The Cal State Games are in the books, and for many on the team, it was a long hot, sweaty 2 days to cap off 16 weeks of training. We had 6 athletes competing, we came away with 3 silver and 1 bronze medal, and every single athlete hit a comp PR and/or a came away with a medal. I’ll offer thoughts about my lifting performance further down, but this event was most notable for me as it marked 1 year since I began meet -coaching lifters, and I definitely have had to learn a lot in that time. As a novice coach, are a few things to that I have focused when coaching a lifter at a meet:
Warmup Timing - Make sure your lifter is ready to lift when it is his/her turn. 1 hour before meet start time (just after weighins), the entry cards are made available to the coaches, and they will look at them to see who is lifting what, and then determine how many lifts (and how much time) will take place before the lifters first attempt. Each lifter has 3 attempts, the weight on the bar goes upward, and each lifter can change their desired weight 2-3 times. You factor in the lifters personal warmup time, and the time it will take them to warmup their lifts to reach their opening weight, and you try to get them going at the proper point. There can be a few variables and incomplete information here. Sometimes this is fairly straightforward.
Example: I am lifting in the first session of the day that starts at 10am with 4 other lifters; they have all entered an opening weight of 80-85kg in the snatch. I have entered an opening weight of 110kg. I am familiar with the other lifters and know that their initial weights are reasonably close to what they want to attempt. This is what I can be reasonably certain of:
- All lifters will take all their attempts before I go. lifters in my weight class do not make huge jumps to get from 85kg to 110kg. So that will mean 12 attempts before I lift.
- There does not figure to be many 2 minute clocks. After you attempt a lift, if you must follow yourself, ie everyone left is waiting to take a heavier weight, or possibly is on a later attempt (for any given weight, 2nd attempts must come before 3rd attempts), you will have 2 minutes to lift. Otherwise you have 1 minute. Since the lifters are bunched up, they figure to be taking turns lifting, meaning 1 minute clocks mostly, so you can guestimate that their 12 attempts will take about 12 minutes.
- if my pre-bar warmup takes about 20 minutes, and i want to rest 3 minutes (or approximately 3 lifts) in between each warmup set, here is my plan, which you start backward from:
3 lifts/minutes - 105 kg warmup lift
6 lifts/minutes - 100 kg
9 lifts/ minutes- 90 kg
12 lifts / minutes (meet start time 10am) - 80 kg
9:57 - 70kg
9:54 - 60kg
9:51 - 40kg
9:31 - pre-bar warmup
In Shannon’s case, it was pretty much like above, except that she had 2 young girls in front of her that were obviously going to follow themselves. I honestly failed to stay on top of this the entire weekend, and possibly could have had Shannon waiting 6 minutes in between lifts, if it were not for the fact that those girls didn’t wait very long in between lifts.
Things get a little trickier when you start in the middle of a bunch of lifters, especially ones that have coaches that know what they are doing. In Matt’s case he was opening at 105kg, in the middle of a bunch of people who were opening between 90-105kg. When you are counting lifts, you might expect a lifter opening at 90kg to go 90/95/100 at best, meaning that lifter will take 3 lifts before Matt. However, with heavyweights and super-heavies, jumps of 10kg are possible, so it might wind up 90/100/110, meaning only two lifts before Matt goes, or possibly that lifter might up their opener all the way to 100kg at the last second, and then make the lift, meaning only 1 attempt before Matt goes. So as Matt was in the end of a pack of 7 or so lifters, an estimation of being 10 lifts away could very easily shrink to 3 lifts away in the blink of an eye, or could swell to 15 lifts with lifters following themselves. Have to keep an eye on things. As it turns out Matt’s first attempt was reasonably well timed, and he hit 105kg easily. But….
