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Jessica is our 2016 Olympic Hopeful and Sarah is our 2012 Olympian in Weightlifting. We're setting out to be "Pretty Strong" and we encourage you to do the same.


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Margin for Error

     One of the things I love most about weightlifting is the pressure of doing the right things at the right time for the right results.

     The success of the athlete in weightlifting is largely due to good coaching. If you do not know too much about weightlifting, it has been said that the "real competition happens in the back." This means that what you see on the competition platform isn't necessarily all there is to the competition. All the "competition" is happening behind the competition platform in the warm up area. The athlete of course has to lift the weight and be prepared for it but, the coach is in the warm up area performing vital, game-changing functions.

     The coach has to load the weight for the athlete, make sure the athlete is in the right frame of mind, at the same time as being the supreme strategist. My coach and I always have plans: A, B, and C. Plan A is the ideal situation, everything is going the way we want and need it to. Plan B is about making quick adjustments based on other athletes performances or your own missed lifts. Plan C is the "uh-oh" plan. This is the last ditch effort to just make a total and get out of there. Coaches need to be able to tell what their athlete needs to take as a warm up attempt and when. This needs to be perfectly timed so they are primed to make their opening attempt when the weight is loaded on the bar. The coach needs to know what kind of "jumps" are necessary to keep you ahead of another athlete. [Jumps are weight increases.] A coach needs to know how to "play with the clock" in a way to buy the athlete more time for rest or to push another athlete to go ahead. A good coach can see ahead and generally get an idea of what is going to happen so they can make wiser choices for their own athlete. In weightlifting, the coach/athlete relationship is unique and special. The athlete must trust that their coach is going to make the best choices possible to put them into a good position in the competition. The athlete trusts that their coach will not place an unmanageable amount of weight on the bar.

     In one competition I was in, I had out lifted the other top two competitors in the Snatch portion of the competition. For the other girls to beat me, they would have to clean and jerk enough to even tie with me or more to beat me. The coaching mistake made by the 3rd place girl's coach was this: When there is a tie in total, the higher rank goes to the athlete with the lighter body weight. There was no way the 3rd place girl was going to make up the difference in order to win so what should have been done was to settle for 2nd place by tying in total with the other athlete to beat her on body weight. Her coach got over zealous and made her lift a weight that was unmanageable at the time and she missed it. She then took 3rd place but, could have easily placed 2nd. 

    As you can see in that scenario, and all that the coach's job entails, the room for error is very small. Once a decision is made: it most likely cannot be reversed. You have to commit to that choice. As an athlete, that same pressure is on you.

     The days, weeks, months, and training cycles of training preceding the competition are all displayed on the competition platform. The athlete must be flexible mentally, can train/compete in any circumstance, know how to execute the lift properly, eat and supplement correctly, recover enough, etc. Especially for a clean athlete, the margin for error for the athlete is very small. 

     On the competition platform, there are only 6 lifts for each lift able to be executed. There is not re-do, time-out, or make up attempts. 6 total lifts. That's it. The athlete and coach must work together flawlessly. The coach sets the athlete up; the athlete executes. The Snatch is a very technical lift. It can be performed less than 1 second's time. If you make a slight mistake at the initiation of the lift, the lift cannot be corrected. The athlete will miss the lift and there is nothing to do about it. There is simply not enough time. The athlete needs to focus every day on making as many quality repetitions in training as possible to the lift can be executed for the best results. If the athlete does their job, the coach can do theirs and vice versa. Whether or not an athlete makes the lift, that lift is now over, and the next lift needs to be done. From attempt to attempt, the athlete needs to know what correction needs to be made and can orchestrate their body into accomplishing the task. The coach needs to know how to manipulate the attempts and how to deal with their athlete in order to accomplish the task as well.

      I enjoy the challenge of competing against myself and subsequently, the other athletes. Competition really is a test of who is the better athlete/coach combination. International competition is even more exciting taking into consideration the travel, adapting to a new kind of pressure, acclimation and recovery after a time-zone change, and  training and competing in a completely different and typically unpredictable environment. These factors are why my coach and I consider results at international competitions greater than any other results. National results matter little and training results even less than that. The margin for error is very small in weightlifting. Being able to react appropriately in the right way, at the right time, for the right results, makes weightlifting very exciting.


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