What if I Don’t Make Weight?

The countdown is on for USA Weightlifting’s (USAW) National Youth Championships, aka Youth Nationals, and tensions are rising.  Among the stressors is . . . body weight.  Weightlifting is a weight class sport, which means that athletes only compete with others in their same weight range.  This will be our family’s fifth Youth Nationals, and our fifth year stressing about body weight.  It happens EVERY year.  The problem?

Kids keep growing!

You register your child at one body weight, and two weeks out from the competition, she is at a completely different body weight.  If an athlete is at a borderline body weight (1 to 2 kg over the weight class), do you push the athlete into a lower weight class?  What if an athlete barely made the qualifying total to participate in the competition?  Can this athlete still move up a weight class?  What if the athlete doesn’t make weight at the competition?  Can the athlete simply show up to the next session, weigh in again, and compete in a higher weight class?

Every year a handful of kids do not make weight at Youth Nationals and are not allowed to participate in the event.  It is a heartbreaking situation for the athletes, coaches, and parents who invested so much in the competition.  Save yourself some trauma by taking these precautions:

Weigh Your Athlete at Home.  Your bathroom scale is not particularly accurate.  However, it should be consistent, which means you can still work with it.  For instance, I know that my bathroom scale reads 0.3 kg lighter than a competition scale.  So, I add 0.3 kg to the number on the scale to determine a true body weight.  If you have access to a competition scale, or another very accurate scale, it will be helpful to compare your scale to determine its accuracy.

Youth athletes (chronological age of 17 or under) are now required to wear singlets at USAW weigh-ins, so make sure you check body weight with your athlete wearing a singlet.

If your athlete is well within the limits of his or her weight class, skip to step 3.

Emilia, age 12, has worked hard to make it to Youth Nationals but must move up a weight class due to a growth spurt!

Experiment in Advance. If your athlete is at a borderline bodyweight, i.e. 1-2 kg over their weight class, you must decide whether to cut weight to fit into the weight class.  Generally, athletes will be more competitive in a lighter weight class.  Some factors that affect this decision include: the athlete’s experience within the sport, age, body composition, and goals.  For instance, it should be no problem for a healthy 69-kg, 16-year old to lose 2 kg by limiting carbohydrate intake for 24-hours prior to weigh-ins.  Conversely, it will be very difficult for a lean 12-year old to shed 2 kg.  Also consider the athlete’s experience and goals.  Is this the athlete’s first national competition?  If so, do you want him or her to remember it as a miserable event involving dieting and depravation?  Is your athlete’s goal to medal or make personal records?  If you choose to cut weight, experiment at home first.  Know what works for your athlete, and have a plan before you show up at Nationals.

Bring Your Scale to the Competition.  That inaccurate bathroom scale I was talking about, yep, that thing.  Bring it with you to the competition, whether you are borderline in your weight class or not.  On Thursday, competition check-scales will be available.  Bring your bathroom scale and your athlete to the check-scale.  Check your athlete’s weight on both scales.  Now you know where you stand.  You can return to your hotel room with your bathroom scale and have some assurance of your athlete’s true weight.  If your athlete is cutting weight, he or she likely will be weighing multiple times before the competition.  It is easier to obsess about things in your hotel room rather than returning to the check-scale every few hours.  Even so, it is not a bad idea to check weight against the official check-scales as you get closer to the weigh-ins.

Make Weight Class Adjustments if Needed.  If you already know that your athlete needs to move up a weight class, make the adjustment now by contacting USAW’s National Office in writing (an email works just fine).  You can continue to made adjustments until 5:00 pm Mountain Time, Wednesday, June 13.  You can also make a weight class change at the Verification of Final Entries Meeting on Thursday, June 14 at 2:30 p.m.  After this time, NO WEIGHT CLASS CHANGES are allowed.  It is best to weigh one final time before the Verification of Final Entries Meeting to make very, very sure that you do not need to change weight classes.

Can my athlete still move up a weight class if she did not produce a qualifying total for the heavier weight class?

Yes!  As long as the athlete’s combined starting attempts at Youth Nationals are within 20 kg of the qualifying total for that weight class, the athlete can move into the heavier weight class.  For example, I registered my daughter, Emilia, for Youth Nationals based on a qualifying total she produced in January.  In January, Emilia weighed 44 kg and totaled exactly 48 kg.  I registered her for the 48 kg weight class, which required a 48 kg qualifying total (13 & Under).  Between January and June, Emilia gained 6 kg of body weight!  Fortunately, she also increased her total by 22 kg.  Because Emilia’s starting attempts (25 and 35) are within 20 kg of the required qualifying total for the 53 kg weight class (53 kg), Emilia can move up a weight class.