2nd and 3rd Attempts
After Matt made his 1st attempt, I sat him down, put him in for 108kg on his 2nd (with full intention having him eventually move to 110kg for his 2nd), and we waited for him to get called for his 2nd attempt. And waited. And waited some more. Lots of minutes and attempts went by. I personally would never go back to the warmup room and take another warmup attempt after my opener, but that is because I lift a very high percentage of what I can deadlift/squat, and 1 extra reasonably heavy lift or pull takes a lot out of me. I would also never send Shannon or Brooke back into the warmup room either. Kevin and Megan I would send back in for some power cleans if necessary, but that’s it. With Matt there were a few things I failed to consider from his point of view:
- He is not an experienced lifter, and thus doesn’t yet completely tax himself on “max” lifts. He has lots of reserve strength.
- He is a CrossFit Regionals level athlete. He recovers very quickly and can do a ton of work without fatiguing mentally or physically.
- He is an antsy sonofabitch, and I couldn’t turn my back on him in the warmup room without fear that he would get on someones platform, grab a bar and to a complex that took 60 seconds.
Add that up, and I probably should have sent him back to take a pull with 110kg once it became clear that he had a while to wait. Another aspect present in Matt’s session was…
Competition goals (Getting a medal or qualifying total)
If your goal is PRs, or to lift as much as you can, then managing the lifts is fairly straightforward, boiling down to the points I covered above. If your primary goal is to qualify for another bigger event, say the American Open, as it was for me last year, then that can even be more straightforward, but often that goals needs to be balanced with other competition goals, and I expect a few of our lifters will be presented with this problem soon. Nevertheless, if the lifter is in the running for the medal, then certain decisions need to happen very quickly. You must pay even more attention if your team is trying to do well, since you might have to worry about the impact of a 1st all the way down to an 8th place finish. Fortunately, we were not entered in the team competition, and we needed to only worry about the hardware. I personally don’t distinguish between Bronze and Silver, when presented with a choice, I always had my lifters try to lock up bronze before setting their eyes on gold, or especially silver. There are a few basic things that I paid attention to when maneuvering lifters into medal position.
- Lot number – the lot number determines who lifts first if two lifters both take the same attempt at the same weight. It is very valuable for a coach to see an opposing lifter lift first and decide what to do with that information.
- Bodyweight – a tie goes to the lighter lifter. Effectively worth 1 kilo.
- Relative strengths – With a lifter who is historically stronger in the snatch than their competitor, I would tend to be conservative in their attempts (as opposed to targeting PRs or chasing gold), making sure to establish a lead in the first session. As I am still getting familiar with the opposition for most of my lifters, I haven’t put this into play with anyone in particular yet.
With Kevin’s session, I was unfamiliar with his opposition, but he did have the highest opener in his class in the snatch, so I just let him open with that. He opened with 97, which put him in first, and then missed 102 twice (would have put him in first), hurting his elbow on his third attempt. 120 was a conservative opener on C&J, and would have put him comfortably in 3rd at the time, but the elbow injury clouded things somewhat. He got called for a pressout on his 1st, and then missed the clean on the re-try, and found himself needing to make a lift to stay in the competition, let alone get a medal. I thought he needed rest mentally more than anything else, so I moved him to 122 for his third, which bought him some time, and also forced his competition for 3rd place to take 122, which turned out to be too much. Kevin then made a clutch 122, and got his hardware.
With Brooke’s session, she was in 4th place after the snatch, and had to chase rather than defend. 1st was out of the picture, and she trailed 2nd by 3 kilos, and 3rd by 2 kilos. She had a lighter bodyweight advantage. Here opponents were slated to open with a heavier weight than her, so the plan was to be patient, and get a solid opening attempt in, and then wait to take advantage of any slip ups. She got her opener in, and I watched her competitors make their openers as well, so her options were reduced, since she was now trailing by more than she started, but still had two attempts. We took 81kg to try to get to third place, but she missed the jerk after a strong clean. We then watched as the lifter in 3rd place made 81, and increased her lead, moving into 2nd, meaning Brooke would need to take 83kg to get ahead on bodyweight, but her opponent would still have one attempt remaining. We decided to put in 83kg and see what happened with the lifter that was just bumped down to 3rd. We got an opening as she missed 81kg, elected to re-take it and missed again. So Brooke was now presented with the following options:
- Move down and take 82kg – We could still do this because the still had not hit 82kg yet and we had one weight change remaining. Make it and get bronze; miss and get nothing
- Take 83kg – Make it and get bronze and possibly silver; miss and get nothing. Brooke would have got to see her opponent take 83kg before she did, which is valuable, but her opponent also had another attempt remaining
- Take more – never really considered this, as it would be too risky with her still out of the medals.
