Open Letter to USA Weightlifting 2


As you may or may not know, USA Weightlifting has revised it’s qualification procedures for national meets.  As high school coaches, we strongly disagree with this decision and feel it not only hurts our lifters, but also the sport in general.  Below is the letter that we have drafted and sent to the board of directors:

 

Mr. Michael Massik

Board of Directors of USA Weightlifting

One Olympic Plaza

Colorado Springs, CO 80909

 

Minnesota Weightlifting Coaches Council

 

An Open Letter To The Board of Directors, Mr. Michael Massik, and the National Office;

 

We are corresponding to you in light of the recent outlandish qualifying totals and secondary lottery for qualifying for the USA Weightlifting National Junior Championships. We have had an emergency meeting, contacted all of our athletes and parents of athletes throughout and across the state of MN about the new qualifying totals and have discovered that the membership is outright angry and frustrated about this new set up.  However, our love of weightlifting outweighs our emotional outrage. So, the purpose of this correspondence is to share with you several issues that we are incredibly frustrated with, share some suggestions and provide some solutions to the issues that we all wish to resolve and at the same time have this sport continue to grow and thrive.

 

Let’s review the Mission Statement of USA Weightlifting:

 

The Mission of USA Weightlifting shall be to enable United States athletes to achieve sustained competitive excellence in Olympic competition and to promote and grow the sport of weightlifting in the United States.

 

From our perspective, you are not following the Mission Statement that was developed in spirit or procedure.

 

Points of Concern:

  1. The standards recently set are too high for the National Junior Qualifying total.

 

  1. The whole point of the organization of USA Weightlifting is to improve the numbers of the participants and performance totals. The natural way of progression is that if the number of competitors goes up – then the lifting production numbers will also rise. The ridiculous new standards are counterproductive to the mission statement.

 

  1. Kids/adults/everyone needs very black and white standards, not something nebulous. The best athletes and high achievers want goals and qualifying totals crystal clear and achievable. The only acceptable way for qualifying totals to be produced is when they are crystal clear and solid. The main guaranteed national qualifier will be hit by a small handful in the country. The secondary qualifier is an unclear lottery system. Anything deviating from a clear cut system is deleterious to the sport and its growth.

 

  1. As seen by the public and membership right now, USA Weightlifting is out of touch with its base and its foundation – the kids/our youth and teenagers.

 

  1. We believe that having two platforms at the National Junior Championships is in fact representative of the growth of the sport at this time. The sport is getting more exposure now than it ever has before.   Growth is a good thing and representing it at the National Junior Championships with two platforms makes sense and is a good idea. We vigorously support two platforms at the National Junior Championships.

 

  1. With more competitors, members and more fees – the income of USA Weightlifting goes up and some good uses of the money could be; giving kids that do very well all-expense paid trips to the Olympic Training Center. Give financial incentives/rewards for high performance and put on spectacular meets. Pay referees or provide room and board. Growth is positive-do not stunt it.

 

  1. Cutting back on the number of qualifiers, platforms, or marketing at this time is once again, counterproductive to the vision and mission statement and is not helpful to the growth of the sport.

 

  1. Those coaches and athletes at the high school level absolutely hate gray areas and not knowing if an athlete has qualified or not. The system is confusing to the general population, coaches, parents and athletes.

 

  1. One of the major attractions of the sport of weightlifting that we continuously hear from the participants and parents and even from our Athletic Directors is that there are clear standards and that a lifter has control over their own destiny. It is up to them whether they make it or not. It is an incredible motivator to young athletes to have a standard they see, understand, and can dream about and work towards.   That great incentive is gone now and the new system is deleterious to the sport and its growth.

