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An Open Letter on Size in Acro

Things that have been said to me in the last six months:

  • “This is easier with a lighter flyer.”
  • “You’re like a flyer and a half.”
  • “I’m not big enough to counteract all your weight”

You know that sad scene from childhood of being the last kid picked for the dodgeball team?  The one where you feel sorry for the poor kid who’s clearly embarrassed because no one wants to play with him/her?  Yeah? That’s me at every acro workshop. Often, that’s what it feels like to be a flyer in the Austin Acro community when you weigh more than 110 pounds.  It doesn’t matter what your experience is. It doesn’t matter how hard you work. It can feel like it only matters how much you weigh.

I started in this community just before Thanksgiving 2016.  I was shocked at the scene I walked into my first Friday jam.  Never in my life had I seen a room more full of tall, rippling muscled men and women who are arguably smaller as adults than many junior high children.  I know I’m not the only one who’s thought similar things.

What I’d like to address here is size.  Weight. Skill. Technique. And for goodness sake – human decency.

I broke my own rule of human decency in the first ten minutes I was in my first jam the very first time I was asked to play.  Bill asked me. Bill is amazing. I love Bill. Bill is one of the most solid bases in Austin – but I didn’t know that. All I saw was a guy who looked lighter than me who was offering to lift me up.   

My own insecurity got the best of me.  I’ve been teased my whole life about being too strong.  I’ve been called Rambo. I’ve never felt like a tiny woman, even if I am currently wearing the smallest size clothing made for adult woman you can buy, or what the scale says, or how much smaller I am than the rest of my friends.  

Bill asked me to play and I said something like, “Are you sure you can lift me?” or “Are you strong enough?”  What a jerk thing to say. I have since apologized to Bill. More than once. I cringe thinking about how that must have made him feel.  

Let’s do a better job at setting good examples of how to treat people.  

Let’s teach each other what’s ok to say & what’s not.

Instead of saying to a a flyer, “You’re too heavy”.  Perhaps you could instead say:

  • “I don’t have that skill (with everyone), yet”
  • “Let’s work on progressions with some good spotters and see where we get”
  • “I don’t know that I want to work on that at the moment, would you be interested in working on XYZ with me?”

This wonderful fun we share can be so rewarding.  Like everything else, it takes practice and skill.  The better you are at stacking & technique, the less brute strength is required.  Let’s focus on skill & technique. It’s common to see large strong bases doing difficult skills with very small fliers.  Just because a base is quite large/strong and/or a flier is quite small/light doesn’t necessarily equal good technique or skill.   I’d love to all remember it’s possible for small bases to complete technically difficult skills with very large fliers. Don’t let the size disparity fool you.  Skill & technique can allow for some amazing partner acrobatics!

Let’s be open-minded about who we play with.  Let’s work on our partnering skills – both in acrobatic and in communication.  We all have feelings. Let’s all be better together. Let’s be inclusive. Let’s be encouraging.  Let’s have fun. Let’s be supportive & safe.