fter preparing my son for four USAW Youth Nationals, I have become an expert—not because I have done so many things right, but because I have done SO. MANY. THINGS. WRONG. Let me spare you the agony of my mistakes—
Daytona Beach. The mere mention of this city sends shivers down my spine. Daytona Beach is home to beautiful beaches, a world-renowned race track, and one of my worst nightmares.
It all began when my son, Hutch, qualified for the 2014 Youth National Weightlifting competition. Hutch had worked hard, and we were excited to travel to Daytona for his first big competition. In planning the trip, I knew I would be traveling with all four of my children, so I wanted to make the trip as cost-effective as possible. With the competition on Friday morning, I purchased tickets for a Thursday flight. I didn’t want to arrive too early—that would mean more money spent on rental cars, hotel rooms, and food.
Due to a flight delay, our plane arrived in Daytona Beach at 9:00 PM. By the time we got our rental car and drove to our hotel, it was 10:30 PM. I arrived at the hotel to discover that our discount accommodations were shared by a number of people loudly enjoying the beach outside the hotel. We were exhausted, however, and attempted to sleep through the night.
Hutch’s weigh-in was from 7:00 to 8:00 AM. To allow the kids to sleep as long as possible, I set the alarm for 6:00 AM. At 6:30, we left the hotel to drive to the venue, which was a mere 15 minutes away according to the Google Maps directions I had printed off. Unfortunately, I turned the wrong direction out of the parking lot and didn’t realize my mistake until I had driven 30 minutes—in the wrong direction!
When I finally stopped to ask for directions, a kind man explained that I was about an hour away from my destination and that I could not possibly make it by 8:00. I had an ungraceful panic attack, which was witnessed by my children, who then started crying because they were scared by my reaction. I quickly turned the car around and sped to the venue, possibly breaking a few traffic laws along the way.
As I approached the venue, I still couldn’t locate it. The competition was at a school that was tucked away in a residential setting. After several frantic phone calls to Hutch’s coach, I located the venue. I sped to the curb, yanked Hutch out of the car and ran to the weigh-in. Then I realized that we had left his identification documents in the car . . . back to the car. Hutch made the weigh-in cut-off by SIXTY SECONDS.
I heaved a sigh of relief and handed Hutch his breakfast, which consisted of some muffins we had brought from the hotel’s breakfast buffet. Minutes later, Hutch’s coach called him into the warm-up area to begin warming-up. Breakfast would have to wait.
As Hutch walked back to the warm-up area, he asked me to get his gym bag out of the car. I looked. I couldn’t find it. In our haste to leave the hotel, we had left his bag—complete with singlet and shoes—in the breakfast room at the hotel. Hutch went back to the warm-up area wearing shorts, a t-shirt, and Crocs. I sped back to the hotel for his bag.
Fortunately, the story ended well. I was able to retrieve the bag, and Hutch strapped on his shoes just moments before walking onto the platform for introductions.
From this experience, I learned a few things that will make your experience much less stressful:
- Arrive 24 hours early. Arriving 24-hours early—not the night before—will give you time to acclimate to the city and find the things you need.
- Stay in one of the event hotels. USAW contracts with hotels to provide a discount rate and transportation, when necessary, to the venue. You’ll be less likely to get lost traveling to the venue if you stay in one of the event hotels. Plus, you’ll be more likely to have considerate neighbors when it is time to sleep.
- Visit the venue the day prior. Actually travel to the venue so that you know exactly where everything is located—the weigh-ins, the warm-up area, and the platforms.
- Check weight on the scales. You might be surprised to learn that your home bathroom scale is not that accurate. Do a pre-weigh on the official “check scales” the day prior to avoid unpleasant surprises on competition day.
- Put your important documents where you’ll remember them. You don’t want to show up to the weigh-ins without (i) ID (passport or birth certificate), and (ii) USAW membership card.
- Pack extra everything: socks, underwear, singlets, shoes . . . okay, I realize most people don’t own extra weightlifting shoes, but pack extra of everything else if you have them.
- Know your child. Get to know how your child reacts to the pressures of competition. For instance, your child may have a favorite pair of socks or a favorite candy bar or he may need headphones to block out the noise of the other competitors. Make advance preparations for these things.
- Plan your meals. Before you arrive at Nationals, have a plan for the food your child will eat. You don’t want to spoil your child’s hard work by sending him onto the platform fueled with greasy pizza from dinner and “whatever was on the hotel breakfast buffet.” Bring foods that will help your child perform well.
- Arrive early to the weigh-in. Weigh-in times are an exact component of the competition. If weigh-ins begin at 8:00 and end at 9:00, with lifting beginning at 10:00, you will not be allowed to compete if you show up to weigh in at 9:01.
NOTE: Arriving early will ease your stress levels, but it will not put you at the front of the line for weigh-ins. Names are called from a list. However, if you are not present when your name is called, you will go to the “back of the line” and weigh-in after the rest of the lifters who were present.
- Feed your child as soon as the weigh-in is complete. There are only two hours between the beginning of the weigh-in and the start of the weightlifting session. Eating early allows food to settle before warm-ups begin.
- Don’t feed your child too much. Your child will be hungry after potentially skipping a meal before weigh-ins. Provide some healthy foods that your child likes, but resist the urge to “make up” for the lost meal. There will be time for a big meal after the competition.
- Bring some sugar. I said it. Normally I’m not a fan of sugary drinks and candy. However, they do offer an energy boost during a competition. Just don’t overdo it. One sports drink and two or three miniature candy bars are plenty.
- Relax! Children can sense your emotions and will mirror them. If you are anxious, your child will get stressed, too.
- Turn your child over to the coach and take a seat. You child and coach have worked hard to get to this point. Don’t send confusing signals by trying to co-coach your child during the competition—unless you are also your child’s coach!
- Be proud. Your child has worked hard to get to this competition. Regardless of the results, take lots of pictures and let your child know you are proud of them.
Finally, don’t worry if it’s not perfect. As hard as you prepare, something unexpected will always arise. Fortunately, kids are resilient and can perform well, even in adverse circumstances. After all of the mayhem in Daytona Beach, Hutch still pulled out an outstanding performance and managed three national records and a first place finish. Thank goodness for good coaching (Boris Urman) and miracles!