Engaging Emerging Communities

By Jilly Jaworske, TSS Barbell | July 01, 2019, 12 p.m. (ET)

As a recently designated Community Development Site, we have found our fair share of challenges in creating programs that engage the community--not just providing the community the opportunity to engage with us. We made it a goal to not simply have opportunities available, but to actively seek out those who could we can positively impact through the sport of weightlifting. Creating programs that fit this mold required us to evaluate the profile of our surrounding community--a rewarding process that allowed us to connect with other local businesses.

Racker Weightlifting Program

Our first Community Outreach program was Racker Weightlifting. A few of our existing barbell club members were already integral members of their 3,000-strong workforce. In our search for collaboration with an existing organization that valued health and fitness, Rackspace came to mind first.

Although Rackspace already had existing fitness programs within their offices for their employees, they did not have any formal weightlifting programs--we knew that providing the opportunity for employees to try weightlifting could bring many individuals into the sport. After several calls and meetings with many executives from the company, we were able to negotiate a partnership in which we were able to provide free, educational weightlifting experiences to Rackspace employees in their CrossFit facility. In exchange, Rackspace offered the use of their 5,000 square-foot climate-controlled facility for our local meets.

From our perspective, this program was a win-win. We were able to bring weightlifting to dozens of corporate employees during each of our meets while using Rackspace’s beautiful facility in order to grow our local meets.

The most important piece of advice when negotiating partnerships with other local businesses it to be confident and sell the sport of weightlifting. Although we know full well both the physical and overall benefits that weightlifting has on life and performance, others don’t yet, which is why we are planning these outreach programs! Talk about what weightlifting has done for you, but more importantly, talk about what weightlifting has done for athletes in a similar position as those you want to partner with--even bring those athletes in to share! The key in selling weightlifting is to display its accessibility and relatability to your potential-partner.

ROWC

In addition to targeting young professionals, we knew we were capable of founding a university team by partnering with our student members. We already had a large presence of The University of Texas at San Antonio students as members of our team, so we aided them in the founding of Roadrunner Olympic Weightlifting Club, the first weightlifting club at UTSA. In order to promote the club, TSS has hosted “try weightlifting for free days” for UTSA students and has held a power clean competition in the school’s recreation center.

The goal of the TSS-ROWC partnership is to expose UTSA students to weightlifting, and eventually, send a ROWC Men’s and Women’s team to University Nationals.

When Should you Start?

Just go for it! You don’t make snatches by half-attempting them and worrying if the weight falls on your head-- you don’t find success running a club that way either. In order to grow the sport of weightlifting, we need to disregard our fear of failure and pursue partnerships, opportunities, and programs that will expose more people to the sport that has changed the lives of so many. The worst thing someone can ever say is “no.”

Why Should Clubs Start Outreach Programs?

The reason that we coach is to use weightlifting to improve the lives of our athletes. As coaches, we see the positive effects that weightlifting has on people, from the first day they step on the platform to the day they win a national medal. Weightlifting is powerful, but not as mainstream as we would like it to be. Therefore, it is our responsibility to expose as many people to the sport as possible. This helps new athletes, but it also helps us! By growing the sport, we grow funding, popularity, and memberships. Who knows? Our next Olympian could walk into your next outreach program.

Utilize your Network

As a coach with a weightlifting club, you have a diverse network of people at your fingertips every time you step into the gym. Use it! Our athletes are enthusiastic in helping us and the team in any way they can--they know the impact weightlifting has had on them, and they want others to experience the life-changing effects of this sport as well. Both of our outreach programs have been started through the connections of our athletes. It is easiest to first start searching for opportunities within your closest network: weightlifting!

As a coach, I have witnessed the sport of Olympic Weightlifting change countless lives, including my own. I am grateful that USA Weightlifting has designated TSS Barbell as a Community Development Site, and we will continue to embrace that designation every day.