A recent Facebook post made me stop to evaluate who might be the most important person amongst my training group. What I quickly came to realize is that I feel the same way now as I did before. The following will give you an idea of what I demand from my team and of everyone who bounces in and out of the gym.

Among my training group, I have three core guys (plus myself) who make most of the major decisions. If I want to add someone or remove someone, the conversation happens amongst us four first. Decisions are usually made based upon a vote. If a tie occurs, I take two votes or I bring in a fifth person. Being a part of the core does not make you important. It simply means that you’ve been there long enough for me to care what you think and trust that your opinion, even if it differs from mine, will be based on what you think is good for the team as a whole.

When the core brings in new prospects, say it is you for example, it is made clear that you are there to carry an equal weight. I demand that you are not just a lifter but that you are a handler as well. Basically, your job in my gym is to lift when it is your turn to lift and handle when you are not lifting. We have enough people so that not everyone can be handling when he is not lifting, but you need to be ready at any time to help any lifter. The weight on the bar does not matter. If at any time anyone becomes too “big” to do that, he will need to find a new place to train. It’s not a suggestion, it’s a rule. Thou shalt handle your fellow lifters.

I have never charged dues. Your contribution to my place is that you are there and willing to help. When I started Team Samson, I needed help. If you came to me to lift, I demanded your help—not your money. In return, you got a place to train and my help. Because of this, I have kept a solid team of guys around me for over ten years. Many have come and gone, but I have never been without adequate help. Some have left on their own, others I have asked to leave, and others I have not allowed to come back. When I have asked someone to leave or refused to allow them to come back, it has always come down to what he offered (or did not offer) to the team in terms of help. Was he there when we needed him? Was he a meet prepper only, or did he stick around to help the rest of us with our meet prep? Was he of use to the whole team, or did he just cater to himself and/or a select few? These questions helped me keep the right guys at any given time.

Having said that, it might look like we don’t have a "most important" person...but we do. He just can’t be named. Our most important person is based solely on perspective. In my gym, there are only two perspectives: the lifter’s and the handlers'.

Watch the following video for an example of what I mean.


In my gym, the handlers and the spotters are the same people. From the handlers' (spotters') perspective, I was the most important person in the building right then. They knew that if something went wrong, my safety was in their hands. The guys in this video obviously took their job seriously and saved me a lot of pain and only God knows what else. I tore the ligament from my spinal cord in that clip. What might have happened if they didn’t realize that, for those few seconds, I was the most important? To them, I was. I was the most important. Yet, in that moment, to me, they were the most important. From my perspective as the lifter, they were far more important to me than I considered myself to them. Without them, I am in big trouble. Without them, maybe I’m in a cast for months...or worse. Who knows?

The point is, “most important” is a term used only in perspective. Perspective changes as roles change. There should never be a time in a powerlifting gym when there is one lifter more important than another. In someone’s mind, at any given time, everyone is the most important person in the gym.