In Florida, we’re fortunate to have the Weightlifting as a varsity sport in many high schools. The sport of FHSAA (Florida High School Athletics Association) Weightlifting does have some flaws, but within my own experience there are more positives than negatives and I think it’s an amazing opportunity for both athletes and coaches.
The following examples are broad generalizations based on my own experiences.
The most obvious positive would be the exposure to so many new athletes. FHSAA Weightlifting provides so many young people the opportunity to get a barbell in their hands and get started in strength sports. They’re exposed to basic barbell lifts like the squat, press, and bench press, while also learning more technical lifts like the Clean & Jerk ( and starting soon the Snatch lift, check out our recent blog on the Snatch In FHSAA weightlifting).
FHSAA Weightlifting seasons have multiple meets, often athletes are competing every week, trying to earn their way to a district, regions, and state championship meets. While this gives many traditional Olympic Weightlifting coaches a stroke, I think it does a lot get athletes excited and interested in competing, progress, and sticking with the sport. In Olympic Weightlifting athletes only compete for a handful of times each year.
Less anxiety around heavy lifts and competition
Many of these athletes are excited about a chance to meet and exceed personal records on a weekly basis. They’re excited by the crowd and the support they get at these competitions and have much less anxiety around taking bigger lefts or going for PRs. While this could be a double-edged sword I think it breeds a level of courage and grit in these athletes. They have less anxiety and stress around doing what the sport entails…… Taking heavy attempts.
One of the more unique and special things I experience at Weightlifting meets is the support athletes, coaches, and spectators have for all competitors. Everyone wants to see an athlete do well and make lifts, or even come back from a hard miss and redeem themselves. It’s an amazingly supportive community and in FHSAA Weightlifting that is multiplied exponentially simply because of the sheer volume of athletes participating at a given meet. There are often multiple platforms and you’ll find people cheering for each other regardless of team or weight class. Everyone wants to see each other succeed.
Quite simply, coaches are often not experienced in teaching the nuances of these movements or educated on effective training strategies. What this leads to, at worst is injury, at best an athlete’s inability to make long term progress and stick with the sport. These coaches are often teachers, football coaches, or coaches from other sports who want to help young athletes but simply don’t know better. While it’s easy to place fault on them and say ‘they should take a certification or get educated” I commend them for doing the best with what they have, and want to invest in our youth.
While I think there are many positives to the frequent competition schedule there are obviously some drawbacks. The frequency of competition can lead to athletes performing maximal attempts more often than they are prepared for, this could lead to injuries but could more likely lead to unrealistic expectations for progression, disappointment in performance, and potential burnout.
I think the biggest issues are laid out above and while I think offering any sort of turnkey solution is unrealistic, there are a few ways I think those issues can be addressed and they really all come back to coaching and I’m going to lay the responsibility on the USAWeightlifting Coaches surrounding some of these schools.
I think the sport of Weightlifting at large and especially on a State level would benefit from local USAW coaches lending out a helping hand to High School Weightlifting programs and coaches. There are tons of opportunities and ways to set up these partnerships, some paying some volunteering.
While I could go in-depth on how you can partner some of these High School programs the simplest way is to reach out and HELP FIRST. Contact the school Athletic Director, and Team Coaches simply saying, “hi, I’m a weightlifting coach, how can I help your team”
If you’re a coach reading this I strongly urge you to get to these schools and try to work something out, you never know how it could benefit your club or what kind of stud athlete you might come across. The talent pool is huge and the desire to learn and compete is even larger.
Get out there and COACH Coach.