Are American Weightlifting Coaches Closed-minded?
When it comes to the status of American Weightlifting I feel caught between a rock and hard place. On one hand I appreciate the growth of the sport (thanks CrossFit for the introduction), the rise of young American talents, like CJ Cummings and Mattie Rodgers, and the hard work of American coaches (a few of which I’ve coached with or interviewed for the Doc and Jock Podcast).
On the other hand we aren’t very competitive internationally when it comes to Weightlifting and haven’t been for some time. What’s the point of sending a full team to World’s if we can barely get folks in the A sessions?
Greg Everett of Catalyst Athletics, summed up what I believe to be a very consistent view amongst most American Coaches and athletes in a recent interview he conducted on the Doc and Jock Podcast. According to Greg, the United States’ short comings on the international Weightlifting stage come down to drugs, athlete retention, long term systematic development, and recruitment. When asked if it would be advantageous for American lifters and coaches to go overseas to learn more about Weightlifting he made it clear, that in his opinion, nothing different is being taught overseas regarding technique.
I would say that in my experience most American Weightlifting coaches share Coach Everett’s sentiment. In fact, in my humble opinion, many are very defensive and closeminded when it comes to the question of technique.
As an outsider looking in I never understood this defensive/closedmindedness when exploring different Weightlifting concepts. When you aren’t good at something, like the United States isn’t good at Weightlifting, couldn’t you always learn something from folks experiencing success?
To be honest I haven’t ventured outside of American borders to do more than enjoy a coastline. That said, I am sure to the dismay of some, I have used the internet to my advantage to establish personal contact with Weightlifting coaches with experiences from around the world. No, before you ask, none of these coaches are from Niagara Falls. Also, no, I am not confusing a reply to an Instagram comment as a friendship.
To clarify, my growing exploration into alternative Weightlifting practices is a work in progress. Fact is I am thirsty for fresh takes. I have had a long term remote relationship with Coach Wu Chuan Fu, who develop his skills under the same Chinese System as dominate lifters like Liao Hui, Lu Xiaojun and Tian Tao. Coach Wu’s emphasis was not on power and strength but on tempo and experience.
I have also developed a positive correspondence with Coach Yats (@papayats of Instagram allure) who grew up in Poland and has close ties with many small yet competitive programs surrounding the Philippines. Coach Yats and his assistant coach, who has also traveled over to China and trained, have also sited differences in technique taught overseas. Click here to listen.
I have also interviewed Kirksman Tao for the Doc and Jock Podcast and trained under Coach Stephen Powell. Both of which teach some Weightlifting concepts contrary to those popular in the United States.
The experiences listed above have led me to believe something contrary to Greg’s views. I would have to say that, at least in my limited interactions with Coaches outside of American boarders, technical differences do exist in different Weightlifting circles and it would behoove any coach to at least explore those differences. I have been told by multiple sources simply that, “Joe, everything is different, you must go. Any coach who wants to get better must go.” Go where? Anywhere outside of the US doing well internationally.
My question here is when is more information ever a bad thing?
What’s the worse that could happen?
The next question would be, are these different methods better?
To be honest I do not know.
I can say that my best training totals and my appearances at the last two USAW National Championships are a direct result of these alternative methods. I have also been blessed to have a small group of lifters allow me the privilege of experimenting and developing my own system of coaching, which is heavily influenced by these alternative methods.
Heavily influenced by a conversation I had with Kirksman Tao, I have shifted my goal as a coach. I am not learning and lifting to prove a method as a best practice. To the contrary am looking for tools to find what works best for the lifter, not me. Facts are I don’t have a belief that any one technique is best. Beliefs are very strong and ultimately unnecessary when it comes to coaching.
Beliefs can also get you in trouble. Being tied to a belief puts a coach in a corner and forces that coach to question past methods when that belief is challenged or a different way of working, works.
International American Weightlifting mediocrity is a complicated issue. There are a multitude of factors contributing to America’s performance on the international stage. As a coach I know for a fact I can’t control many of them. For instance, I can’t do a thing about athletes in other countries taking drugs, other countries not caring if their athletes take drugs, other countries covering up their athletes doing drugs, other countries supporting the sport more, and the sport being more popular in other countries.
Is poor technique the reason the US is turning in lack luster international performances? Not entirely. I do know at a glance my eyes tell me US lifters don’t lift like elite international lifters. But, why can’t it be a piece of the puzzle. Truthfully speaking if you do a little digging when the rules of engagement changed and the sport became more technique based we lost a once strong hold. Click here for one resource that discusses this topic.
I can only look at my practices and learn as much as possible to help the athletes I train meet their goals. I for one believe that looking inward and embracing different ideas, learning from those who are successful, searching out contrary views, and openly discussing those views can’t hurt.
Linked below are some of the conversations I have had with other Weightlifting Coaches about this topic. I welcome you to listen and chime in with your own views. Please… dont be a #dush (its an inside thing)!