Tip Your Bartender

Tip Your Bartender

Dec 28, 2016

Tip Your Bartender

By Josh Hunt

The tiredest I have ever been after a powerlifting meet has not been after competing, it has not been after traveling, hell it has not been after traveling and competing, it was after spotting and loading. Seriously, the meets I have helped spot and load have been the most physically demanding weight lifting events I have ever been a part of. By the time the 120kg and 120+kg boys are up, you’ve loaded and unloaded thousands of pounds of weight for squat which is a huge distance from the plate rack to the bar, the bench press, and the dead lift for many lifters and you are spent. Even if it is a small meet, you’re touching and moving more weight than you typically do in a training day, maybe in some cases a training week. This is hard work. I am sure many of us know how tiring this is, but I’d venture to say that even more people that rely on the help provided at meets have never felt the lower back pain of these individuals nor have even thought about it. This might be controversial, but I am going to jump on my soapbox for this article because as the sport of powerlifting grows, I feel that there are more people that take for granted the hard work that others put in. Essentially, if you are unwilling to spot/load, judge, expedite, run the software, jump on the mic, or assist the officials (not just coach) you are part of the problem, and you are making it harder for meets to happen or run properly. This is a community and not just about you or your club!

It may not seem like it, but putting on a powerlifting meet is an incredible amount of work. If you question this try to talk to a meet director three hours into the event, usually they are very short, looking elsewhere when you are talking to them, and glowing with a little bit of perspiration from running around like a chicken with its head cut off. Let’s break down the day shall we. Most of the meets that I have been to start around 9:00 am or so. The most recent meet at which I helped, I showed up at 6:45 am. By then almost everything was set up from the platforms, to the warm up area, to the flat screen TVs with a live stream and the next lifter program, and much more (Chris you were on point). However, there was still work to do. Weigh-ins, rules brief, last minute fixes on equipment, and so on. From the time, I showed up until the time I gave the rules brief at 8:45am there was always something to do. Then there is running the meet, which takes hours. I finished judging at around 8:00pm and awards had not been handed out and the meet still needed to be broken down. Equipment still needed to get back to where it was taken/borrowed from and outcomes needed to be posted online. This is a multi-day undertaking.

With each and every meet I help out with I am always excited about seeing some great lifting and hopeful that this meet will run a little better. But usually by 3:00pm or so I am getting frustrated due to the lack of help. With few exceptions, every time I go to meets to assist I see the same faces helping, the same meet directors, the same judges, the same master of ceremonies, the same spotter and loaders, frankly the same community that knows that without help meets simply don’t happen. In the past there have been meets where I have MC’d, judged, spotted/loaded, coached, and competed. I try not to think about this too much, because I can find this insulting when there are lifters out there than just come to say hi, are only there to coach/handle a lifter, hand off, or simply ‘compete.’ What raises my ire even more is when people that have been in the community for years seem to be above doing grunt work while I’ve spotted and loaded with a team made of up nationally and internationally recognized athletes. If someone has represented the United States at an International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) and can do anything from judge to run errands anyone should be willing and able to assist. You’re never too good or too accomplished to help the community out. Giving a judge a break to use the restroom should be in your realm of possibilities if you have been involved in the sport of a few years. Because let’s be honest, we all have to pee from time to time and as a lifter you’d rather have someone focused on your lift than worried about when they can take a number one.

One of the greatest things I have seen in the world of powerlifting in the recent past has been the influx of women. There are female competitors with totals and wilks coefficients that make me ashamed to be a powerlifter. Now this is the part I have to approach with surgical accuracy because it is probably going to offend someone. Without making too much of a blanket statement – women you need to step up. In my experience the majority of meets I have attended I have experienced a dearth of female assistance. Of course there are those who help out and pull more than their fair share (thank you Jen, Devin, Jai-Jai, Rachel, Laura, and the next lifter gals), but it seems to me that there are a lot of female lifters and few female helpers. I have never seen an all female judging team, nor have I seen any female spotters and loaders. When was, the rule passed that if you have two x chromosomes you can’t help throw some weight on the bar? I am not advocating that you be the folks ensuring the safety of a three-hundred-pound man as he squats, but what I am saying is you can help out other female and light weight male lifters. Even if you don’t feel that spotting and loading is your thing (which it should be because you do it all the time in training) you should be able to judge, MC, and just straight up help. Another issue that crops up is we need female officials to help assist female athletes with weigh-ins and drug tests, unless you want a guy telling you to strip down and jump on the scale or watch you pee. What I have noticed is generally women and light-weight men lift in the morning, and by the mid-day break these lifters get their awards and then become smoke. There is no reason why a person that is done competing can’t stick around to help in any capacity, or if one is not competing step up and provide whatever services necessary. When a person cuts out early in the day or refuses to help they are saying that their time is more important than those that need to be there for the entire duration or have volunteered to assist.

