September 3, 2019

Happy September Members,

As the pumpkin spice returns to our taste buds, and temperatures begin to drop away just a bit, we enter the most important month for our national team competing in Pattaya, Thailand at the 2019 IWF World Championships where we have quite a few athletes who are going in with Top 8 in the World totals, likely to appear in A groups and have a possibility to bring home medals. This is perhaps the first time since the Women of the early 1990s that we are in such a position, and that is a testament to the hard work of the athletes and coaches across the United States, the decentralized approach we have taken in the United States and of course the additional anti doping work undertaken by the IWF.

Our athletes have the opportunity to earn up to $20,000 in bonus for those medals, plus another $15,000 in record bonuses at the competition, in addition to their stipend. These reflect a World Champion and World Records, we pay to 8th place at the Worlds and those bonus payments on top of any stipend payments an athlete may be earning. Thank you to donors and members who make those large bonus pots possible.

The Senior Worlds marks the last time the world comes together head-to-head before the Olympic Games, so to be looking like we will have a strong showing is a really outstanding position to be in. The team will visit in the Olympic City of Tokyo for a camp ahead of the Championship, in order to somewhat acclimatize, as well as familiarize themselves with Tokyo ahead of next year. The team will also benefit from a tour of the Tokyo International Forum, where the Olympic Games will host Weightlifting at Tokyo 2020.

You can learn more about which athletes will be wearing Team USA colors in Thailand HERE – and follow along here on USAWeightlifting.org, on our social media channels and on ESPN+/ESPN3 across the competition period in just a couple of weeks.

Before we go any further, we must pay tribute to Justin Thacker. With thanks to the Crass family, a fuller tribute is available on the USA Weightlifting website (HERE), Justin unfortunately took his own life on Friday evening of this last week. Justin left an indelible mark on the St. Louis Weightlifting community, as well as the sports of Strongman, Powerlifting and CrossFit. Justin owned the LAB Gym with his brother Chris, a gym which also hosts the famed Life for Life Gym program. Justin was an accomplished athlete in his time before turning his hand to impacting the lives of hundreds who came through the doors of his Manchester Street facility. Our thoughts are with Chris and the rest of the Thacker family at this extremely difficult time.

To anyone else struggling, please – ask for help. Call someone, talk to someone, there is someone out there willing to listen and help. Since 2018, any USA Weightlifting members who have suffered trauma can use the USAW Athlete Wellness Program to seek free (pro bono) counselling services around the country. We will never, ever, release the names of those who are using this service but only make this available. For more details see (HERE), and please use this program if you are in need of this sort of help.

While on the subject of members in need, we also have learned that notable Coach Glenn Pendlay has been diagnosed with late stage cancer and is struggling just now, our thoughts are with Glenn together with our thanks for the lives he impacted in our sport over the years including, perhaps most famously, leading the Muscledriver USA program and the California Strength program over the years. Glenn is back in his native Kansas just now and continues to coach as much as health is allowing.

Back to the platform, August saw Team USA in action at the Youth Pan American Championship, where the team brought home a record 44 medals from Guayaquil, adding Pan American Champions to our World Champion status earned in Las Vegas earlier this year at the 2019 IWF Youth World Championships. In 2013, I personally made the case to return to the Youth Pan Ams to prove to our upcoming athletes that we can show we can win internationally. Our athletes have consistently done so since that time, and now we are also winning at the World level for Youth. Though the data shows less than 20% of Youth World participants go on to represent our nation at the senior level, since that time we have seen now Senior World team members CJ Cummings, Harrison Maurus and Jourdan Delacruz come through this level in the last several years.

This time around, Kaiya Bryant (49kg, Coastal Empire Weightlifting – Savannah GA) set Pan American Records while Hampton Morris (61kg, All South Barbell – Marietta GA), Ryan Grimsland (67kg, Mash Mafia Weightlifting – Lewisville NC), Ella Grizzle (55kg, Choptank – Severna Park MD), Avery Owens (81kg, CHFP Weightlifting – Fort Meade MD) and Dade Stanley (81kg, Team Divergent – Beaufort SC) all stood atop the podium for Team USA. Congrats to them and their coaches Kerri Goodrich, Tripp Morris, Travis Mash, Anthony Hernandez, Cara Heads Slaughter and Ray Jones respectively. Our congrats also to fellow medalists Julia Yun, Nia Walker, Lander Wells, Kayleb Quintero, Dean Goad Jr, Joziah Johns and Kye Bryant. Many of our medalists were adding to medals won at the World level this March. Many of the team are also able to go onto Lima, Peru to contest the 2020 Youth Worlds. A special mention for Ryan Grimsland who added the Best Lifter trophy to his Gold medals and existing Pan American records.

