I started lifting when I was a twelve year old cheerleader. Pick your jaws up off the floor. Ya'll know I was a base (#BigMomma). Our school's strength coach encouraged me to try out for the powerlifting team and the rest is history (if you don't know the history then click here).
Since I work with a lot of youth weightlifters now I thought I'd share some of the same advice I wish I would have known when I was starting my journey. Even though my girls are starting at ages 6-12, the advice remains the same.
1. Don't Worry About Your Bodyweight
I won't say my eating disorder started as a direct result of participating in a sport with weight classes at a young age. I had a coach that was adamant we not worry about bodyweight or use unsafe methods to lose weight (diuretics, fasting).
But when you could only accept two girls from each weight class (at most), I became hyper-aware of my weight. Especially compared to all of the smaller girls. I didn't just want to be in my weight class. I wanted to be the smallest one in it. That logic is horrible by the way.
Fortunately my girls on Mississippi Barbell don't have to worry about that. It's never something we talk about or discuss. I'm not limited by how many Youth can compete. After all, as a kid, you just need to be focused on having fun and getting comfortable in your own skin.
2. No One Cares About Your Singlet
Young or old, this seems to be the thing that scares folks about from weightlifting. I spend the most time talking people off the ledge about it. I've even decided most of my local meets I host won't even require them just to get people to stop complaining and actually lift.
I never require my kids to wear a singlet. But I do encourage them to get one. The "big kids" wear them. In the gym the "big kids" are their heroes. They don't care about what their heroes look like in their singlets. And those little kids are our heroes. So we don't care either.
3. Go Easy On Yourself
I think girls are hardwired to be hard on themselves. I was...and still am. If a girl lifter is getting down on herself for a lift not being perfect, I have to step in and remind her we don't have to keep trying the lift over and over just because we perceived it wasn't perfect. It'll never be perfect. We can't be perfect. We just have to try and keep practicing. I like to think this will help bleed over into their "real lives".
4. Always Have An Opinion
We aren't allowed to say "I don't know" or "I don't care" with Coach Amber. My girls (all my kids) should always have an opinion. You do know--you probably know more than you think. And you do care.
Speak up. Be confident.
5. Don't Compare Yourself To Other Girls
You will never look like someone else because you aren't them. You're you.
You may never be as strong as someone else. Harsh reality? Maybe. But that doesn't mean you don't try to outwork them. It doesn't mean you are less of a person because of it. And it doesn't mean the other person is better than you.
The amount of medals, PRs, or attention someone else gets doesn't take away from your shine and uniqueness.
6. How Much You Lift Doesn't Define You
It's easy to get obsessed with kilos on the bar. But it doesn't define you. Lifting is just one part of your life. It's your hobby. An outlet. Something that makes you feel good.
Squatting 100 kilos or snatching 70 kilos isn't going to make people like or hate you. If you get injured people won't think less of you. If they do then you don't want them in your life anyway.
7. Don't Be Afraid To Ask Questions
You are just starting your weightlifting journey. Ask questions when you don't understand something. Ask questions about event rules. Ask questions about exercises. Speak up!
8. Find A Mentor
Having a role model helps. It doesn't even have to be a coach or a lifter. Just find someone you admire and trust. For me, I had a best friend's sister, my coach, and I looked up to an older lifter. Clearly I had no problem searching for inspiration.
9. You Can't PR Every Meet
When you start you feel like you PR at every meet. The longer you lift, you'll realize you can't hit PRs every time you walk on the platform. That's ok! Your weightlifting journey is a marathon, not a sprint. Always strive to get stronger and be better but don't obsess over your perceived failures or shortcomings.
10. Not Medaling Isn't The End Of The World
Everyone loves a shiny medal. Unfortunately not every one can get one. Does that mean you need to cry and stomp your feet? Absolutely not. Work hard and do your best. You won't always win. You won't always PR. But you will compete with dignity and integrity.
What advice would you give your 12 year old self about weightlifting or powerlifting? Did anything I say sound wrong? Let me know in the comments!
Share online if you feel like other coaches or parents would benefit from hearing this.