How many of your (non training) friends know what a “snatch” is? How about the “clean and jerk”?
I recently saw the movie “American Weightlifting” by Greg Everett (from Catalyst Athletics) – and let me just start by saying that this is not going to be a comprehensive review nor a run-through of all the highlights. If you are interested please go and see for yourself here: http://www.americanweightliftingfilm.com/
What was most interesting for me, as someone involved in the Danish weightlifting community, was how many things from the movie that mirror the situation here. The greatest challenges that weightlifting face in the US and in DK are basically the same:
1) A lack of knowledge of the sport in the general public
2) As a consequence of a) a lack of funding and b) exposure for the athletes
While many recreational athletes take pride in the fact that they are part of a “niche”, it’s without a doubt a big hindrance for anyone considering weightlifting as a career.
I did my Bachelor’s degree in Sports Science, but even my classmates at the time had no idea what ‘real’ olympic weightlifting entails. The most often asked questions (in order of frequency):
– How can you be that small and still compete in weightlifting? (said with a look indicating that they would expect me to turn into the female hulk in front them)
– How much do you bench? Really?
– Ehhh…. what do you do at competitions then….?? Lift stuff?? You’re damn right, Einstein!
I’d usually ask them a follow-up question: “Have you never seen weightlifting on TV?” .. ” you know, strong people, up on a stage, stuff like that? This would lead to the next question for me:
– Oh (insert look of relief) … It’s the thing where you are in a bikini!! Never. Mind.
Ok. So people are ignorant as regards to weightlifting. The point is this: What can be done?? I don’t have all the answers, but some ideas. CrossFit has already played a HUGE part in spreading the message about weightlifting – both in the US, but certainly also here in Denmark. We now also have a “CrossFit committee” in the Danish Weightlifting Association” (Sarah and I are both members – she is also the chairman), and we have been hosting several joint events for weightlifters and Crossfitters… Which is all very nice…
BUT! The huge challenge lies in the education of the broad masses. School children should know about weightlifting and barbells should be a natural part of PE classes. This process seems to be much further ahead in the US, than here in Denmark – partly because sports in general play a much greater part in their educational system. In Denmark, the main challenge is educating parents and teachers about the benefits (and safety!) of well-structured strength training. Furthermore, the applicability for other sports must be highlighted. Weightlifting can be used as a positive supplement for both handball and soccer (the most popular sports in DK), but again, this demands information and education. One big difference between the US and DK is that here, the majority of sports clubs are non-profit and the training is foreseen by volunteers (often parents) that might not have the time, desire or prerequisites to develop new coaching methods.
One thing is clear – the solution must be generated from within the weightlifting society. We can’t sit and wait for anyone else to realize how amazing weightlifting is, both as a sport and as a training methodology. Simply put, we must ‘make them an offer they can’t refuse’. I don’t have that offer on hand, but I am confident that it can be found within all the knowledge and experience in the community.
I hope that the positive flow of people (and thereby funds) into weightlifting generated by CrossFit will help spread the knowledge of and about weightlifting, and that we will see the sport continue to grow and thrive in Denmark.