Speaking of Lima, in case you missed it (ICYMI!), our 2019 Pan American Games team competed well in Lima.. Comparing our performance to the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, where we won two medals courtesy of Kendrick Farris and Norik Vardanian, we were able to win 5 medals for the highest raise of any US sport except for Diving in this Pan American Games. The fact that this competition was not a huge priority for a majority of our athletes as their sights were set on bigger prizes in Pattaya and Tokyo, is another sign of the improvement in our on the platform performance.

Elsewhere, we had a small team of athletes compete at the Cup of the Blue Swords in Meissen, Germany. The team did exceptionally well, bringing back gold medals for Sarah Wright (49kg, East Coast Gold – High Point NC), Meredith Alwine (71kg, Mash Mafia Weightlifting – Virginia Beach VA) and Jessie Bradley (81kg, Power & Grace Performance – Provo UT). It turned out to be a special week for Jessie Bradley, who got engaged to former World Junior team-mate Nate Stemo over Labor Day weekend. Meanwhile, Meredith Alwine won the Best Lifter Trophy for the meet, while Joelle Emery (59kg, Lily Weightlifting – Ann Arbor MI) also took home a medal. Finally, 5-time National Champion Travis Cooper (89kg, East Coast Gold – Wilmington NC) and Stephanie Lemmen (55kg, High Desert Athletics – Tuscon, AZ) put in respectable totals, finishing just off the podium in 4th place.

Coaches had their own event this month too, with around 80 – including those from overseas on an IWF Grant – arriving in Miami FL for the 2019 Coaching Symposium. As occurred in 2018m there was absolute rave reviews but we are going to take a pause on the Symposium in 2020, it will return in 2021 in a Western USA location.

 Team USA was also in action in the Masters age group, where our Women won the IWF Masters World Championship, Kristi Brewer (W35 64kg, Meridian ID – Team Juggernaut) took home the Grand Master trophy that celebrates the overall best female of the competition and Team USA won too many medals to count. Jane Higgins (W70, Thor’s Stone Athletic Club – Lebanon NH), Andrea Woodyatt (W65, Unattached – Knoxville TN), Holly Arrow (W60, Team SAW – Brownsville OR), Terri Spies (W55, Team Montana – Belgrade MT), Loretta Kikuchi (W50, HI Peformance Athletics – Wailuku HI), Rick Bucinell (M55, Adaptation Barbell – Burke VA), Robert Arroyo (M50, Fort-Nash WLC – Olympia WA) and 2x Olympian Chad Vaughn (M35, Spoon Barbell – Temple, TX) all won Best Lifter Trophies in their age groups. Our Masters prove Team USA is competitive from our youngest athletes to our eldest, aged over 85. Congratulations Masters!

Masters were also the focus of attention in Colorado Springs CO, where Masters camp participants enjoyed a week at the Olympic & Paralympic Training Center and Air Force Academy, learning from 3x Olympian and Olympic medalist Cheryl Haworth among a roster of coaching experiences. We’ll be hosting this annual event again in 2020, but remember you can also take the once in alLifetime opportunity to participate in the Ultimate Camp in Tokyo, Japan.

We look forward to seeing some of those Masters together with athletes from around the world including India, Lebanon, Canada, China, Australia, Great Britain, Russia, Venezuela, Armenia, Mongolia, Albania, Belarus, Spain, French Polynesia, Singapore and New Zealand.

At the same venue, the Olympic Qualification event, the San Diego Open will take place with teams from China, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, Guatemala, Marshall Islands, Curacao, American Samoa, Burundi, Cameroon, Uzbekistan, Puerto Rico and Kosovo amongst others will go head to head with Team USA in a Bronze level Olympic Qualification event.

Domestically, September will see us all arrive at the Nike American Open Series 3, powered by Rogue Fitness at the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, FL. At the time of writing it appears that Hurricane Dorian will likely not strike landfall in eastern Florida, though we have thoughts with those further up the coast where at this time it appears it may make landfall in the Carolinas. With 1200 entries, it will be a large competition and a significant challenge to manage. We are still seeking LWC referees to help out with marshalling and weigh ins. If you are able to help, please reach out to events@usaweightlifting.org ! At the AO Series 3, the IWF Junior World Championship team will be cut down to 20 people, since we must register our preliminary team of 20 Men and 20 Women with the IWF before the final qualifier (AO Finals), and we’ll also be looking for our teams for several events occurring from November until the end of the year.