I am fairly sure that every powerlifting ‘veteran’ has been at one of those meets that never end. A few years ago, I showed up to one where I arrived at around 7:00am and I finished lifting at 1:30 am the next day. It was awful. One of the reason meets stretch out is because there is not enough help. Spotters and loaders get fatigued and make mistakes when there is no one to relieve them. As the meet wears on they slow down because they are tired. This also means that the meet last longer and could affect your attempt because it takes longer than expected to load the weight. These are the people that save your face from the bar when you float out of the groove and prevent you from getting facial reconstructive surgery, because they catch the bar before it hits your orbital bone. The spotters and the loaders are the folks that make sure you don’t have to dump the weight when you’re in the hole in your squat and you’ve now realized you’ve jumped too much from your second attempt to your third. Don’t you want fresh spotters to make sure you don’t get injured? Don’t you want some amount of insurance for your lifting career? Don’t you want weights to be loaded quickly and accurately? If you said yes to any of these things consider helping spot and load when you can. The same argument can be said with judges. Don’t you want someone who can fairly and accurately judge your attempt? If you do, you might want to consider sitting for your state/national referee certification because we need more. As the meet progresses judges see so many lifts that without breaks they can become complacent, tired, and frustrated. We’re humans too and need to walk away from time to time, but with no one to relieve us how does that happen? If you like people to run software, announce, help out behind the scenes, you should really consider looking in the mirror because they don’t just appear at every meet as much as you might want this to happen.

As for people who may not be able to help in the moment i.e. people that are competing. Use some empathy. Judges are doing the best they can. Loaders and spotters are working their tails off. Everyone involved is generally doing the best they can. Don’t be a jerk if a call doesn’t go your way. Don’t ask questions like “when are we going to be lifting because my lifter has been warming up and now it seems like things have been delayed.” You’re only sucking up bandwidth. Meets have hitches and hurdles, just accept it and roll with it. The more you try to get your way the more you’re putting on people who have volunteered their time, who are doing it so there are meets in the local area and maybe for a free sandwich. Use personal responsibility, it is up to you to know if you are in the hole, or deck, or lifting. It is on you to know when to start warming up. You need to identify help for yourself. If you are a veteran and you see a lost newcomer, help them out. Because each and every unnecessary question or request to the meet personnel makes things run that much more poorly. Additionally if you can’t directly help this time around, dedicate your time next meet. You can’t be the guy or gal that lifts in every local meet. One you need to take a break from training for a competition from time to time and two, you need to pay your dues. If you want meets to happen, you need to help.

When the same people are relied upon for every meet they get tired and feel unappreciated. This can lead some of them to walking away and not helping anymore. This behooves no one in the federation, what helps a federation is a strong scene of community and willingness to help. Without help there are no meets (how many times do I have to say this?). Without meets there is no point to becoming a competitive powerlifter. If you haven’t ever helped out you need to start, and if you’ve lifted for a while you need to make up the time for the years you didn’t help. If you help from time to time, see what more you can do. No one is too good not to do anything. Invest in the federation and yourself because we can’t compete without a community that cares. If you haven’t gotten your referee certificate do so. If your friend is trying to get their national/international certification support them. If you are not competing spot and load. For the love of goodness help out. This goes beyond the powerlifting world. All too often I feel that there are many people who want things to happen but don’t want to take an active role in life be it: politics, philanthropy, environmental and social issues, helping a stranger out, and so on. Without getting too meta someone has to do it, why shouldn’t it be you? The more people that help the easier things are.

Now to bring this back from my plea to be a good and involved citizen this is what I ask of you if you are into powerlifting:

1. Help out wherever you can.
2. Spot and load.
3. Sit for your referee certification.
4. Learn the rules, all the rules.
5. Be a courteous lifter.
6. Work behind the scenes; attempts table, software, mc, etc.
7. Vets show newbie’s the ropes.
8. Coaching/supporting is not helping. Actually get involved. We are not simply happy with you gracing us with your presence.
9. Don’t be the club that bring ten lifters and does not supply any help.
10. Tip your bartender…at least say thank you to everyone that is supporting you.
11. Most important….don’t be selfish. This is a community and communities don’t work if you’re just looking after yourself and your friend.

-Not throwing stones at you anymore
Your name’s in lights and I don’t wonder anymore
Anymore- Tip your bartender by Glassjaw

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