Olympic Weightlifting and the American System

Last week I was on the O-Lift Magazine Podcast for the second time. You can cut to the chase and listen to both of the Podcasts here. I think podcast two is the better of the two-- We get into some real speak on a few different topics.


Part-1

Part-2


Following the second Podcast, Anton, the owner of O-Lift Magazine, asked me to write a little more on the financial implications of the American Weightlifting system. You can read the original article here if you would like. For simplicity sake; below is also that original piece.

I was recently on the O-Lift podcast and it was awesome catching up with and talking to my man Anton.


One thing that we discussed that I wanted shed further light on was the discussion of the American Weightlifting System and where my view on the system was/is coming from.

The problem is that we currently do not have a strong sense of the American Model of weightlifting.


To complicate things, we seem to be trying to adapt models from other countries based on the other countries success in the sport, leaving us still with no identity.

In all of my formal and informal research on international weightlifting it has become obvious that the countries that do really well have a system in play that directly resembles their social and political structure.


Think about a traditionally socialist country like China. They have an athlete development system in play where the athletes are selected from an early age and sent to special universities to practice their assigned craft. This not only occurs in sport but in all areas of study. Engineers, doctors, lawyers, they all will be selected at an early age on put on a path to that profession regardless of choice.


It makes sense that they can have a weightlifting program that does the same thing. They train in an extremely structured environment. Athletes are told when to train, how to train, what supplements to take how to eat, what to weight with no choice. And if there is backlash or a push against the system, the athlete will pay with cuts in stipends or even a banishment of sorts.


The question I am posing is why are we trying to make an American system that is based off of what traditionally socialist countries are/were doing, when a socialist way of thinking is not engrained in American athletes.


Does the above mentioned system sound like anything a up and coming youth athlete would be interested in?


It does not make sense to try to copy a socialist approach to weightlifting when our minds are not geared around socialism. We like choice, we like freedom, we love democracy, and enjoy the benefits of capitalism.


Americans have always been great at seeing what others do well, implementing what works, modifying what does not, then turning it into a better product or system. Weightlifting will be no different, it is just a matter of time for us to get there.


Look at our three major sports in the US all of them are commercial capitalist ventures on all levels. Basketball, baseball, and football have a capitalistic structure to the sport.

Some smaller market sports have taken the same approach and have experienced great success. For example, soccer, swimming, track and field, even lacrosse to extent have implemented models that are centered around a thriving capitalist economy and have grown due to this structure.

Weightlifting needs to have our own system that follows something similar. A system where all athletes and coaches are on the same page. A system that allows for choice. This doesn’t mean we teach one technique it just means that we agree on the amount of time in training and progression and a few well grounded scientific principles.


So Where do we start?

Like most things American we start with the money. Club owners need to learn how to be profitable. Without a thriving business model for the individual club, it is going to be hard to support the athletes financially and with all of the training resources they need. After all, bars, bumpers, and jerk blocks are not cheap.


With the rise in the number of clubs it would benefit USAW to get some business people on board to help gym owners learn how to charge appropriately and promote the amazing service they offer.


The idea that people will not pay a premium for a quality service is absurd. I know my kid is 3 years old and we pay 125 bucks a month for one 30min “gymnastics” lesson. To me it is worth every dime. He gets great attention and improves week to week all while having fun.

It pains me to hear weightlifting coaches talk about coaching for free. In what other sport does that happen?


I understand that there are going to be kids who have circumstances that may not allow them to pay the top end, but you can always make exceptions to the rules. However, free coaching can no longer be the rule. A capitalist structure does not mean that you don’t help those in need, it just means you optimize on a growing market as much as you can to provide a service or facility that the market wants.


Speaking quickly on the perspective of our gym, we charge a premium price. However, that price point allows us to have 4 full time coaches and two-part time coaches. It allows us to have 20 or 30 weightlifting bars and a ton of bumper plates stuffed in 7,000 square feet of athletic development.


None of this would be possible without a capitalist structure. That structure does promote competition and choice, which is 100 percent American. Athletes do not have to pay the premium and can go to the barbell club down the road. As I type this there are 2 other barbell clubs that are within a 5-minute walking distance from Lift Lab. And there about 5 more that are within a 15minute drive. All of them charge less than we do, and to me, that is ok.


Capitalism is the American system.


Capitalism is about competition. In this case if I am going to charge more, I better put out a better product or athletes are going to look for a more cost effective approach.


The American system needs some work. It is going to take some time to dial in and no one expects it to happen overnight. For the next quad the OTC probably wont exist in the same way it does now. I think our new leadership sees a need for change and quite honestly the OTC structure does not allow them to fully support the amount of athletes that need support. As much as USAW has grown, there is still not enough money to serve all the athletes needs from developmental to elite. At some point support is going to have to go to the private sector. The time is now and the future is bright!


I am excited to be a part of the changes coming to USAW and can’t wait to see what we do in 2020!

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