Like all close family, weightlifters and CrossFitters have our contentious times, but also like family, we show how much we appreciate each other from time to time. In that spirit I'd like to say to CrossFit and CrossFitters everywhere, THANK YOU for what you have done and keep doing for the sport of weightlifting in the USA.
I took four lifters to a local meet at CrossFit Endeavor, near Columbus, Ohio, yesterday. Two of them needed a total to qualify for the American Open in December. Now I've been in the sport a long time, and local meets have always been much the same: 15 to 30 lifters in a session or two, mostly the same few faces we've seen for years. The spectators would be a smattering of girlfriends, husbands, parents or bored friends trying to sit through the sameness of the competition until their friend or relative lifts, when they can -- mercifully -- go home and watch the last half of the football game or finish weekend errands. But that was before CrossFit. Before CrossFit introduced barbells and Olympic lifting to tens or hundreds of thousands of average people.
I encountered something very different from my previous experience at this local meet. There were not 20 lifters but 70. Not a dozen spectators, there were a couple hundred. And they were engaged. They cheered and stood and crowded shoulder to shoulder for a better view. And mind you there were no world or national records being put up. Not even state records. They cheered for 150 or 200 pounds. And when someone put 300 pounds over their heads, the place went nuts.
You see most of the crowd was CrossFitters. They knew what even two hundred pounds over their heads feels like. They know in their bones and tendons and shaking muscles just how heavy 300 pounds really is-and they appreciate like hell anyone who can get that from the ground to overhead and hold it.
Most of the competitors were CrossFitters, too. Their technique was shaky. Their understanding of how a meet runs-counting attempts, kilos instead of pounds, the time clock and rules, even how the bar is loaded-was sketchy at best. But they came with fire in their bellies and love in their hearts for this sport. The rest are details they'll fill in as they go.
For CrossFitters, competitors and fans alike, qualifying for a national level meet is a big deal. Those of us who have been in the sport for some time come to think of qualifying for Nationals or the American Open as simply a foot in the door, the beginning of a real weightlifting career. CrossFitters understand just how few people get that good, good enough to be at Nationals. They appreciate it. My lifter Jon Dawson had a good but not great day for him. He went 3 for 6 and hit just what he needed for the American Open. But his last two Clean & Jerks were the heaviest of the meet. And when it was announced that he'd qualified for the AO, you'd have thought it was announced he'd won gold at the Olympics. Jon has labored long and hard for those lifts and I think he was touched how many people acknowledged the accomplishment. It is a big deal. And CrossFitters know it.
How does all this help weightlifting? CrossFit has brought a big injection of passion to weightlifting. As many have pointed out already, CrossFitters are eager to better themselves at the lifts, and this has allowed some of us weightlifting coaches to scratch out a living from teaching the lifts. Paid coaches are professional coaches who keep getting better at their craft rather than treating it as a hobby. CrossFit has created a growing fan base for weightlifting, which I believe will eventually lead to growing numbers of kids entering the sport. CrossFit means more talent, more money, and a growing and better funded USA Weightlifting. After yesterday, it is clear to me how true that will be in the coming years. Someone said recently that if you don't love weightlifting, you are not in weightlifting. Well, CrossFitters are bringing the love by the boxful.
Dan Bell is a USA Weightlifting National Level Coach and Head Coach of Rubber City Weightlifting in Akron, Ohio. He writes a blog at coachdanbell.wordpress.com
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