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2018 Powerlifting: The Process and the Journey

The following is written by Little City Special Olympics coach Tim Lahart

I recently saw an interview with an old teammate and coach of mine, Sam Barber, on the FloWrestling website. You know you’ve made it when Flo interviews you.

Sam Barber, was dealing with a dilemma. He had a returning national champion who had lost “it.” His obsession with the outcomes of his matches had become so overwhelming that his performance in practice, competition and life was spiraling downwards and out of control. The wrestler clearly had the ability to be the best wrestler in the country, but his focus on outcomes instead of performance goals was destroying him.

Gradually through a series of email affirmations, practices designed to set him up for success and daily self-determined performance goals, Sam was able to get him to improve gradually and peak at the right time. He focused on the little things adding up, things that were within his control. The result was another national title.

I had a similar issue with Kevin Mastin, a Little City athlete and one of the strongest Special Olympics deadlifters in Illinois this year. He was trying so hard for an outcome that he was going backwards.

When we tested in February, Kevin only got one good deadlift at 385 pounds. Good golly Miss Molly! I thought my hat turned a shade of red somewhere between violet and purple. It wasn’t just Kevin either. We tested poorly top to bottom.

I had to figure it out. It wasn’t Kevin who was caught up in the results that night, it was me – although I heaped some of that on all of them. I was failing as their coach and I had to figure it out and quick. I changed the workout waves. I concentrated on two things: I had to decide what each individual needed to reach their potential and I needed to change the training to focus on performance rather than outcomes. Basically, I set attainable weekly goals that set the foundation for future success on the platform.

The training program changed. Squatters lifted heavy on bench and squat one week and deadlift the next. Push-pull athletes (bench and deadlifters) benched heavy one week and deadlifted heavy the next. This proved out.

For Kevin, the issue wasn’t ability. He has made several deadlifts over 400 pounds in his career and is one of the most explosive, if not the most explosive, lifters in the state. It was control. We slowed everything down and worked on technique and being calm while lifting until we could bring back the power that will make him one of the best Special Olympic powerlifters ever. Kevin responded by getting new personal records in the squat and deadlift at district competitions and smashing those records five weeks later at the state meet with lifts of 305 pounds and 450 pounds, respectively.

The team went on to beat or tie 24 of its all-time personal records between the state and district meets. These kinds of results are the kind that make the coach have to pull his hat down low over his eyes while typing.

By focusing on the process and the journey rather than where we are currently at, we take small steps towards large success. J Robinson, a three-time national championship coach at University of Minnesota once said, “Life can only be lived forwards and only appreciated when we look backwards.”

Looking back on the 2018 season, all I can say is what a view.

Time to move forward.

“Little City uses an affirming message – that it’s a good world, there’s a place for my kids in the world and Little City will help them find it.”

Rachel, mother of children receiving home-based support services