Gene Gilsdorf

Kids like the one in the picture (my son, William) need enthusiasm and praise from a coach just as much as they need technical correction and good programming. And some coaches simply do this better than others. And the ones who do it best are rarely the most experienced coaches around.

Let’s face it, we can’t all be Gene Gilsdorf. He is 58 years old and has been coaching for well over 30 years, yet still retains an enthusiasm that is unbelievable. I have seen him consistently react to say a 12 year old athlete making a 1kg PR in a local meet in a manner more expected when an Olympic gold medal is being won or a world record is being set. Jumping 3 feet in the air, clapping, yelling, then lots of hugs for the athlete. This after 40+ years in the sport and after coaching several international level athletes.

No, we can’t all be like Gene Gilsdorf, and it’s too bad.

I know I am less excited now about a beginner making a PR than I was a decade ago. I wish this wasn’t so, but, it is. As i watch competitions, it is always the newer coaches who are the most encouraging and the most enthusiastic about the progress and PR’s of beginner lifters. It is usually the newer coaches that work the hardest at recruiting, that try new things to grow the sport.

Of course, those with 10 to 20 years invested in coaching have something to offer that most beginner coaches do not. But those of us in this position need to realize that unless our drivers license says Gene Gilsdorf, these newer coaches have something to offer that we have lost a little bit of along the way. We need them as much as they need us. I have seen a fair bit of conflict between the “new guard” and the “old guard”. I got my share of friction when I was the new guy on the block, at least some of it deserved no doubt. But there is really no reason for the amount of friction that is sometimes seen.

I have come to realize that a few of those “new coaches” are gonna stick around for a decade or two, and could easily replace me. On the other hand, I doubt I will ever recover the enthusiasm for beginners I had 20 years ago. I love the sport more than ever, but some things are just better suited for youth. So maybe we need them even more than they need us?

If you are ever in Onaga, KS, stop by Onaga Weightlifting club and watch Gene coach. I am sure you will learn someting, and it will probably have nothing to do with start postion or how to pull a bar.


5 responses to “Gene Gilsdorf

  • Chad

    Very good points and an interesting perspective. My experience in weightlifting is limited to only a small handful of coaches, but I can say that I have seen a similar situation in hockey. It is a very rare combination to find long term experience matched with enthusiasm, but I think you find that in any profession. While at the same time, the older, more experienced coaches definitely appear to resent the younger coaches. If I had to guess, it’s because there is definitely more pressure and higher expectations of the older and more experienced coaches. When some young gun comes in and has a terrible season, everyone chalks it up to “he’s still learning” or “he’s still working the kinks out.” That kind of double standard breeds resentment, and I doubt most coaches even realize they’re doing it. In any case, this is a very insightful observation, and it sounds like we can all take a pointer from Gene Gilsdorf.

  • IWF 2015 Masters World Cup: Where Age Is Just a Number | Lifter Laura

    […] not just my mom’s who is a beast I was able to watch veteran lifters like 62-year-old Gene Gilsdorf, 68-year-old and three-time Olympic competitor Fred Lowe and 56-year-old Mark Solomon kill it […]

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