The ultimate pay off for training is the competition. There are of course all levels of competitions, ranging from local competitions to national to worldwide. Each one provides the opportunity to put all of the days, weeks, months and sometimes years of practice into motion. The level of competition matters to some degree as the stakes are higher the higher you go, but it doesn’t truly matter in terms of how well the athlete wishes to perform. Entering any competition, the athlete seeks to perform at their best level, which would be the ultimate experience, the fruition of hard work, surfacing for everyone to witness, for the breath of anxiety to exhale and for the hug after exiting the stage to be one of joy.
Coach Ben had the opportunity to experience all three of the above this past weekend at the 2016 American Open Championships. He took a trip down to Orlando, Fla. to unite with his best friend, Robyn, who had qualified for the Open. The trip was not a reunion just for the sake of reunions, it was a special trip in which Coach Ben would have the opportunity to coach his best friend in one of the most important competitions in her young weightlifting career.
Last week we described what events led up to the trip and what Coach Ben’s expectations were prior to traveling to the American Open. Now, we take a glimpse into his memories of the occasion and reveal the uniqueness of the experience.
Use one word to describe the experience at the American Open and then explain why you chose that word.
Humbling. I have never felt so out of shape in my entire life.
Take us through the series of events upon your arrival. (this can be basic, but expand as much as you want to as this is the chance to really give a behind the scenes glimpse)
After arrival and checking in to the hotel, Robyn and I went to Athlete/Coach check-in and got out badges/wristbands for the weekend. Went to the Check Scale to check weight on the competition scale, and then Robyn went to the sauna to try to cut the final half kilo (about 1 lbs.). I went to the technical meeting to hear about session updates and athlete changes. The following morning at 6 am, we went to weigh ins, ate breakfast, and then began warming up for the snatch around 815. If you’ve never been to a big meet, it’s incredibly hard to describe how frantic the warm up room is. Weight change declarations, sharing platforms with people that need grossly different weights loaded on the bar, trying to pace the warm-up… it gets pretty nutty. I helped coach 2 other sessions that day, so when it was all said and done, it was about 15 hours of coaching.
Did anything happen that was unexpected? If so, what was it and how did you adjust to it?
During my friend Tylor’s session, there were 37 weight change declarations within 5 kilos of each other. He took his first snatch attempt, and then it was another 45 minutes before he was able to take his second attempt. We had to complete start a fresh warm-up, all the way down to the empty bar and build back up.
What did you find to be the most inspiring part of the event?
Witnessing people take massive risks for even bigger payoffs. Colin Burns broke the American Snatch record after missing his second attempt.
Tell us about the people you met that you perhaps look up to in the WL community.
I had the opportunity to meet some of the most successful coaches in the business. Max Aita, Chad Wesley Smith, Ursula, John McKenna, Greg Everett, Danny Camargo. I also got to fangirl a little bit and meet some of the celebrities within the sport. Kendrick Farris (who is the nicest person ever, btw), Mattie Rogers, Kristin Pope, Caine Wilkes.
What are three takeaways from being a coach at The American Open?
-You have to have a game plan and be flexible with it.
-Know your athlete. Being able to give the CORRECT pep-talk is very important.
-Pay attention. Split second changes and technical errors can be disastrous if you don’t have an eye on what’s going on.
Now that you have been there, done that, what advice would you give to a first time coach who may be in your shoes next time?
Pay attention to what the veteran coaches are doing. Have helpers. Someone to load the weights for you so your athlete doesn’t have to (they should never have to), so that you can watch the cards/board.
Share with us your post-event “kudos” speech to your athlete.
There wasn’t much of a speech. There was a huge bear hug and a massive smile.
Now what would you like to do with all of your new knowledge?
I would love to get some athletes enrolled in their very own meets/competition. I wouldn’t necessarily say I learned a lot of new stuff, but just helped to reinforce what I already have learned and put that into practice again on a larger scale.
Did you bring back any souvenirs?
An insane itch to get training, and a ton of hilarious inside jokes and memories.