Let’s Go To Weightlifting Camp

Are you going to sleep away an Athlete Development Weightlifting Camp this summer?

Maybe I’m old but the word camp conjures this type of image in my head.

Meatballs: such an underrated movie. Photo from http://prettycleverfilms.com

Granted my summer days of tube socks and color wars ended a long time ago but thanks to USA Weightlifting my entire notion of camps is about to change.

On the OLIFT podcast, we continued the discussion of actively recruiting new talent into Weightlifting by talking with Suzy Sanchez, Director of Development Programs with USA Weightlifting. She is responsible for the organization’s new Athlete Development Camp (ADC) structure.

In the episode, Suzy details the full camp structure, rationale and the goals of the program. She also describes key points of the messaging to build and promote them. You can listen to the episode below.

If you haven’t heard of the ADC camps they are structured to happen on three levels; local, regional and national. Information on them can be found on the USA Weightlifting page dedicated to the camps.

Local camps are an introduction to the sport where participants will learn basic concepts and run through a series of assessments for talent identification. The best performers will be invited to a regional camp, where they’ll have more involved exposure to the lifts and more assessment. The best from the regional groups will then be invited to a national camp.

Everyone who attends a local camp, regardless of how they score in the assessments, will become USA Weightlifting members, receive initial programming and information on coaches and clubs nearest to them so they can continue the journey in Weightlifting if they choose.

For USA Weightlifting, identifying talent is an end goal but establishing value to draw people to these camps is something that must be done.

Price Value Problem

One of the early grumbles I’ve heard about the camps is the cost. The fact that participants have to pay to attend isn’t a problem in my opinion. Courses, competitions, and now camps simply can’t happen without a fee of some kind. No one would host or run them for free.

Also, people tend to not value what they don’t pay for. Without some financial consideration, there is no commitment and limited perception of value. For example, most of the unread stuff in my inbox and on my Kindle are free resources and eBooks.

Parents and athletes of all income levels are shelling out thousands a year to participate in sports. Forbes estimates Youth sports has fueled a $9 billion industry. A local camp, which is all that most participants will do, costs $299 plus a USAW Membership. This isn’t a huge commitment in the grand scheme of organized sports and activities.

There is always a segment of the population unable to handle something financially. That isn’t an argument against this working. Maybe in time, after the USAW establishes a market demand to attend these camps some form of assistance or scholarship waiver will come into play.

The information released about the camps speaks to structure and the goal of talent identification. The real question, now that registration is open, is value and what the development camps will deliver to attendees over what we hope to get from them.

Camps run by other sports, sometimes in collaboration, are positioned as opportunities to start an Olympic journey.  This can be something more.

Sports Performance

The first goal of the camps is to introduce talented athletes to the sport of Weightlifting. Chances are they are already doing something else. That’s unavoidable. Positioning our sport as a supplement or catalyst to improving performance in another sport is both valid and digestible. Weightlifting is arguably the best thing an athlete from another sport can do when off-season.

My experience, which Suzy mirrors in the episode, has also been that when certain people find Weightlifting they fall in love in it. We don’t have to say “you need to be a weightlifter if you come to learn about it.” It might not be immediate but if a teenager attends a camp, goes back and plays something else through high school or college, she might in her late her late teens or early twenties come back for any number of reasons.

So these camps might yield results years after someone attends.

Driving attendance

Who is responsible for bringing people to the door?

Recruiting and community outreach are difficult tasks. It’s selling the hard way. Cold. Some instructors work hard to promote the courses they are running for the USAW but for years the USAW Sports Performance courses have not required much selling or marketing to be successful. That’s starting to change and is a different topic, but the point is for these first camps hosts will have support but have to work for participation. Simply getting a camp on the calendar won’t be enough to fill it.

Interesting reads: 
Everything You Want to Know About USA Weightlifting’s Development Camps