Last week at the Southern California Weightlifting Summer Classic in Costa Mesa, I coached my team of 9 lifters, 5 of them in their first meet.  After each meet I reflect back on what went well, what didn’t and what I and my lifters can do to get better results in the future.  Competitions also give me the opportunity to see what other coaches and lifters are doing and what situations might be addressed in this blog or in future clinics, webinars or presentations. 

One topic that I rarely see addressed is that of rating a lifter.  This is the skill of determining the true 100% in a particular competition.  In the post meet coaching gatherings at national events we often sit around and talk about a particular lifter’s best efforts in the meet and whether or not they could have done more and how much more.  We are in fact rating each other’s lifters.  This helps to make us all the more accurate. 

For instance, one coach might say to another, “That was a great third attempt lift, but I think your lifter was good for another 3 kilos.”  The second might reply with something like, “You’re right about that but that was still a PR!”  By engaging in this sort of banter, we sharpen our abilities to rate lifters.

For many of us the process started when we lifted for a team and spent so much time watching each other train.  After watching weeks of misses and makes and then watching the resulting lifts in competition, we got fairly skilled at assessing the potential of each other.  When we went into coaching we spent even more time watching and assessing and developing our capacity to rate.

Prior to the Meet

In the two weeks before the meet we will have two or more test days in which my lifters will go up to 95% or more on the snatch and clean & jerk.  Their successful lifts are recorded and from these figures I can begin to rate my lifters for the upcoming competition.  I am aware that the conditions in the gym are not as stimulating as competition so that is a factor that must be taken into consideration in the rating process.

By watching these lifts I can formulate 100% figures for the meet.  They may or may not match the 100% figures we’ve been using to calculate intensities in training.  I can then calculate first attempt weights which should hover around the 94% figure of my expected outcomes.  These figures go down on the sheet that I or my assistants carry to the weigh-in where we are to provide the openers.

In the Heat of Battle

Once the lifting starts I want to watch each attempt closely for technical accuracy, dynamic (speed and rhythm) and body language.  These are all indicators that are to be considered when picking the 2nd and 3rd attempt weights.  Two of my newbies, Ben and Brian, missed their opening snatches just by failing to maintain good technique.  Both missed their seconds as well.  Both pulled it together on thirds and were able to stay in the competition and thereby proving to themselves that they could perform under pressure.  I was delighted to hear both of them remark on the lightness of the successful snatches.  I knew they had achieved the altered state.

This feeling of success carried over to their clean & jerks and both were successful with all 3 attempts, the heaviest being personal records.  I believe I rated their snatches and clean & jerks accurately, but they failed to perform well on the snatches.  This is not a criticism, but a noting of an empirical truth that must be remediated for future competitions.

Bree was also lifting in her first meet but she was formerly a sprinter so had experience as a solo competitor.  She was also a one-time actress so I knew she was confident performing in front of an audience.  I was able to call accurate seconds (both were successful) and accurate thirds (both were unsuccessful).  These were good calls.  If all weights are made in competition, quite frequently it is because the weights called are too light.  There should be a chance of failure with third attempts or the athlete is not being challenged.  Six for six is an encouraging concept, but only if the called third attempt weights are 100% for the lifter on that particular day.

Jeff was overly amped up for his first meet and it was my job to keep him focused on moving correctly.  He did well, making 4 of 6.  His successful lifts were PR’s and he is so anxious to redeem himself that his training will be especially focused from this point further. 

Rodrigo was also in his first meet and a real surprise.  Weights that were challenging in training just flew up, and I thus ended up calling his thirds too light.  He went 6 for 6, but lifted nowhere near his true potential for that day.  I will keep this in mind for the future and call his competition attempts more accurately.

As For the Others

Kristen Garcia had only trained with me a couple of times before this meet, had spent one week at the Masters Camp two weeks before, and then complained of getting sick the week before the meet.  In spite of all this she went 5 for 6 and finished with an official PR of 115 clean & jerk which she was not confident she could make, but I was.  I knew she was altered so I encouraged her to take a weight she really hadn’t planned on lifting, but she did.

Art was making a comeback, and although not especially peaked, made 3 snatches and 2 clean & jerks with heavier weights than he’d lifted in training in months.  He hadn’t lifted in a meet in a couple of years, and was reminded how a competition could transport him to a higher level of accomplishment.

Tom hadn’t lifted in a meet in 9 months, but still went 5 for 6 and lifted 2 PR’s, including a very clutch save of his third clean & jerk.  He had been planning on 140 for his third, but I felt that that would be beyond his capabilities and so called the 136 that was definitely 100% for the day.

Ben Hinkle was lifting in his second meet and went 4 for 6 with 3 PR’s.  He was altered and is definitely committed to becoming altered again and lifting even more weight.

The Next Step

The capacity to rate lifters is instinctive and it is developed over years of watching lifters and understanding the relationship between training, the individual psyche, and the altering capacity of competition.  Once a coach learns to rate his or her own lifters, but the next step is to learn to rate your opposition even if you’ve never seen them until the day of the competition.  Coaching is fun!