ne of the biggest challenges of running a youth weightlifting program is . . . finding youth weightlifters! While competitive weightlifting is growing in popularity, many parents still regard weightlifting as conditioning for another sport. Generally, these parents will sacrifice weightlifting training in favor of the other sport or activity. And too often, coaches of the other sport will pressure athletes to give up weightlifting so they can focus solely on their sport. So, how can a coach find serious, dedicated young athletes to mold into the next generation of weightlifters?!
Here are 8 possible sources of youth weightlifters:
1. Children of Adult Weightlifters: If you currently train adult weightlifters, ask those weightlifters if they have kids! This is, in fact, how my son entered the sport. I began weightlifting with Coach Boris Urman in Kansas. Boris knew that I had a 9 year-old son, and he asked me EVERY day for a month to bring my son to the gym. My son was a competitive gymnast, and he had no interest in weightlifting. However, because of Boris’s persistence, I brought Hutch to the gym. Hutch enjoyed weightlifting, and Boris had a new lifter.
ADVANTAGE: When you train the children of adult weightlifters, you won’t have to convince the parents that weightlifting is a real sport. Plus, children are more likely to make it to practice when their parents are training alongside them.
2. Gymnastics Clubs: It is no secret that gymnasts make fantastic weightlifters. Gymnasts have great flexibility and body awareness, which transfers well into the Olympic lifts. Coach Kevin Simons, of Alpha Strength and Conditioning in Washington, offers strength and conditioning training for a gymnastics center. Some of the gymnasts enjoy weightlifting so much that they begin to lift competitively on his team.
ADVANTAGE: Gymnasts are disciplined, fearless, and accustomed to long hours in the gym. Getting them to train hard will be no problem!
3. Parks & Recreation Programs: Consider partnering with your city’s Parks & Rec department to offer a strength and conditioning program for kids. Coach Dennis Espinosa of Reps & Sets Weightlifting finds his many of his youth weightlifters this way.
ADVANTAGE: If you are in need of training space, the Parks & Rec department may offer you a space to train your competitive team in exchange for running a strength and conditioning program. This is one of the benefits Coach Espinosa receives for running a Parks & Rec program in Salina, Kansas.
4. CrossFit Kids Programs: With 1793 CrossFit Kids locations in the United States, there is sure to be an affiliate near you. Make friends with an affiliate owner, and offer to teach a Kids’ Weightlifting class.
ADVANTAGES: The affiliate owner will probably let you use the CrossFit gym to train your youth athletes, which will give you a training space if you don’t have one. The parents of your athletes are likely to be supportive, since they have seen the benefits of Olympic weightlifting first-hand.
5. Middle School & High School Sports Teams: If you know a middle school or high school sports coach, offer supplemental weightlifting training for team members. Coach Boris Urman discovered some of his best lifters, including Ian Estopare, when he developed a relationship with Estopare’s father, a high school football coach.
ADVANTAGES: Working with a whole sports team will give you a large pool of athletes from which to identify talented, interested weightlifters.
6. Friends of Current Youth Lifters: Host a “Bring Your Friend to Practice Day.” Encourage your current youth weightlifters to bring their friends to the gym and introduce them to the sport.
ADVANTAGES: Youth weightlifters are more likely to stick with the sport if they have friends on the team.
Photos courtesy of Lifting.Life