to the fullest, both athletically and nutritionally.
Several of them pointed out that Kass is the man responsible for a culture pervasive in Norway’s national teams. The medal catch went up, the weight went down.
Amid the chilly wind outside the Olympic summit, Cass says he gets upset when he hears the claim about culture.
– I took this seriously. We will never get the results we got, if we don’t take it seriously. Someone describes it as a culture that, based on the knowledge that I and society had at the time, should only live with it, he tells Dagbladet.
– Is it true that in the national team management you tried to lose athletes?
– No. We have tried our best to create a balanced all. Meaning, if you exercise better and eat healthier to find your ideal weight, some may lose weight, others may maintain weight and some may gain weight.
– What changes did you make when you entered as a coach for the junior national team in 1977?
– I am quite organized as a person, and we have started systematic training focusing on the details important to performance. It was me and the doctors who had some opinions about recovery, as well as my teacher Oddmund Jensen, who helped me. Diet has been discussed, because it is important what you get after a workout. But she did not gain weight.
– Were the changes rooted in the Ski Association?
At that time, the Ski Association relied on a lot of volunteer work. We were nowhere near the economy that cross-country skiing has today. So we have no system now. Doctors worked in hospitals, and there was mostly voluntary work in the medical field.
When he took over as the national team coach for the elite women’s team in 1980, he was also responsible for the young girls. Cass later finds that he was responsible for too many practitioners at once, and that not everyone was taken care of as much.
However, it is clear that neither he nor the others on his team encouraged anyone to lose weight. Cass says he was interested in the whole, the interaction between exercise, recovery, and nutrition.
– I had very different types of athletes in the national team. What I brutally learned is that the people who got the best were the ones who were really good at the whole thing. So it’s stupid as a coach to say that someone has to lose weight in order to get better, when it’s all that matters. But some may have realized it that way anyway. Cass says the healthier people are, the better.
– What does it mean to be healthier?
That is, to be able to recover better after exercise, which deals with diet, drink and rest. When you burn carbohydrates, you have to get them back. If you don’t, you will recover worse.
Several practitioners told Dagbladet of comments such as that they should not eat butter on the slice of bread, and that they should stay away from the birthday cake. At the same time, 35 percent of Dagbladet practitioners spoke out to sayThey suffered from eating disorders while on skates.
These are personal experiences that athletes have had. We knew very little about eating disorders at the time. As a young coach, I was fortunate to have an excellent mentor at Oddmund Jensen, who was then the national team manager. His advice was that whoever gets the best, train better and recover better. This was our starting point. When the level rises and girls are at a weak age, a number of unexpected things can happen. We became the best nation in 1980-1981 and even 1985-1986. This may have put more pressure on the second best — especially the young ones, Cass says and remembers:
There is short-term progress you get from not eating enough. It does not give results in the long term.
Among the runners on the junior national team who failed to make a step into the elite team, as many as 67 percent reported having an eating disorder. In contrast, 6.3 percent of elite runners on the national team said they had experienced an eating disorder, when junior runners on the national team were excluded.
Is it the case in major sports where someone has to struggle to create a higher sports culture where one becomes that?
It is one of the most important sports in which some succeed and others do not. But they should not get sick. Unfortunately, it happened anyway. I felt responsible for everyone I trained. Cass admits it was one of the biggest challenges he hit more people.
Cass says he developed an eating disorder “in nowhere” already when he became the national junior coach in 1977, but at the time there was virtually no knowledge of the disease anywhere.
– We contacted the doctors at Ullevål and Aker hospitals. We didn’t get much help, because they decided this was a very difficult sick area, and it was completely new to them and us.
The Journal of the Norwegian Medical Association confirms this in a separate review of the topic Eating Disorders in Norway.
The Norwegian medical community was late in acquiring knowledge about eating disorders, and until 1980 there were only four doctors across the country concerned with the problem, He writes for the Journal of the Norwegian Medical Association.
They concluded that “during the 1980s, eating disorders became known in our culture, and the disease became more and more pronounced.”
– There was little or no knowledge. We had some knowledge about how to eat, but not about how not to eat, he says.
– How did you handle this?
– Talking to girls. But I’m not sure I succeeded in that. I realize it then. We didn’t realize it was an illness, but we did realize that something was wrong.
– If you could have done something different in the ’80s, what would you have done?
– I would have asked for expertise more thoroughly in hospitals, but as we said to those experts today: It is very easy for people to say we are stupid, but there were no experts at that time. We did not receive any help. Now we can have it.
– You have to eat
Exercise breaks you. Then you have to eat and recover to rebuild. We were pretty good at thinking holistically, but as someone obviously nodded their head across the border, we coaches either misunderstood or misunderstood. There is no doubt that diet is one of the performance criteria. There is also weight. But then we talk about an ideal weight for an individual athlete.
Have you felt a bad conscience connected with the fates in which things went wrong?
Yes, of course I knew that. There is no doubt about that. What could we have done differently? But it’s hard to know what we could have done differently. I felt like I didn’t arrive. Cass replies, maybe others have access.
- Although for several years Dag Kaas had the primary responsibility for both the elite and junior side on the women’s side at the same time, other coaches also took part in parts of this era. One of them – who was for a long time an assistant to CAS and eventually coach of the national junior team – was named as someone who contributed to the culture and pressure reduction of many former runners in the national team. He died today. Therefore, Kaas takes responsibility on behalf of the entire national team management to respond to the criticism and Dagbladet’s findings from the survey.
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