The Ocean Center is the home of the 1987 World Championships, which was the first IWF World Championships for Women. It’s perhaps then appropriate that we come back to this place as we have reached gender parity amongst our athlete members, with women now equaling men for athlete participation. We are excited to see many women coming through the officiating and coaching ranks with Kerri Goodrich (Coastal Empire Weightlifting) becoming the first female to coach an athlete to a World medal earlier this year at Las Vegas IWF 2019 Youth World Championships. Speaking of which, our Women’s Camp at Rogue Fitness HQ in Columbus OH was once again a success and we look to return to this type of camp next year in Chula Vista CA at the Elite Athletic Center.

While that is going on, the US Olympic & Paralympic Assembly takes place in Colorado Springs CO. This is an annual event that brings together administrative and athlete leaders from the various stakeholder groups across the US Olympic & Paralympic movements, including the National Governing Body Council of which USA Weightlifting is a member. Sadly, this year the Assembly coincides with the IWF Congress so we have to split our representation at these events.

So that’s brought you up to date on what happened in August, and what’s ahead here in September. So, with that done, I want to take you into a little bit of a deeper dive into USA Weightlifting. Over the last few weeks some coach members have raised questions of USA Weightlifting, quite reasonably so. It means I as a leader of this organization, need to do a better job of communicating with our stakeholders. Running a National Governing Body is a significant challenge with different stakeholders to satisfy, and only limited resources to do so. This has only been exacerbated in the, as one personal coach put it, enter the “Age of ROBI”.

Since 2016, we have dedicated ourselves to bringing about change in our sport, domestically and internationally. We dedicated ourselves to changing the paradigm from a Centralized system to the DTCL (Decentralized Training, Centralized Leadership) model that we have now, which emphasizes the extreme importance of home training and personal coach of the athlete. It is a unique system worldwide, quite frankly often questioned abroad and one of which I am extremely proud to lead our often large delegation. It is also the reason why the paradigm has changed to the expectation of the personal coach to attend every competition.

In doing so, we dedicated ourselves to an improved service culture, which we have achieved through the onboarding of service-orientated and hard-working professional staff, and through policies and procedures that truly push out the ability to perform to those in the field, and relies on open communication and listening to those in the field.

It was right, and it still is, to have that decentralized training model. It is fundamentally different but the results simply speak for themselves. Let me be absolutely clear: I believe our personal coaches in the United States are amongst the best, if not the very best in the world at preparing athletes for competition. As we see personal coaches and athletes spend more and more time together we seem to be arriving, slowly, at somewhat of an American system concept as best practices are exchanged between our very best coaches.

So, when we receive feedback that we are not supportive of personal coaches, I empathize that personal coaches now feel an obligation to travel with their athlete no matter the level of the competition. I also agree that, generally, this is an enhancement to the performance of the athlete. However, the reality is that we have resources that stretch only so far.

Since 2013 we have consistently increased funding for coaches. So far in 2019, we have funded 53 coaching trips (including 10 for the 2019 IWF World Championships, though one has since decided not to attend). Here is a breakdown of what that looks like:

2013

Core Meets Attn.

Ad-Hoc Meets Attn (Inc Uni)

Athletes Funded

Coaches Funded

Athletes Self-Funded

Coaches Self-Funded

Stipend Total

5 (no YPA)

2

31

11

34

9

Not Available


2014

Core Meets Attn.

Ad-Hoc Meets Attn (Inc Uni)

Athletes Funded

Coaches Funded

Athletes Self-Funded

Coaches Self-Funded

Stipend Total

6

3

41

11

43

17

Not Available

 

2015

Core Meets Attn.

Ad-Hoc Meets Attn (Inc Uni)

Athletes Funded

Coaches Funded

Athletes Self-Funded

Coaches Self-Funded

Stipend Total

6

3

65

12

21

19

Not Available

2015 Total Expense: $382k

2016

Core Meets Attn.

Ad-Hoc Meets Attn (Inc Uni)

Athletes Funded

Coaches Funded

Athletes Self-Funded

Coaches Self-Funded

Stipend Total

6

3

79

12

21

18

480k

2016 Total Expense: $368k

2017

Core Meets Attn.

Ad-Hoc Meets Attn (Inc Uni)

Athletes Funded

Coaches Funded

Athletes Self-Funded

Coaches Self-Funded

Stipend Total

6

1

96

28

16

37

603k

2017 Total Expense: $560k

2018

Core Meets Attn.

