Over the last seven days I got my first experience of coaching for Great Britain at the highest level of International Powerlifting and I have to say, it was incredible! The Championship this year was held in Belarus, Minsk and if I’m totally honest, I was more apprehensive about visiting the country than I was about coaching on the big stage. It was a process of gathering document after document, photos, insurance, visas and getting stamps, stamps and more stamps! I’ve never been made to jump through so many hoops in order to get into and out of a country before. Due to this and some speculative hearsay from friends and clients, I’d also built up a mental image of how I thought the country and people would be, which lead to me being pretty surprised upon arrival. This may highlight my ignorance, but the city was modern, there were some fantastic buildings, the streets and roads were large and clean and the people on the whole were pleasant, a lot of which if I’m honest, I wasn’t expecting.
MY COACHING EXPERIENCE
Having competed Internationally in Texas last year and coached and handled lifters at regional and national level already, I was familiar and confident with the processes lifters were to go through on the day they compete and how to organise numbers and warm ups. However, as an Assistant Coach, I wasn’t sure exactly how much responsibility I’d be given or what I’d be able to do. Naturally, I was eager to get as involved as possible!
The first few days were the Sub-Junior and Junior competitions. These were the most hectic days, with between two and four lifters in each morning, afternoon and evening session and lifting flights overlapping, it was all hands-on deck. Taking lifters to kit checks and weigh-ins, helping them set the correct rack heights and making sure they were in the right place at the right time were all tasks to be sorted during the 2-hours before each session got under way.
Then the really exciting part follows. A loose plan needs to be outlined for each lifter before the warm up starts. I say loose plan, because more often than not, you will need to diverge in response to numerous factors such as a missed attempt from your lifter, a missed attempt from a competitor, an opportunity to jump up a place or two, a medal shot, or even a title shot! As simple as powerlifting is, some planning and structure to warm-ups and attempt selection goes a long way to dictating the success or failure for the lifter competing. In fact, there’s quite a nack to getting this right and if it’s not spot on, especially on the World stage, medals can be lost! When devising the plan, figuring out the ball park for third attempts, finalising and having ideas for first and second attempts, setting out the warm-up weights in a logical order and ensuring they take each warm-up weight at the correct times are all things that need to be considered and carried out effectively.
Once the lifter is on the platform, things can get very tactical, especially when medals, World titles and team points are on the line. Knowing when to push the an extra 2.5kg, when to be a bit more conservative for the long game and when to put it all on the line and go for broke are important decisions that were made every single day of the Championships by the GB Coaches. For the most part, I was working with one of the coaches to carry out all of the above. It was also great to get the opportunity to take the lead with a couple of lifters, working out their numbers and taking them out onto the platform. It was pretty much the same story with the senior team, but there were more coaches for the second half of the week which meant it wasn’t as hectic.
The whole week was a great experience for multiple reasons. Knowing myself what it’s like to hear those two words…”BAR’S LOADED!” and the ‘through the roof’, levels of arousal and adrenaline you have walking onto the platform makes it all the more special, since you are able to really relate to what that lifter is thinking and feeling. It was amazing to be part of such a great team of talented athletes and coaches were medals were strategized and won, PB’s were broken and National, Commonwealth and European Records were set. The more you coach, the more you learn, the more ingrained the competition rules become and the better you get at the numbers, attempt selection and strategy. It’s safe to say I learnt heaps out in Minsk and would also like to think my input throughout the week contributed to some of the success and great performances from the lifters on the team. I’m definitely hoping to get the chance for more International coaching in the future!
SOME OF THE GREATS
To round-up, I thought I’d brag a little about managing to meet and get a few snaps with some of the greats from the Powerlifting and Strength world! Above you can find me with the heavy weight powerlifter and two-time World Silver Medalist Jezza Uepa, four-time World’s Strongest Man Žydrūnas Savickas, and legendary powerlifting commentator, Geno! I was gutted to miss my chance with the champ himself, Mr. Ray Williams, but the times I saw him he was already being swarmed by fans, or was in the warm-up room where he definitely didn’t want to be disturbed. One for next year maybe!