Olympic rower Aifric Keogh: We need discussion of periods between coaches and athletes 

Olympic rower Aifric Keogh: We need discussion of periods between coaches and athletes 

This week, Ireland women’s rugby teams announced white shorts are to be scrapped in favour of navy shorts from next season to alleviate player concerns about wearing white during their periods. For Olympic rower Aifric Keogh, it’s a change she hopes other sports will adopt. 

“I think it’s a great move and a positive step forward,” she says. “It can be stressful enough competing while on you’re period not to mind having to worry about white shorts.”

For Keogh, there was a time when her periods caused “day-to-day challenges” when it came to training for the Olympics.

“There came a point where I was suffering quite badly with mine,” she says, adding she felt she “had to speak up”. 

“I felt I had to explain why I wasn’t 100%… I remember texting a few times to say, ‘look, I don’t feel well, I’m struggling with my period at the moment’.

“You know [your teammates] are going to say that’s absolutely fine, that’s no problem, and it’s just hard to start that conversation for some people. 

“It was OK for me because I was in my 20s, but I think it is quite difficult for younger girls.”

One way the conversation could be made easier is if coaches received more education on the topic of periods, suggest the Galway native, who won an Olympic bronze medal in 2020. 

“I think there could be more done to educate coaches on the signs to look out for if you think a girl on your team is suffering, and what is the best way to approach her to talk about it. 

“There’s a lot of companies doing great things like Active Iron and Riley, and it’s great to hear them speak about [periods and stigma] and be so vocal about it, but I think our sporting bodies need to get in there. Maybe some workshops for the coaches to help them facilitate the conversations with athletes.

“Some girls don’t struggle as much as others, they don’t even notice if they’re about to get their period, but for those who do, I think more needs to be done to help them perform.”

  • Aifric Keogh is an Olympic bronze medalist and working with Active Iron on their campaign to tackle period stigma 
Aifric Keogh pictured at the RTE Sport Awards. Picture: Naoise Culhane

What are your healthiest eating habits?

I always make breakfast the night before — overnight oats with some fruit and maybe a scoop of protein powder. Whether I eat it at home or take it with me, I never skip breakfast, and [making it the night before] stops me from grabbing a slice of toast or something not as substantial on the way out.

What are your guiltiest pleasures?

Reality TV. I know it’s absolutely rubbish and I’m probably killing off brain cells watching it.. but I enjoy it for switching off, whether it’s Keeping up with the Kardashians or Selling Sunset.

What would keep you awake at night?

Thankfully, not much.  I’m pretty easygoing. Even during my master’s in Trinity, there were times when we had ten assignments due and there was a lot going on, but I have this ability that when I get into bed, I can forget about it all and sleep.

Who are your sporting heroes?

My teammates in Rowing Ireland. They make you want to grow and develop into the athletes that they are today. Especially as rowers, we’re not training full time — we are training twice, three times a day [as well as] college or working part-time. It’s crazy to see how hard everyone has worked in our training and setting up their careers for after sport. It’s inspiring.

The Ireland team, from right, Emily Hegarty, Fiona Murtagh, Eimear Lambe and Aifric Keogh. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

What is your favourite smell?

We’re down in Cork a lot, training. There’s a park near UCC called Fitzgerald Park with beds and beds of roses. The smell is so overwhelming. I t

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