2016 University National Championships Round-up

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What does the Force Weightlifting team actually do?

The life of a weightlifter is marked by long periods of training with very few opportunities to show off their skills. It is the nature of the sport. Lots of training sessions and every 3 months or so a chance to demonstrate all of their training on the platform.

Within weightlifting, the goal is to qualify for the next “championships”; Youth (Under 17), Junior (under 20), University, Senior and Masters national championships. Qualifying in weightlifting means meeting strict standards of performance set by the national governing body USA Weightlifting.

These meets are the biggest of the year, and mean you are competing against the best in the country.

This past weekend I traveled down to New Orleans for the University National Championships with 6 lifters from Force Fitness (we actually had 11 athletes qualify, but being university students, some couldn’t make the trip). For most of these athletes this was the biggest meet of their lives, so you can imagine that nerves were high.

Coach Wil Fleming and Trevor Allen watch Ryan Stemme as he prepares to lift at the 2016 University National Championships

Coach Wil Fleming and Trevor Allen watch Ryan Stemme as he prepares to lift at the 2016 University National Championships

Meet Preparation

My job as a coach starts weeks and months before the meet when I am designing the training program, so my first test is to see if the athletes are feeling good and rested by the time the meet comes around. If they are moving fast and feeling strong then the program worked well. In this case, all of the athletes looked ready. We had started 12 weeks prior with their preparations, and in this round of training I had gone with a new approach to designing their programs- it was a welcome sight to see that the athletes were moving fast.

Once meet week comes around it is about mental preparation and making sure the athletes can rest enough to perform their best. We talked about what to eat before the meet, how much rest, and visualization of how the meet would and could go.

Meet Weekend

Being a national meet there were over 400 athletes competing across 15 different weight classes. This meant that each athlete was separated to different sessions and days. Each session is about 2-2 1/2 hours, and the athletes get 3 attempts in the snatch and then 3 attempts in the clean and jerk. Trevor and Clark were scheduled to compete on Friday, Cindy and Ryan were scheduled to compete on Saturday, and Jesus and Matt would round out the crew competing on Sunday.

National weightlifting meets are always fun, but exhausting experiences. The job of a coach on meet day is to make sure that the athlete warms up in the right time frame, and to choose the lifters’ attempts. Not to overstate the importance, but this job allows the athlete to hit their best numbers possible if it is done well, and can really hurt the athletes’ performance if done poorly. From my perspective, I want to do it perfectly so that the athlete can have the best day possible. With 6 athletes of my own to coach, I knew the weekend was going to be busy from morning to evening.

How’d we do?

The weekend was a resounding success. Matt and Jesus finished in the top 10 in their weight classes, each hitting PR’s along the way. Matt stepped up with a big 308lbs snatch while Jesus made a 15lb PR in the clean and jerk (355lbs), and even attempted a weight on his last attempt that would have earned him a bronze medal in the clean and jerk (in his first university national championships).

The performance of the weekend was from Ryan Stemme, who hit all 6 of his lifts and achieved PR’s in both the snatch and clean and jerk. It was also Ryan’s first national meet, so stepping up on that sort of stage was incredible.

Ryan Stemme completeing a Snatch at the 2016 University National Championships

Ryan Stemme completeing a Snatch at the 2016 University National Championships

Not every athlete was overjoyed about their performance, but the important thing was that there were very specific reasons, that can be fixed, as to why they ended up not pleased. As a coach, this is nothing but encouraging. Better food on meet day, and better mental preparation are easy things to fix, and both will lead to immediate results.

Now What?

Competing at a national meet, in and of itself, is a great honor and something that not many athletes get to do. Each of the athletes should be so proud of their results, and as a coach I am proud of the hard work that each of them put in to get there.

If you are interested in weightlifting or know someone that might be, please drop me a line personally (wil@forcebloomington.com), and I’ll tell you how to get started with us. We currently offer a class called ForceLift which is designed to learn and improve the Olympic Lifts. We also have the Force Weightlifting Club (athletes mentioned above are apart of this club) which trains throughout the week and focuses solely on Olympic lifting. Email us if you’re interested- we’d love to help you out.

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