We’ve just completed the fourth and final meet of our inaugural league season. The idea initially came to me as a plan to get more people engaged in training for the sport. I thought about recreational bowling leagues as a model. I knew that bowlers look forward to the camaraderie of the games and maintained their participation over an extended period of time. I also kept in mind that most of today’s weightlifting clubs are also operating as businesses and that the financial success of the clubs would be enhanced by regular training by the memberships. A league could provide the incentive for many casual athletes to make a greater commitment to regular training and long term participation.
I initially decided to form a nucleus of my former athletes who were currently coaching. I convened a meeting during the 2015 USA Nationals. Emmy Vargas, Nghiep Dinh and Sean Waxman all lifted for me at the national level and were now coaching their own clubs. We could then begin with a nucleus of four clubs. We had discussions about locations and decided that each of us would host one of the four meets. We worked out the number of lifters per team and how to calculate the team scoring. I worked on the details and re-worked them until we came to a consensus at the 2015 American Open. We decided to open the league up to other local clubs and committed to proceeding ahead.
I advertised through my blog and Facebook page and was able to arouse the interest of three local clubs. Because we included a beginner category where the points scored would count just as much as points in the advanced category, Long Beach Weightlifting, UCSB weightlifting and Crossfit Survival decided to join the program.
Now four meets later I’d like to share the following reactions with others who might consider trying a weightlifting league.
Three New USAW Clubs
Because we wanted to conduct all competitions as sanctioned meets, we stipulated that all athletes had to be USAW members and that all clubs had to be sanctioned as well. This would provide a greater feeling of “officialness” to the league. As a result we now have three more functioning USAW sanctioned weightlifting clubs.
More Official Coaches and Registered Athletes
The club sanctions required an official coach so each of our new clubs has at least one USAW certified coach, and more importantly they are actually coaching competitive athletes. The league participation also encouraged more athletes to register. We ended up with 54 lifters in the league, many of them newcomers.
More LWC Officials
Since each of the established clubs hosted a meet, the four nuclear coaches encouraged club members to take the LWC exam and become certified as officials. This too added to the “officialness” of the league and so we now have a dozen or so more officials available to help out at future competitions within the LWC.
Coaches and Athletes Learn the Protocols
We have a long tradition in our LWC, as do many others, of running our competitions by the book so that both athletes and coaches get used to them and will not be surprised when they do get to national levels. Our new athletes and new coaches are very comfortable with the protocols for conducting a competition. They should fit in well when they matriculate to national level events.
Role Modeling by Athletes
Our Advanced Category featured several athletes who had lifted in national events. Furthermore they had been coached to be successful by individuals who had previously been successful at that level. They were able to demonstrate to our new athletes the proper decorum for competitors. Consequently we had no displays of poor sportsmanship, equipment abuse, warm-up room boorishness nor lack of supportive behavior.
Role Modeling by Coaches
If you’re going to become an anything, it’s a good idea to watch a proficient practitioner performing that function or task. At each of the four meets our new coaches got to watch 4 veteran coaches go about managing their athletes’ performances. If you’ve never seen a top coach work you probably have no idea what they do or how they do it. Our new coaches got to watch some very good coaches elicit great performances from their athletes.
The formation of a community
Although weightlifting teams can be quite tribal, there was a lot of good hearted interaction between the teams taking place in the warm-up areas and it got to happen four times in a non-threatening atmosphere. People developed an appreciation of what other athletes were doing and got to know athletes they wouldn’t encounter very frequently in the normal competition schedule set-up. Athletes from seven different clubs got to get acquainted with each other simply because we scheduled one meet a month for four months. This is something that just developed—it wasn’t planned.
In closing, this formation of a community of like-minded individuals is reminiscent of the past when there was a real feeling of commonality of purpose within the then small world of Southern California weightlifting. The recent rapid expansion of the sport without much connection to the past has resulted in many meets that simply have the feeling of processing numbers—numbers of athletes, numbers on the scoreboard, numbers of attendees. I look forward to growing this spirit of colleagiality so that there will be more to interest the athlete beyond his or her performance in the event.