The Olympic Charter describes Olympism as “a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example, social responsibility and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.” 1
I do not believe Junichi Okada and myself were thinking about the Fundamental Principles of Olympism when he met with me in Shreveport during the summer of 2008 after he attended the NSCA Convention. Junichi wanted a site for a training camp for Japanese university weightlifters that would include English as a second language classes. However, the structure of the camp does blend sport with culture and education.
The first JWA-LSUS Camp was held in February 2009 for two and a half weeks with nine students and two coaches; Junichi Okada and Tomoko Kato. The athletes spent the morning in English as a second language classes except on Wednesdays when educational lectures were presented that included issues in sports science, anti-doping, and Olympism. Training was held in the afternoon while nights and weekends included social and cultural activities.
One of the athletes attending was Seiichiro Takei, a student at Waseda University. He also participated in 2012. In the fall of 2013, Sei, as he is better known as, began working on a Master’s Degree in Kinesiology at LSUS while serving as a graduate assistant coach for the LSUS Weightlifting Club. Sei finished his degree in the spring of 2015 with a perfect 4.0 GPA and was named the “Outstanding Student in Kinesiology”. He is currently back at Waseda pursuing his doctorate under the guidance of Dr. Junichi Okada.
In addition to Sei, weightlifters from other countries have attended and graduated from LSUS. Bradley Innis (Barbados) and Susana Alvarez (Mexico) both received a B.S. Karla Hernandez (Mexico) received a B.S and M.S. and Cory Coehoorn (Canada) a M.S. Corey is currently a faculty member in the Department Kinesiology and Health Science at LSUS.
When this year’s camp begins 64 students will have participated in with 12 of these having participating twice. They have represented 17 universities throughout Japan. Six different coaches have participated. Junichi will be coaching at his eighth camp and Tomoko for the eleventh time; being here for all of the camps.
The athletes were housed at hotels during the first several camps but since, stay in the homes of families involved with our weightlifting program and with our LSUS weightlifters. The camp is held in February and usually coincides with the Mardi Gras celebration. The Japanese athletes have not only attended the Mardi Gras parades but have ridden in the them throwing beads and doubloons.
The Japanese lifters experience our culture but we also learn about their culture and about the similarities and differences in our lives. To some, eyes and minds are opened as to how people from another country live. Friendships are developed during the camp and often continue.
Last year, two lifters from Ghana were in Shreveport training for the Commonwealth Games while the camp took place. Four Canadian lifters from Quebec held a training camp during the time of the camp; two were also training for the Commonwealth Games. To top things off, Sarah Robles joined in for several days.
This was the eighth training camp Quebec held at LSUS, the first being in 2002. Canadian lifters from other provinces have also participated on occasions. Other countries holding training camps at LSUS were Australia, Barbados, Colombia, France, and Ghana. Individual lifters from Ecuador, Nigeria, Norway, and Seychelles have likewise trained at LSUS.
In addition to having a history of international training camps, LSUS has hosted the 2013 Pan American Sub-15 Championships, 2005 Pan American Championships and Mermet Cup (Australia vs USA), NACACI (North America, Central America, & Caribbean Island) Championships in 1996 and 2000, and the 1995 Junior International Championships.
Hosting these camps and competitions gave the young lifters in our program the opportunity to see and interact some top lifters. These experiences were, no doubt, an inspiration to our lifters to alter, in a positive way, their lifestyle and training habits and efforts in their quest to compete internationally.
The 2018 camp concluded, as the camp has generally, with a competition. Last year lifters from ETSU, MSU, SLU, Tulane, and UNO participated in the competition. A university competition is planned for the 2019 camp.
It has always been exciting for our lifters and those who attend this competition to compete with lifters from another country. Though not official, there is still the atmosphere of an international competition. This competition might motivate some lifters to work harder to have this experience again in an official capacity or be very satisfying for those lifters who will never have that chance.
When the camp ends, the USA Weightlifting Community Development Training Site at LSUS will continue to promote and practice the core values of Olympism and the Olympic Movement which are excellence, friendship, and respect. The training site has been from its inception “about giving one's best, on the field of play or in your personal and professional life…about trying your hardest to win, but … also about the joy of participating, achieving your personal goals, striving to be and to do your best in your daily lives”. 2
The site is free for local youth and therefore follows the Fundamental Principle of Olympism stating that “The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play”. 1 There have been a number of local youth who have participated in this free program that went on to represent USA Weightlifting in international competitions. One of those who came into this program over 20 years ago at the age of 11 was Kendrick Farris. The site remains free for local youth for Weightlifting, Para Powerlifting, and Sports Performance.
1. International Olympic Committee. Olympic charter (2015). Lusanne: International Olympic Committee. Available from: https://stillmed.olympic.org/media/Document%20Library/OlympicOrg/Olympic-Studies-Centre/List-of-Resources/Official-Publications/Olympic-Charters/2015-Olympic-Charter.pdf#_ga=2.33951913.981940616.1547399144-588647909.1547399144
2. International Olympic Committee - Olympic Foundation for Culture and Heritage. The fundamentals of Olympic values education: A sports-based programme (2017).Lusanne: International Olympic Committee - Olympic Foundation for Culture and Heritage. Available from:https://www.olympic.org/-/media/Document%20Library/OlympicOrg/IOC/What-We-Do/Promote-Olympism/Olympic-Values-Education-Programme/Toolkit/The-Fundamentals/English.pdf?la=en&hash=C136D160F7C6CFA75856291B57C5B76D1FCC8879