Performance Initiatives uses weightlifting as the keystone to build community and character in its athletes.
By Kerri Hanebrink Goodrich
Performance Initiatives (PI), Inc, strengthens hearts, minds, and bodies of over 140 children annually through its after school programs and partners with Second Harvest providing dinner at the Kid’s Cafe. PI is home to Coastal Empire Weightlifting Club (CEW) and Savannah CrossFit and provides classes for both adults and children. CEW is a United States Amateur Weightlifting (USAW) Athlete Training Center.
We strongly believe the key to building community is to establish deep roots in the community by investing in our youth through our programs using both staff and volunteers. Our approach is one that goes beyond weightlifting to build an individual’s strength in academics, weightlifting, and strong values that create an individual that is prepared to succeed in life.
Our programs target ages seven and up. We offer after school programs that include help with homework through the use of volunteers and partnerships in our community. Our volunteers in many cases are individuals that come into the gym looking to get in shape or try weightlifting for the first time. The experience the volunteers have in the gym using the same equipment and facility the youth they mentor or help with homework is invaluable as a reference point. The volunteers have become board members of our gym or mentors. It’s great to see the evolution in volunteers as they gain the physical benefits of weightlifting, but also experience the value of giving back to the community.
As you can imagine, it’s important to build community, however doing it yourself is not scalable and it will cut into the time you should spend on the platform coaching as well as with your family. Mentoring and coaching your athletes and volunteers to help in the community grow is the key. Creating programs through the use of volunteers and older youth mentoring younger will take longer to build, however in the long run this will be the key to keeping your programs viable. This investment of your time and talents is well worth the investment!
Many organizations have a single leader/founder: the person who has the vision and creates the team/organization, who first put out the call for his or her neighbors to participate, who led the first meeting. A single leader can’t effectively lead an indivisible group for long. You need a leadership team to be successful. Here are just a few reasons why:
You can’t do it all yourself. Many group leaders starting a local group try to expand and get burned out. You lose athletes, volunteers, and hit a growth point. One group leader can’t do everything to guide, support, and strategize for large groups of people to be highly effective or successful.
Diversity is strength. Your team will make better decisions with a leadership team reflecting diverse viewpoints and experiences to create effective strategic plans and implementation successfully. A leadership team including people of different races, genders, ages, backgrounds, and beliefs can more effectively debate and reflect on the group’s strategy.
Effective leaders duplicate themselves and invest in building others. Remember, you’re a leader with a vision for your organization. Organizational leaders are leaders who build networks and coalitions to achieve big things, who are always looking for more ways for other people to get involved, take charge, develop their strengths, and move the group forward. Organizers’ proudest moments are when they step back and the people around them are ready and able to lead the team.
If you think about the many things that go into building an organization: having an open house, exhibition, competition, etc. you will see many roles and people are needed to make this successful. We have many jobs in the course of the day at the gym that don’t require vast amounts of experience, but can be easily trained. The key is finding others in the community to mentor with the mindset of “train the trainer” method.
This foundation of having volunteers, athletes, and staff that are vested in your programs creates a community within your facility that becomes a word of mouth army for your facility. The team you will create is a great resource of potential partnerships, sponsorships, and more. At PI we have business people that help mentor our youth and those same business people also help with fundraising and sponsorships of our athletes attending competitions, training camps, and equipment.
As you look to grow your program consider looking beyond just the platform in how you train your participants and volunteers in building community and awareness. Your organization will grow much stronger with a greater success for sustainability and impact by growing together, rather than trying to push forward leading singularly.