Re-Thinking How Local Meets Are Conducted

Over the past 10 years there has been a consistent turnover in the people running local weightlifting meets in this country.   A certain amount of this is good as it brings more people into the game as meet directors and meet directors are the primary movers involved in keeping the sport alive at the grassroots level.  Some of these newer folks bring practices in from their previous athletic lives and others merely copy procedures that have been in place for years.

Because we’re currently in a state of dynamic change it might be a good time to review the practices in place and consider making some changes.

One Common Problem

It seems that it’s easy for people to begin holding the same meet all the time with the same procedures in place, the same schedule, and the same awards.  Every time you go to a meet at that gym you end up seeing the same event with a few of the faces changing.  This can lead to stagnation and a loss of excitement on the part of the athletes, coaches and audience.  A periodic change might keep interest higher.

The Size of the Start List

The size of the start list is definitely a factor in determining the running of a competition.  I realize that a competition can be a significant source of revenue for a gym, but the profitability motive should share priority with the experience provided to the competitors.  A huge meet that generates a healthy profit, but doesn’t provide memorable feelings for the athletes is hurting the sport in the long run and may eventually result in smaller start lists.

The Start Time

Too many competitions start the first session too early in the day.  This may be admirable or justifiable if an event is held outdoors and the early morning temperatures are cooler or the air hasn’t had time to become polluted. 

The best time for optimal performance is later in the day.  The body has had more time to be physiologically prepared and more importantly had more opportunities to consume food.  Now some may complain that competitors who are making weight aren’t eating much anyway.  This holds true for the very few who must make weight for a specific purpose such as qualifying for a national event or establishing records.  Most competitors at local events are in a developmental stage and should not be cutting weight.  This is especially true for juniors. 

When I came into the sport most events started after noon and because there were three lifts contested, they often ran late into the night.  This was done so that athletes’ bodies would be awake and to provide a late afternoon/early evening showcase event for the spectators.  So there is precedent for a later start time. 

Scheduling Constraints

The only factors that must be considered are the order of weight classes so that an athlete failing to weigh-in under the limit for a given class has the option of moving up to the next heavier class and for expediency’s sake men and women should lift in separate sessions to avoid the changing of bars in mid-session.

Why the Lighter Women First?

For years now it has been common to have the lighter women’s classes start early in the morning.  Why?  These women have long been denied a chance to compete when their bodies were best prepared and when it might be most convenient to perform in front of a larger audience.  It happens because no one is bothering to think through the process.  Lately I’ve been conducting meets with a men’s session lifting first at 11:00 AM, and the women lifting at 2:00 PM.

How About Scheduling by Ability?

For many years now it has been common to have B level lifters competing in the early sessions and A level lifters competing in the later sessions.  The order might go like this:

B session Men

B session Women

A session Men

A session Women.

All that’s needed are cutoff totals separating A and B level lifters.  If lifters don’t like lifting in the early sessions they can earn their way up into the A sessions at future events. 

Spectator Considerations

A bigger house is certainly conducive to audience support, and also for T-shirt and refreshment sales.  Why not put the session with the best lifters at a more convenient time for the majority of the audience, not to mention for local media coverage?  The parents and friends of the athletes are pretty much always going to show up, but if part of your goal is to attract a larger audience (which it should be), the showcase sessions should be at the most convenient time.  What if a 53 kg member of the world team is visiting your town and wants to compete?  Aren’t you going to put her in a late afternoon session and advertise accordingly? 

Moving Forward

Meet directors need to realize that moving forward we need to be somewhat adaptable in the way we conduct events in order to keep them fresh and appealing.  Periodic reviews of our procedures will help us to do that and consequently maintain enthusiasm for the sport.  Don’t keep putting on that Same Meet every time.