Don’t ignore the nervous system as a training target in your program design.
We just held a development meet at the Takano Weightlifting gym. It was a small event (18 lifters), but it provided an opportunity for our lifters to establish 22 Personal Records (PR’s). Many of the athletes were first timers. What was discouraging was that some of our athletes had intended to enter but backed out at the last minute. This prompted me to compose this blog post.
A Development Meet is a learning opportunity. It is a highly ritualized training session for some, but for newcomers it can be a life-changing experience that can set them on a course to a prolonged lifting career. While many gym owners are concerned with stick rate of their clientele, many do not realize that the best continuity strategy is to get athletes addicted to competitions. Development meets are a step forward in that direction.
With the latest generation of weightlifting enthusiasts stepping forward (many of them seeping over from Crossfit), there is a big emphasis on putting on spectacular events. The plates are colorful, the sound system is state of the art with a real DJ, with a variety of T-shirts for purchase, and a number of trappings that have little to do with the essence of weightlifting. They can also become distractions for the first timers.
The mechanics of a meet: Everything can be overwhelming for a newcomer. The timing of weigh-ins, the timing of eating for competition, the warming up process and the actual execution of the lifts on the competition platform. Development meets can provide a non-threatening environment in which to experience these factors.
To comprehend performance: Many weightlifting novices have never played an organized sport nor sang or played an instrument in front of an audience. A few development meets can allow a person to comprehend the significance of performance and to embrace it, savor it and crave it rather than dread it. But this can only be comprehended through first hand exposure.
To generate enthusiasm: If a lifter has put in the requisite amount of preparation prior to the event, the outcome can generate enthusiasm in a manner that nothing else can. A poor performance can create the need to compensate. A great performance can create the craving for another one. Furthermore competitions can divide the calendar into a comprehensible chunks.
Don’t put it off: No one is ever completely prepared for their first meet. That is not an excuse to put it off. Unfortunately some people do. If the coach feels an athlete is well enough prepared, the athlete should compete. Some coaches, however, can rush the process and then create a traumatic experience from which the athlete’s psyche may not recover.
Compete often: Until an athlete gets to national or elite level, something of value will be learned at each competition. A competitive skill will become further honed. I recommend that developing lifters get into every meet they can. It’s part of the educational process.
Development Meets are for---officials and coaches as well. Both of these groups need to develop their skills and instincts as much as lifters. Officiate and coach often if you want to get to be the best you can be.