Someone asked me the other day: Why Do Weightlifting State Organizations (WSOs) Matter? ? It’s really a great question. Most members and coaches probably don’t give it too much thought, but there are several reasons why, even today, WSOs matter.

As the first reason: Let’s say you’re interested in the sport of Olympic Weightlifting, but new to the sport – a beginner. You are trying to get started in the sport. Back in the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s, many beginners learned to lift from magazines such as Strength and Health. Strength and Health gave them guidance – it was like having a coach by correspondence. The beginner still needed a place to train and finding a gym was no simple task. Nowadays, we have the Internet with so many social media outlets. Most beginners turn to the internet to find a place to train, help learning the lifts and most importantly, to find a coach. A Google search brings them to the USA Weightlifting website. On the USAW site they can find the contact information for the WSO and the registered clubs in the WSO.

Second reason: Without some form of national and local organization, clubs would be harder to locate. Maybe searches would only show clubs that spend a lot of money promoting themselves on the internet. The WSO represents all clubs in the WSO region and provides a comprehensive and unbiased snapshot of the clubs as resources for the beginning lifter to turn to. All clubs are represented equally.

Third reason: The WSO has an executive board which makes decisions for the betterment of the lifters under their governance. In addition to regular board meetings, two general membership meetings are held each year. Any member of the WSO can address the board and voice their concerns, opinions or suggestions.

Fourth reason: The leading officers of the executive board get voted in by the members of the local organization. These elections are conducted and overseen by the USAW national office. Each member of the executive board brings a level of knowledge to the table with them whether they are as follows:

- An athlete representative
- A club representative
- A technical official leader
- A governor of one of the four regions in WSO
- The treasurer or the technical chair
- An ad hoc member
- The secretary
- The president, who is the chair of the local organization.

The dedicated volunteers serving in these positions bring their expertise to the local organization. Most of the board members are National Referees, or higher, with many years of experience in the sport.

Fifth reason: The WSO has an important mission. The WSO is in charge of growing the sport / creating memberships at the grassroots level. When the ranks of members grow, sports grow. The WSO helps meet directors run their competitions properly and helps them adhere to the highest standards possible. The WSO assists in the recruitment of referees for local organizations. The WSO can them progress from member to official through each stage from local referee to national referee and even international referee. The process takes several years, but it all starts with the WSO. The WSO also plays a critical role in education.

Sixth reason: The WSO is responsive and accountable. The WSO has a set of bylaws – basically a constitution to guide the executive board. The WSO must keep records of minutes of meetings for prior years. The WSO also keep records of competition results and the record lifts of the WSO.

Seventh reason: The WSO promotes and supports local talent. Each year, at an open ceremony, the WSO gives outstanding lifter awards for females and males in the junior, senior and master categories as well as awards for most improved female and male.

I hope I have been able to shed some light on the important role the WSO plays in the sport of weightlifting. The governance of any organization is never done better by being larger or more centralized. It’s always better for you, the athlete, when you can speak to your local organizers and they can reach out individually and get their hands dirty in the process of education and growth in the sport.

Chris Smith