In today’s weightlifting climate, there are increasing numbers of parents anxious to get their children started on the road to the weightlifting medal stand. They’ve watched the YouTube videos of Chinese youngsters lifting enormous weights and wonder what can be done to give their own offspring a leg up. Since it is becoming more and more accepted to realize that early specialization may actually be a detriment to overall progress, some parents may be perplexed as to what they might be able to provide that would prove to be an advantage.
What I’m proposing didn’t originate with me, but as time passes I’ve been able to realize the importance of a concept proposed to me by my coach, Bob Hise II way back in the 1970’s. I think Bob saw some potential in me as a coach, administrator and advocate for weightlifting. We spent a lot of time driving together to competitions and organizational meetings. Our conversations consisted of a wide variety of topics but always looped back toward weightlifting. One day he said to me, “I think that one thing that would help just about anyone wanting to become a weightlifter would be to have them get used to appearing in front of an audience. They could do public speaking or enter pool tournaments. Weightlifting just doesn’t give them enough opportunities to learn to perform before an audience.”
At that point I hadn’t gone too deep into my own coaching career and hadn’t realized how important the ability to perform would become. I had been a public speaking competitor in high school and done some acting during college so hadn’t really realized how paralyzing appearing in public could be.
During the last four years of my public school teaching career I served as the coordinator for our highly regarded Performing Arts magnet program. I got to know the PA kids, and experienced the joy they relished in performing in front of an audience. As I got to know them better I realized that the more accomplished ones had developed this joy of performance at a very early age. This was something they could do without much physical duress and could refine during pre-adolescence.
I’m currently coaching a fair number of adults who are interested in entering weightlifting competition, but are somewhat trepidacious about lifting in front of an audience. If you’re a typical reader of my posts, you must have realized that weightlifting competition is one of the great solo experiences that one can undertake. Although weightlifting is an individual sport it takes place in a format with no opponent, no field of competitors and with no other events occurring simultaneously that might draw spectator attention away from the individual performance.
And while the experience can be terrifying and paralyzing to the uninitiated, it is stimulating and transformative for the veteran competitor.
So for those parents anxious to help their child move forward on the weightlifting pathway, don’t get worked up over the physical, but focus instead on the development of the psyche to elicit the optimal performance when the body does achieve maturity. Enroll him or her in dance, or speech, singing or acting. The aplomb will have great carryover in other aspects of life beyond weightlifting and will definitely help them to maximize the physical profiency on the competition platform.