In the sport of Powerlifting, lifters will talk big, call other lifters out and try their best to be the biggest strongest dog on the block but in this sport it’s the numbers that really count. This also applies in the matter of respect. A lot of the younger inexperienced lifters come into the sport with a lack of respect for other lifters. Maybe due to their inexperience or maybe their age or the drive they have to make a name for themselves.
In August of 2007 I was getting ready for a meet when I was asked to come out and help with the 2nd Annual Byrd Memorial Powerlifting & Bench Press competition being held in Lake City. I told the meet coordinator that I would help but I needed to get my last squat day in before my own competition. He said it would be alright for me to squat with his competitors as they warmed-up for their flights as long as I would help him after I was done. I agreed and did just that.
The Byrd Memorial meet was a sanctioned American Powerlifting Federation (APF) meet, which meant they were using a monolift to squat and multi-ply lifting gear was allowed. Even though multi-ply gear and the use of a monolift were allowed, Buddy Duke, a coach and gym owner in Adel, Ga. brought down a team that was comprised of all single-ply lifters most of them being in their 20’s and new to the sport. Buddy is the Georgia state chairman for the United States Powerlifting Federation (USPF) and every year he hosts the Southeastern Cup in Adel. The USPF is a single-ply gear federation that does not use a monolift but rather walks the weight out on the squat. My team and I had competed at Buddy’s meet for years until we started in the multi-ply gear. Even though the Byrd Memorial meet was an APF meet, he brought his team down to get them some competition experience. All his lifers walked out their weight and used their single-ply gear.
In the warm-up room, we had some lifters using the mono and some walking out the weight. As for myself, I was lifting raw (not gear) just working up to medium weight because it was my last squat day before my next meet. All the other lifters were in gear and competing so I squeezed in my squats between each of their warm-ups and when I wasn’t squatting, I was working the monolift to help them out. It got too hard to tell who was doing what, so I was asking each lifter as they went up to do a warm-up whether they were walking out or needed me to pull the level on the monolift.
One of Buddy’s youngest lifters came up to the bar to do his last warm-up, around 365 lbs., when I said to him, “Do you need me to pull….” I stopped and looked at him realizing that he was one of Buddy’s and quickly said, “…no that’s right you are walking the weight out.” His reply to me, with the biggest chip anyone could ever have on their shoulder, was “I’m a single-ply lifter, I walk my weight out.” I almost replied, but luckily I had enough cool to stop myself, “You little s!#t, who do you think you’re talking to? My lightest squat days are heavier than any weight you could ever image putting on your back.” Most of the Adel lifters had the same chips on their shoulders. For some reason, single-ply lifters, especially the younger ones, have this mightier-than-though attitude when it comes to the multi-ply lifters. What they don’t realize is that most of the multi-ply and more experienced lifters started out the same as them in single-ply gear.
I told my buddies about what had happened and the attitudes Buddy’s lifters had. Rather than having words with his lifters, my buddies said there was a better way to knock the chips off these guys’ shoulders. We decided to go to Adel for the Southeastern Cup and let our numbers do the knocking. It was decided that three of us would get back in the single-ply gear and prepared for the meet. It was the first single-ply meet we had done in at least four years. It was actually a nice change of pace from what we had been doing. Sure our numbers wouldn’t be the same but the whole point of the meet was to show these guys a thing or two.
At Buddy’s meet, his team was there and our guys were ready. We hit numbers that these guys had never seen in the gym or competition. By the end of the meet, we had accomplished what we had set out for. They were to say the least humbled but to our surprise, we did a little more than just knock chips and set egos straight. We had done something that we didn’t expect, we INSPIRED! The guys that had their mightier-than-though attitudes, just two months earlier, were so impressed with our lifting that they started congratulating us, asking us questions, shaking our hands and in some cases wanting pictures with us. I have to add, I was the youngest and the least experienced of our three lifters at age 39 with nine years competing in the sport.
It’s funny how your numbers can do the talking for you. That day, the numbers of a few older experienced lifters showed a group of younger, inexperience lifters the meaning of respect.
Too all the younger inexperienced lifters out there; don’t be disrespectful to others just because they don’t compete in the same gear or lifting federation as you. You don’t know their background in the sport and you may just get surprised as the Adel team did. To all you seasoned lifters, it’s your job to help develop, inspire and motivate younger less-experienced lifters to be their best.
And to everyone, being good at what you do, also means being humble and respectful. That’s the only way to earn respect in this sport.
Powerlifting: Respect By Numbers by Joseph R. Norman