Ad-Hoc Meets Attn (Inc Uni)

Athletes Funded

Coaches Funded

Athletes Self-Funded

Coaches Self-Funded

Stipend Total

6

3

100

37

26

36

741k

2018 Total Expense: $738k

2019

Core Meets Attn.

Ad-Hoc Meets Attn (Inc Uni)

Athletes Funded

Coaches Funded

Athletes Self-Funded

Coaches Self-Funded

Stipend Total

6

11

127

*12 at LVIO

53

110

*49 at LVIO

46

700k (Projected)

*Does not include Qatar Cup, IberoAmerican Open/Jnr/Yth/15U, Barbados

2019 Total Expense so far: $552k not including any meet after July.

 

This is not to say that we cannot do more, and we are committed to looking at the way we fund coaches and we are open to ideas. I am interested, for example to create a Coaching Endowment Fund post-Olympic Games where we can create an investment fund, the draw on which can be used to fund a personal coach. So, that when the athlete is funded, so is the personal coach.

Athlete funding is similar, at the moment we provide a minimum standard for funding of a Top 6 finish at the Junior and Youth Worlds. Due to the very good performance of our team, it looks like our entire 2020 Youth World Team will likely be fully funded. I do not apologize for raising the bar on performance, based on evidence since my time here in 2013.

Where we can perhaps improve, is the Junior and Youth Pan American events, and we will look to tweak the program for this coming year. Though neither team was totally self funded, as we do have a data analysis clause which allows us to analyze the data against the history of Olympians in that age and weight categories. Five athletes on our Youth Pan American team earned funding in this manner. We will be looking to see if there is a performance based solution that makes sense at this level.

In addition to the Stipend level above, we also allow athletes a performance fund which allows them to reclaim performance expenses, which can include paying the coach. We also offer significant bonus payments especially at key meets like the Olympic Games and IWF World Championships.

In order to continue to be transparent, we are the only NGB to publish our operating budget and accounts to our website, which is available to any member at any time.

With all that said, we are making progress in areas of funding, communication and transparency, especially since 2016. I do understand and sympathize when some athletes, especially those that could reasonably be described as elite and their coaches, feel they are falling through the cracks.

There will always be that athlete, no matter where the line is drawn, but the reality is we are pushing our budget right to the edge at this time. If we are successful in Tokyo, we can certainly take another look and we are already actively thinking about how we select and fund teams in the 2020-2024 quad, while retaining the successful learnings from this quad.

The “Age of ROBI” has taken our sport into a different period, with many more meets, more athletes involved and more demands on everyone’s pockets. We are open to membership ideas provided for a performance-based methodology to balance our funding and of course, our revenue.

Tokyo Strong:

Another area which has come under the spotlight is the Tokyo Strong program. It is fair to say that this requires a good understanding of the Olympic Games environment and is a challenge to explain succinctly in writing. With that said, here is a brief outline:

In each Olympic Games, a nation receives a certain amount of credentials for non-athletes. The Olympic Committee of the nation can then distribute those as they see fit, meaning that it is very challenging for a sport to get what they need. In our case, we have been allocated (for the very first time), enough credentials for each personal coach to have access to the venue on the day of competition – but not for training or any other time.

Meanwhile, the USOPC usually solves this problem by having a HPTC (High Performance Training Center) located close by. Since Tokyo is a challenge for space downtown, the USOPC chose to have this almost 1hr 30 mins drive from the Athlete Village which is not a suitable solution for our athletes. Moreover, we also have to provide housing for our personal coaches and for our athletes after they compete and can no longer live in the village.

A solution to this issue, plus the ability to dictate how many times we train and when, and the ability for non-rights holder media to access the training venue which is extremely valuable as we look to grow our sport. We plan to build a training facility outside the credentialed area for the exclusive use of Team USA Weightlifting (our athletes and their personal coaches) while in Tokyo. We have achieved this by fostering a donor program, primarily from outside of our sport (with sincere thanks to member Martine Lellis for her significant efforts), who are interested to attend the Olympic Games and to do so via supporting a team on the ground there.

Of course, we are seeking further donors to cover the final amount of Tokyo Strong, so if you are such a donor and want to be in Tokyo, reach out at phil.andrews@usaweightlifting.org

Marketing:

A final priority for us in the coming year is to spend on marketing our sport. With perhaps unique opportunities associated with the Olympic Games, our goal is to put more barbells in people’s hands. It can become frustrating to spend money on corporate businesses to market the sport, when we have so many demands on our funding from our athletic community, but the reality is we need to market our sport.

These are relatively brief items, but as always, we are open to conversation, questions and ideas. I invite any of you to call me, or email me:

Phil.andrews@usaweightlifting.org

719.200.6020