Just remember to have fun


Russians and Americans have totally different approaches to teaching weightlifting. Part of it’s cultural, and a part of it stems from weightlifting being knowledgeable sport in Russia, and principally an newbie sport within the US. In the Russian strategy, there may be the glum actuality that weightlifting is actually onerous fucking work. Over the years, I’ve seen a lot much less of this form of perspective throughout the American weightlifting neighborhood.

The Russian Coach.

When Vasily Polovnikov started on the Norwood Training Center, he was teaching a number of teams of 6-8 individuals. He anticipated outcomes from all of his athletes and used the teaching strategies that have been efficiently used on him for a few years in Russian training camps.

Vasily was stern and demanding, which often got here off as offended and dickish. He had near-impossible calls for for every certainly one of his athletes and had a particular roadmap for them to comply with to get to the place each athlete needs to be – the highest of the rostrum.

Within a number of months, his athletes started leaving his teams.

All of his athletes needed to be their finest, however lots of them tended to have a look at their weightlifting efforts as leisure. It was one thing they needed to be ok with and look ahead to of their every day lives.

One time once I was on the gymnasium, I discussed to certainly one of his lifters that his snatch had appeared significantly better than it did a number of weeks earlier. The man’s face lit up with delight. He got here up to me on the finish of his exercise and thanked me. He mentioned that he’s by no means acquired a single praise from Vasily and that it crushed him to see Vasily’s upset look on his face again and again.

I discussed this to Vasily, who responded, “Don’t they want to get better? What do they want me to do, hug and kiss them when they follow directions?” His larger-than-life stature and heavy Russian accent didn’t assist him sound any gentler.

The American Coach.

I see the next at almost each weightlifting competitors from far too many American coaches.

As an athlete is about to stroll onto the platform at a contest, their coach peps to them, “Just remember to have fun!”

Maybe I don’t have the identical definition of “fun” as they do, but when an athlete needs to change into higher, or attain their full potential, there may be actually little fun in weightlifting. 

Coaches who inform their non-beginner athletes to “just have fun out there” are both peddling bullshit or making an attempt to sugarcoat self-inflicted torture. Athletes who smile by way of a raise are both masochist, or they aren’t working onerous sufficient.


I’ve had a number of nice coaches in my athletic profession, all of whom have led me to tears. Great coaches anticipate perfection. When it’s not reached, it’s a disappointment. This is the truth of all competitive sports activities in all nations.  It could also be harsh, but it surely’s an strategy that builds the psychological toughness and starvation that’s wanted to obtain greatness.

Weightlifting was by no means “fun” for me. Achieving far-reaching targets was the half that was really rewarding and introduced long-lasting pleasure.

Both approaches are extremes and stereotypes, after all. Vasily’s strategy made his athletes higher, but additionally scared lots of the less-ambitious ones away. Just-remember-to-have-fun coaches don’t push their athletes to attain their full potential however do get them to really feel heat and fuzzy sufficient to stick round (and proceed to pay for training). And for some lifters, this strategy is finest. The coach wants to really feel and perceive what stimulus the athlete wants to attain their finest. 


Since our speak, Vasily has softened his strategy to teaching (only a little bit). He nonetheless calls for one of the best from all of his athletes, however acknowledges when accomplishments are made, and that though the robust strategy works, they aren’t in a Russian training camp in Siberia and may have a softer contact.



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Yasha Kahn

Weightlifter, coach and now: blogger. I’ve traveled all over the world sharing my weightlifting data and experiences. I look ahead to the subsequent journey.


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