As I said, I don’t distinguish between silver and bronze so we went back down to 82kg, and Brooke delivered making an all-time PR of 82kg to take bronze. The lifter ahead of her made 83kg so Brooke would have needed 85 to get silver at least.
Knowing your lifter
Sometimes its pretty easy dealing with your lifter. Sometimes its easy and funny too. Kevin has been training on his own for this meet, so while I knew his numbers, I didn’t have too much in the way of helpful technical hints ready for him. So I was ready to roll with him on the numbers in the Snatch. It’s also fairly straightforward with him on the platform, since he goes very deep into the cave, and sits steaming, until its time to lift. He also cut what turned out to be an excessive amount of weight for this comp, and was perhaps even hallucinating during meet time. Sometimes he will go completely blank, and literally won’t remember what happened 30 seconds ago on his last lift. We talked about his lifts while eating In N Out after his meet, and the most common answer to questions I had for him was “I don’t remember, munch munch munch”.
Sometimes this can be a little tricky! Sometimes you leave em alone, sometimes you chat them up, sometimes you give a pep talk. After Shannon made her 2nd attempt, she was hesitant to move up to a PR weight, even though I was confident it was in her reach. I historically have let her call the shots, but her C&J PR had been sitting there for too long, and I so took the offensive, called for the PR weight, withstood her first round of hissing, then tried to pump her up, withstood the second round of cussing, and then demanded, with a not so slightly veiled threat of punishment/shaming, that she was taking that weight, and that she had better well get under that goddamn power clean or else. She sat back, calmly expressed her hatred for me, and then started to focus. She smoked a new all-time PR and was pleased.
Megan is in the same boat as Shannon, in that she is very firm, in what she thinks she can make, and it is usually less than what I think she can make. I was looking forward to using my new aggressive, commanding approach on her until Shannon blabbed about what I had done with her, and word got around to Megan. Then word got around to me that Megan said if I tried the same thing with her, she was going to punch me in the face on the live feed. So I lost interest in pushing Megan to new heights, and let her drive. She did however get a snatch PR, and had a couple cracks at a C&J PR which is plenty, and she was happy; she is a huge benefactor to the gym, has a huge heart, could probably take me if we came to blows on a live youtube feed, so she gets some leeway.
Brooke is in the complete opposite direction in that she is totally fine with direction at all times of the meet. The bad thing is that on meet day she won’t do anything unless you tell her to do it. Bad only because her and Megan were in the same session, and I while I was going through Megan’s attempts, I would get distracted and realize I hadn’t given her instructions in a while. I would go back to the warmup area, and there she would be sitting, waiting for orders that never came. But Brooke will go after any weight you ask her to do. She missed her 2nd attempt in the snatch, and I felt totally comfortable moving her up for her 3rd, which she made for a comp PR. In the C&J she missed her 2nd attempt at an all-time PR, and I moved her up to an even higher all-time PR attempt on her 3rd which she made.
Overall it was another fun, exciting event at Fortius. The guys really love to host the event, and are super supportive of anyone that wants to lift which is great. I was happy that they had the platform indoors this year, and not just because it rained; I thought it was sloped downward a little bit in the parking lot, and it threw some of the lifters off last year, me included. The sessions pretty much started and ended on time, and went smoothly. I think we might bring one of our barbell sets to Fortius for the next comp, so that we can warmup without worrying about snagging plates from some other platform. That would help the other platforms run smoothly too, as they would have more weight to share. Even though we like to try to beat their lifters in comp, we feel fortunate that we have a gym close by that has the experience and dedication to put on quality meets at least 3 times a year. Countdown to the Halloween event begins.