 

  1. The reality that high school coaches and athletes have to work with is that they have to work with administrators, bursars, school boards and the requirements of each. This includes the forms and requirements of each level of administration. Requesting funds in any district can be an arduous and time consuming task that can take weeks. Each layer of local school districts needs to fulfill all of their requirements, forms and checks. Schools require that athletes have chaperones, which have to have background checks, they need to see the schedules of the venues, money has to be raised for the athlete and the coach for entry fees, travel, food, lodging, etc. Money moves very slowly through the system. To have the complete procedure followed properly usually takes from 6-8 weeks. The bottom line is that there is not enough time from when a lifter may find that they have been accepted through the lottery and fulfilling the required process from the district.

Then, there is the wait for the school board meeting where it all must be approved. Your actions via this new procedure clearly indicate that YOU ARE OUT OF TOUCH WITH HIGH SCHOOLS and what they have to deal with in their systems.

 

Athletes do not have time to organize the necessary plans for participation in a national meet if notified 4 or 5 weeks prior to the event.  By the time the money is actually available to the athlete for lodging and flights the prices have gone way up. This new qualifying procedure actually makes the financial aspect of going to the National Juniors very challenging and often cost prohibitive. The athlete and coach will also be at the mercy of the airlines and their flight times for arrival and departure.

 

  1. If a standard is clearly laid out and a coach sees valid and predictable progress towards a qualifying total with an expectation that it will be hit, most coaches would, at that point begin to do the fund raising for that athlete to go to the National Juniors. That is what most of us do in Minnesota. But, with the lottery aspect of qualifying now, we do not know until 5 weeks out. In many cases, the school districts won’t even give approval.

 

  1. Great systems have clarity, this does not. It is a lottery.

 

  1. Will USA keep the numbers posted and active at all times?

 

We also have some another major concern as related to the National Junior Championships:

 

  1. We believe it is very important to have a consistent date for the National Juniors. The reason why this is important is that at the state and local level we actually have to book our lifting venues one year in advance. Our LWC Board meets, clears our calendars, sets the local meets and verifies everything with parents and Athletic Directors. If we do not, our facilities are taken by other teams and organizations. USA Weightlifting is too unbelievably slow in setting the dates and sites and has caused major chaos at the state and local levels because of when the date is set for the National Juniors. This year, as a body, we had to reset our dates twice. The AD’s at each of the schools were ready to kill us.

 

Our suggestions:

 

  1. We suggest that the qualifying totals be crystal clear. We highly endorse only one qualifying total for each weight class. If the qualifier is hit, the athlete is in the National meet. If the qualifying totals are increased – they should not be at a 30% rate, but reasonable and not include a nebulous lottery system.

 

  1. The sport needs clear qualifying standards to sustain and promote growth. We have worked very hard to make this sport grow and improve – make it grow, GROWTH IS GOOD.

 

  1. We do understand that a major concern about having large numbers at the National Juniors is that there are not enough referees and jury members and workers to help the meet run correctly and properly.

 

We suggest that each National Coach that is present at the meet with competitors be expected to referee a session at the meet. Additionally we suggest that each National Coach be expected or required in the next two years to serve as an apprentice (by sitting by them while refereeing) to a National referee at local and state meets. They should be required to get so many hours or sessions and that they have to have a card produced by USA Weightlifting signed by the National Referee to help them qualify to referee at the National Juniors Meet. The card will be reflective not only of the time spent refereeing, but of the quality in the eyes of the National Referee.

 

It is also understood that there are not enough members for a Jury. That could be handled the same way. In essence, the infrastructure of USA needs to be rebuilt and improved. This handles the problem of the two platform dilemma. So, fix the infrastructure problem.

 

Pay the referees or pay for their room for a night or two as an incentive to come to work the meet.

 

  1. We suggest that the National Junior Championships be a two platform meet and we feel we should expect 400 lifters. If the organization has doubled in size, it is common sense that the number of qualifiers will go up. If we are making the sport grow we need to expect performances to go up and they will. Having the numbers grow is good.

 

No one is saying not to raise the standards, but not to a ridiculous number or to an unclear lottery system. Make reasonable jumps in the qualifiers.

 

  1. We suggest that the qualifying totals of the National Junior Championships are based upon the statistics of the ranking lists. Eg. – 400 lifters / 15 weight classes = roughly 25 lifters per weight class.   We suggest they be reasonable.

