The LVB Weightlifting Team recently had a new first; we traveled with three of our youth lifters to Atlanta, Georgia and coached them through their first national event. We had a few hiccups along the way which came from underestimations, and overestimations, and assumptions. I underestimated how quickly a 13 year old could grow and overestimated how easily a growing 13 year old could lose weight. I assumed that not being launched on trampolines would be obvious when you are one week out from nationals; yet one of our lifters severely sprained her ankle doing just that. And I got too ambitious with some openers when my gut told me to play it cool. Those hiccups aside, we spent four successful days growing together as a team and everyone posted a respectable total. For learning purposes, I want to detail the valuable learning moments.
So, the thing is, I should know better about childhood development. I'm not a parent but I have learned a few things playing a pseudo-parent in 1-2 hour increments at work six days a week. But it's easy to under appreciate how much someone has grown when you see them all of the time. And that's what I did with Kenzie. She is a very strong 13 year-old gymnastics convert who can nearly power snatch her body weight and who also happened to grow two inches in one month and went from 53kg to a very light 58kg. She did amazingly well at her first nationals. She powered all of her lifts and finished near the top of the 58kg weight class in the country. I believe she can place first one day soon.
Obviously we ultimately moved her from 53kg to 58kg. We should've done it sooner. We all fell into the trap of, "but look at how good you can do at THIS weight class." That game is fine for (some) adults. However, it has no place in youth sports. A healthy relationship to one's body and to the food that they consume sits above all other goals, because long after their youth weightlifting career, their body image and relationship with food still exist. So we took this as an opportunity to improve for the future: From here on out if our youth weigh more than 6% over the weight class they are listed as competing in when we are one month out from the meet, they have officially graduated into the next weight class. They can get stronger and lift more weight if they need a bigger total. I know what some of you are thinking: we need to be more proactive about weight maintenance prior to the one month mark. Those months prior to the one month mark will entail education to parents and athletes regarding healthy food choices to nourish performance and training and sleeping schedules. Also, we want to steer parents and athletes away from the trap that is the quest for a next lower weight class. If they are eating healthy and naturally drift down a weight class; that's fine. If they are eating healthily and go up a weight class; that's fine too. But that's not the goal. A healthy relationship between their body and the food they eat is the goal.
We now have a new rule regarding extracurricular activities when our athletes are two months out from competition. There will be no unnecessary extracurriculars anymore. To be deemed necessary there will have to be one heck of a reason. Zoey made me very proud at nationals. She innocently had a little too much fun 10 days out from the meet when she decided to get launched on her backyard trampoline. Zoey suffered a significant sprain in her ankle. That was a much better result than the fracture we had anticipated. At Mobility-Doc we can help move sprains along. A fracture would have warranted an instant withdrawal. Once we received the green light from Zoey's x-ray, we had her take her brace off and throw away her crutches. Don't worry. I'm a doctor. Unless you too are a doctor, please don't make that decision for your athletes. Up until the day we left for nationals, Zoey came in for treatment. We quickly progressed from walking, to PVC lifts, to powers, and finally to fulls. I honestly wasn't sure if Zoey could mentally handle the pressure of simultaneously dealing with the pain from an injury and the pressure from her first national competition. But she did it. She lifted well above 80% of her best when she was nowhere near 80% of her best health. She showed that she can train like a champion. That will take her far her in life. It still won't change the fact that next nationals she will be under house and gym arrest.
Orianna finished 8th in the country as a 63kg lifter. Her first meet was only 6 months prior to nationals and less than a year before that she didn't know what weightlifting was. She didn't even lift weights. She lifted other people as a club cheerleader. Orianna has come a very long way from where I met her. When she first started lifting she was terrified of the weights. Her mental blocks were so bad that we came up with a way of journaling her lifting feels. For months Orianna wrote light, medium, or heavy next to each set. It didn't matter if her "heavy" was yesterday's "light." We followed her feels like most people follow percentages, and it worked well. Her first meet, again, just six months prior to nationals, she snatched 50kg. She missed it twice though before making it. At nationals we opened at 60kg. I should've known better. The problem was she snatched 60kg without missing in practice for an entire month. She even snatched 67kg two weeks prior. But I know Orianna and I know better. Training makes mean something but so does competition history. She should have been opened lower because of the mental stress of a national competition not because of the physical successful lifts from weeks prior, because ultimately, the mental aspect takes precedence with her. However, Orianna is certainly a competitor, because she crushed 60kg on her third attempt. Orianna then went on to clean and jerk a lifetime PR of 80kg. She will be a champion. I will be a better coach. We have a plan moving forward.
I was thoroughly impressed with my athletes and their families. We had a group of thirteen people in total. We ate together, trained together, and explored the city of Atlanta together. I look forward to how big our team will be by next year. More memories, struggles, and laughter. As a team. If you'd like to learn more about our non-profit organization and how you can support our mission, then check out our previous blog. You can also read more on our website.
John Giacalone is owner and head coach of LVB. He is also co-owner of Mobility-Doc where he routinely rehabilitates injured athletes.