Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them. – Dalai Lama
I was on a plane flying to Las Vegas one year and the Flight Attendant stopped at my seat and said, “If you can tell me what the most difficult movement in professional sports is… you will get a free bottle of wine.” I said, “An Olympic Snatch.” She replied , “um… no…” clearly indicating she wasn’t sure of what it even was, and then said, “It’s hitting a fastball.” I countered and said, “Bullshit. I’ve hit a fastball before and I don’t even play baseball (not to say it is easy, because it IS incredibly difficult). How many people do you know that can hit a Snatch, in Competition, that is over their body weight?” She said none… so I asked for the bottle of wine. She gave me water.
There is pride that comes in sports… or anything, really, that we devote ourselves to in the pursuit of mastery. I read an article once that was stating that the 3 pillars that allow a human being to be happy are: being autonomous (not a slave, or in control of your own life), being fed (or not hungry), and mastery (or the pursuit there of). Weightlifting is hard. Snatching and Jerking are really hard. No doubt about it. You just can’t afford to make mistakes in a lift. There is no such thing as accidentally making a Snatch. You either do what is demanded of you in that point and time… or you do not, and you will miss. That is one of the many things that make this sport so amazing.
The sport itself remains very underground and elusive in the US. Around where I live, Charlotte, NC… with the collapse of MDUSA there is no centralized concept of the sport. The elite athletes either headed north to Mash Elite or started their own business, like First Attempt Weightlifting. Almost all of them hold second jobs to survive. Matt Bergeron is holding a Weightlifting Seminar here in order to help send one of his youth athletes to Nationals. We were talking one night and I said, “Man, the shit we have to do to get anyone anywhere in this sport.” Weightlifting just doesn’t pay in America. In other places of the world it provides a way of life, a way to pay the bills. Here? We have to give up those things in order to pursue the sport.
With the state of Weightlifting currently, we need to be as creative as ever to keep it a float. There has certainly been a major spurt of growth in the both the awareness of the sport and the number of registered USAW members. With that a type of schism (not everywhere, but certainly very apparent) between CrossFit and Weightlifting also. I’ve been a part of both. Weightlifting is a highly competitive sport that is easily measurable: the Total. In a sport that has defined State, Regional, National, and International competition levels (to include the Olympics) there is a lot of clout within the Total that an athlete can produce. All of this together contributes to Elitism in this sport.
I get it, there is a lot of pride that goes into what you have accomplished. You may even be highly competitive… but hear me out. With the state that American Weightlifting is in, in this country, we need all of the help we can get. We need to open our doors to the public and let them see what an amazing sport this is. By being an elitist there is a tendency to close your doors and only open them to those that will benefit you in a self serving way. Or maybe you’re just a dick. This makes this already elusive sport less accessible. If this sport is less accessible it hurts everyone from the bottom to the top. We all started somewhere.
The strength of this sport lies within the community of it. By embracing athletes at all levels, teaching the public about this sport, accepting them into your doors you create loyalty and empowerment. The more accessible this sport is, the more revenue it generates. The revenue with a strong community base will trickle through American Weightlifting and ultimately benefit everyone involved whether it is through community, monetarily, or competitively. Coach those around you. Through coaching you become a better athlete, and no one is above fundamentals, ever. Our strength is when we stand together.
Whether or not you train with Metal blasting, or if you slam bars or don’t, or who you know or who you don’t, what gear you wear… none of that is more important than creating a community, nurturing the relationships, and looking out for each other. If you turn your nose up to other people, or look down at their ability, in that moment you have hurt this sport just a little more. The rise of American Weightlifting is now. There is momentum here, and it needs to be embraced with leadership. That starts in the grass roots. It’s not about finding a few key lifters and then going out and catching a huge sponsor. Matt Bergeron brought up a point in our conversation that the reason basketball, baseball, and football are so successful in this country is because of its grass roots. It became a past time that a few people could partake in, in their neighborhood. Some people got together with a football, they played… then another neighborhood said sure, we’ll link up with you, then another, and another. Those that were exceptionally good have a path for them into higher ranks. There is a need for us to grab the metaphorical basketball, invite our neighbors, and take it to the cul-de-sac. The power is in the community. The power is in us. WE are the future of American Weightlifting – the average person, the innumerable. There is all the ability and materials to grow this sport here and now… we just need to un-clinch our fists.