In the past few years I’ve come into contact with dozens of new and/or aspiring weightlifting coaches. Their motivations are varied, but the ones that I encounter in my clinics, courses, presentations and webinars are pretty much driven to learn all they can so that they can become proficient in the craft of coaching the snatch and clean & jerk. Mulling over the fascination that all these people had with coaching led me to look back on the motivations behind the members of my own generation of coaches.
I came upon a realization that may not be original, but a look back at this history might help some of our present coaches to understand why the members of the Woodstock generation have been able to do so much to enlarge the coaching body of knowledge in this country. Furthermore, I thought it might make for an interesting read.
I’m writing here about the coaches who had lifted competitively for a few years prior to 1972.
In those days there were three lifts—Press, Snatch, Clean & Jerk. As we went through the decade of the 60’s, the officiating for the press became more and more lax. World records and national records were broken, re-broken and seemed to be on an unending upward spiral. All serious lifters and coaches were figuring out more ways to improve pressing ability, and since it was the first of the three lifts, it was trained first in each workout when energies were high. Then in 1972 came the buzz that the IWF was considering eliminating the press as officiating had become more inconsistent and weightlifting meets were running too long. At the IWF Congress in Munich the unthinkable happened and a decision was made that December 31, 1972 would be the last date that the press would be part of the sport of weightlifting.
For those of us who were competitors we figured that it would be an easy transition to competing in just the snatch and clean & jerk. We would just eliminate all pressing movements from our training and have more energy left to put into snatching, cleaning and jerking.
By the end of 1973 we came to realize that this approach was just not working all that well. Progress in the snatch, clean and jerk did not take place in quantum leaps, and many of the records (both national and personal) from the triathlonic era were still unbroken. In short we had to face the fact that we did not know how to train.
Imagine how we felt. We had in many ways mastered the methodologies for training for a sport we loved, and suddenly the nature of the sport was changed so dramatically that much of what we knew was now of much lesser value. We were suddenly beginners again!
I think this led many of today’s coaches who grew into weightlifting at that time to learn as much as they could about training. I count among my active coaching colleagues from that era John Thrush, Jim Schmitz, John Coffee, Mike Burgener, Artie Dreschler, Harvey Newton, Leo Totten, Roger Nielsen and Bud Charniga. We were all forced to start over and learn an entirely new way of training. The books published before this time were only of partial value, and we had no experienced voices from the past with which to consult. We had to figure it out, test it, massage it and by the time we did we had lost several of our own prime lifting years. We then began to apply what we had figured out to athletes we were coaching.