 

  1. We highly and vigorously suggest that the National Junior Championships be the same weekend each and every year and that the weekend be the end of the first weekend in March.

 

This is important for three reasons:

 

  • A.  This is very important from our perspective as we need to plan for our local and state meets one year in advance in order to get facilities or they will be given to other teams or organizations. In short – to give time for planning and facilities.

 

  • B.  The majority of our lifting competitors and fee-paying members of USA Weightlifting from the high school levels are multiple – sport athletes. Many of our athletes are in very good sports programs that not only lift in-season, but also go on to compete in the post-season playoffs. The date in March, as opposed to an early date in February allows them 4 extra weeks of training, which is a often a major factor in improvement at the end of the competitive season. More training time = better results and production.

 

  • C.  The week after the first weekend in March is often when many of the spring sports officially begin. The date of the first week in March allows an athlete not to be torn between two different sports – weightlifting and another.

 

  1. At the end of our meeting to draft this letter, every single coach said that they would be willing to step up and become National Referees and donate time at the National Juniors refereeing or doing whatever is necessary to make the meet work smoothly and efficiently.

 

  1. Remember, this is a development program and development programs are about helping kids. The new qualifying structure is counterproductive to this objective.

 

At this time this coaching body is very upset and angry about the new guaranteed national qualifying standard and the secondary qualifying lottery.

 

Each of the undersigned vigorously endorses all parts of the contents of the letter and has given their permission for their names to be included.

 

Nicolas Abbott Little Falls Community High School
Chad Anderson Grand Rapids High School
Nate Bailey CrossFit Epitome
Bob Currie Lakeville South High School/President of MN USAW Coaches Council
Daniel Forester VP MN LWC/National and International Cat 1 Referee/McGregor High School
Eddie Hodges Caldonia High School
Ernie Hodges Caldonia High School
Matt Iverson Shakopee High School
Natalie Johnson Wayzata High School
Larry Meadors Burnsville High School
Dan Meyers Northfield High School
Chris Rousemiller Lakeville High School/Assistant State Director MN NSCA
Roger Sadecki President of the MN LWC/National and International Referee
Scott Safe Cannon Falls High School/High School Liason for USA Weighlifting
Scott Sahli Burnsville High School/North Central Regional Coordinator NSCA
Brian Trussell Rosemount High School/VP MN Weightlifting Coaches Council

 

Michael Massik, the CEO of USA Weightlifting has replied with the following generic and extremely short response that does nothing to address the issues that we have presented:

 

Dear Mr. Currie,

Thank you for your letter and especially thank you for your suggestions. We recently received a similar but less comprehensive message from Coach Hodges, another member of Minnesota USAW Coaching Council.

 

As I wrote to Coach Hodges, the Board of Directors has worked diligently to accommodate the growth that we have experienced over the last two years in USA Weightlifting. Following numerous discussions and significant debate, the current qualification plan was deemed to be the best solution to balance our growth rate and the overall quality of our national meets. The Board recognizes that this may not a permanent solution and will continue to explore alternative options moving forward.

 

I am adding your letter to the compilation of suggestions that have been submitted by members in order to assist the Board in their review of the existing policy. If you have any additional thoughts, please feel free to send them to me directly.

Thank you again for your input. Hopefully, your ideas will contribute to making progress in managing our growth and retaining high quality national meets.

 

Sincerely,

Michael Massik

 

Michael Massik

USA Weightlifting

1 Olympic Plaza

Colorado Springs, Colorado 80909

+1 719-866-3383[o] +1 719-866-4741[f]

www.usaweightlifting.org

michael.massik@usaweightlifting.org

SUPPORT USA WEIGHTLIFTING!

 

Its pretty clear that the USA Weightlifting has no interest in hearing from the membership and does not value the opinion of it’s members.  Please join us in our fight to get this corrected by commenting below, sharing this post on social media sites, and/or directly contacting the national office and members of the board of directors.  Thank you!

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