I’ve been to a lot of different powerlifting meets over the past few years, both as a spectator, coach/handler and competitor. I can honestly say it’s a lot different being a spectator versus being a competitor. As a spectator you can’t really see what goes on behind the scenes or in the warm-up areas and you really can’t relate to what the lifters go through the day of a meet.
One of the best meets that I’ve been to as a competitor was the 2014 WPC World Championships in West Palm Beach, Florida. Why was it so great?
The venue was awesome — a large recreational facility with lots of room for spectators, and a separate warm-up area. The meet was very well organized and the meet director ran two platforms flawlessly with over 800 International lifters competing in seven days. It was also a meet where the equipment on the platform and in the warm-up area was all brand new elitefts equipment that was specially made specifically for the World Championships. Dave, Traci Tate and elitefts sponsored the meet by supplying all the equipment and set the bar at the highest level I’ve ever experienced. Two new monolifts and competition benches for the platforms, six warm-up monolifts, six warm-up competition benches and brand new Texas squat bars, power bars and deadlift bars. I haven’t seen such an amazing setup since.
On the opposite end of the spectrum I’ve been to a two-day meet where the meet director didn’t show up on the second day, didn’t have any volunteers organized to lift or spot, didn’t have judges, and didn’t have awards. Pretty safe to say it was a major clusterf*ck but the saving grace was the federation president happened to be there on the second day and frantically organized everybody to work together to make it work. It wasn’t the greatest but all the competitors got to lift on the second day. If it weren’t for the federation president being at the meet, it would have been a complete disaster!
These are two examples of both extremes of different powerlifting meets, but there have been many more experiences that would fall “in between” both extremes, both positive and negative.
Here are some of the things (in my opinion) that I think will either make a meet really great or not so great when participating as a competitor.
Things That Make A Meet Great
- Having a venue that’s big enough to hold the number of lifters competing
- Climate control environment, including air conditioning
- Being organized and efficient (weigh-ins)(registration)
- Good viewing area for spectators
- Separate warm-up area for lifters
- Excellent equipment on the platform: Monolifts, Competition benches, competition bars and calibrated plates
- Having the same equipment in the warm-up area as the platform
- Sufficient restrooms for the competitors and spectators
- Consistent judging
- Efficient spotters and loaders
- Quality medals or trophies for class winners
- Professional photographer/video crew
Meet directors, If you have a small venue with not much space, please put a cap on the numbers of competitors you have competing. I’ve been to a small venue where it’s so congested, people are tripping over each other. Spectators and competitors are walking back and forth in front of the platform, there’s not enough room for spectators to watch, and it makes it less than a great experience for both lifters and spectators.
Climate control seems trivial but if you’ve been to an over crowded competition with a big crowd and it’s 100 degrees, it’s not fun. Even if you only have some large industrial fans placed in the warm-up area and platform area, it can make a huge difference to your meet experience.
Be organized. Have enough available staff for registration and weigh-ins. It doesn’t work the greatest if the same person is trying to register you for the meet, enter your attempts and rack height information into the computer, and has to go into a separate room to take your weight. It’s also good to have both a male and female available for weigh-ins. If a female has to strip down to make weight, it’s not appropriate for a male to do weigh-ins — and I’ve seen it happen.
Usually when you compete, you will bring your handler and a couple of friends who want to watch you lift. If you don’t have enough space or chairs setup for spectators, it doesn’t make it a great experience. If this is the case, you will have people jammed into a small space trying to view the competition and almost no one having a good view of the lifting. Once again, if the venue is small, set a cap on the number of lifters competing to make it manageable.
Try to have a separate area for warm-ups. It’s distracting for competitors who are lifting and the spectators trying to watch lifters when the next flight is trying to warm up next to the competition platform banging and clunking weights around.
Try and have similar equipment in the warm-up area that is being used on the platform. This is really important for competitors. If you have a monolift on the platform and squat racks or stands in the warm-up area, it sucks! If you have a competition bench on the platform, have one or two of the same benches for warm-ups. Benching in a rack and then going on the platform to compete on a competition bench isn’t great for lifters. Consistency is key! Make sure there are enough plates in the warm-up area. There’s nothing worse for a lifter than trying to warm-up and having to pilfer plates to get enough weight for their next lift. If you have competitors squatting eight, nine, or a thousand pounds, you need an appropriate amount of plates in the warm-up room at each warm-up station. The same should be said for having good bars in the warm-up area. If you’re using Mastodon squat bars, Texas Power and deadlift bars, have the same bars available for squats, bench and deadlift that you’re using on the platform. If you want competitors to return to compete again at another one of your meets, this is very important to make them happy enough to return.
This sounds simple but ensure there are enough restrooms for both competitors and spectators. One washroom for 100+ people doesn’t work. I’ve seen this at meets more than once. If you’re competing and you’re nervous, chances are you need to use the washroom a few times before you compete. If you have to wait ten or fifteen minutes every time you need the facilities, it sucks! Portable toilets are okay, but having running water to wash your hands and face makes a huge difference!
Judging is always under constant criticism at a lot of meets. Make sure you’re judges are competent and consistent. I appreciate strict, consistent judging — and so do most other lifters. When judges aren’t consistent and red light some lifters and give white lights to other lifters who don’t deserve them, your federation's credibility goes down the toilet. This is very important!
Have efficient loaders and good spotters. I’ve seen a lot of squat and bench accidents because spotters weren’t paying attention or weren’t familiar with how to spot properly. There’s no reason for any lifter to get injured at a competition because you dumped a heavy weight and nobody caught it. Spotting is something that most people don’t pay much attention to, until you need it! At that point it is too late. Spotters must be prepared and focused at all times. I give credit to a meet that has great spotters!
Competitors work hard preparing for competitions and spend a lot of money traveling, booking hotel rooms, eating in restaurants, and paying entry registrations amongst other expenses. Make sure you reward them with a nice medal or trophy for their efforts. If you win your class and get a two-dollar medal from the dollar store for your hard work, it hardly seems appropriate. Competitors are proud of their lifting accomplishments and want a trophy or medal that they can proudly display.
Something that’s not necessary but is really appreciated at meets is having a professional photographer at the meet to take pictures of each lifter. Having cell phone pictures or videos are okay but when you can have a professional picture of your lift at a big meet, it’s something that you will want and keep forever. It’s the icing on the cake for putting on a great meet. Lifters will appreciate it.
There are a lot of federations. Some federations are really well organized and run great meets and some are not so great. After you’ve been to a few meets and decide what you like or don’t like about how a competition is represented, you can easily pick and choose where you want to lift. A federation that runs well-organized competitions will reap the rewards of having loyalty from many returning competitors.