Big Fish

About a week ago a Canadian lifter commented to me about how it seemed that there was a lot of infighting in American weightlifting. I assured him that he was wrong, that most of the sniping is done by those outside the sport. I told him that when we all got together at nationals, everybody pretty much got along and that those criticizing athletes, coaches and training programs are usually not to be seen. I still think that for the most part, that is true.

A recent experience, however, reminded me that we DO have some infighting within USA Weightlifting.

With all the complaining about how we as a group are doing internationally, and all the supposed want, need, and desire for us to do better, one would think that a team, lifter, or coach who does well would be rewarded with nothing but positive encouragement. But this is often not the case, and i have seen it happen over and over. A newcomer to the sport does well, and all hell breaks loose. A team or a lifter gets a little too much success or attention, and the naysayers pop out of the woodwork. I imagine this happens in other organizations also, but it does seem particularly noticeable in weighltifting.

Why is this? My suspicion is the “big fish in a small pond” syndrome. Weightlifting in the USA has always been a relatively small pond. Few participants and very little publicity. There are those (not a majority, just a vocal minority) who have developed a bit of notoriety in weightlifting mostly because of the small size of our pond. Other people’s success threatens them, because success will ultimately grow the pond. The 20lb catfish that rules the little farm pond wouldn’t do too well in the Ocean with the sharks and barracudas all swimming about.

Well, USA weightlifting is expanding rapidly. Our little farm pond is growing. We may never be an ocean, but let’s hope we at least get a decent sized reservoir. And if I am right, we will see more infighting as this happens. Nothing but growing pains as far as I am concerned.


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