Youth Weightlifting Program Development – Part 3

In Part 1 of this series, we discussed the importance of teaching sound technique as a foundational component of building a successful youth weightlifting program. Part 2 addressed the topic of making the sport fun and this post will discuss the importance of creating a positive training environment and team culture.

weightlifting team group photo
2022 National Junior Championship

A vital component of any successful team is the training environment created by the leader and members of that team. In my experience as both a teacher and coach, I have found that young people thrive in an environment where they are required to meet high standards, in terms of their daily attitude and effort, along with an emphasis on the process of development as opposed to competition outcomes. An emphasis on these specific areas facilitates an environment that young people enjoy being in and want to return to day after day.

Another critical element in building a positive team environment/culture is attracting the right kind of team members. For many coaches, this means seeking out the most talented athletes, but the most talented athletes are not necessarily the RIGHT athletes for your team and program.

youth athlete in training
12-year old athlete completing a set of Back Squats

In the Conqueror Weightlifting program, we do seek to bring in talented young athletes who will develop into successful weightlifters; however, talent is not the only thing that will get a new athlete into the program. The non-negotiable traits we look for in all new athletes are integrity, work ethic and grit. If an athlete possesses these qualities, we typically welcome them with open arms regardless of their natural talent level.

The reason why we approach things this way is twofold. First, individuals who possess these qualities can be developed into solid weightlifters. While they may not become world champions, they will be athletes you can depend on to always give their best effort in developing themselves as weightlifters. At the end of the day, this is all you can expect of any athlete regardless of talent level.

Secondly, athletes who possess the character traits we look for are almost always great teammates who contribute to establishing a positive and productive team culture. Teams comprised of individuals who have excellent integrity, work ethic and grit are teams that most young people are enthusiastic and dedicated to being a part of. We have seen this played out over in and over again in the steadfast loyalty among young athletes in our program. Most of our athletes who started with us as youth choose to remain in our program long into college and beyond which is a testament to the strong team culture we have cultivated.

In summary, our formula for building a successful youth weightlifting program involves the following 3 components:
1) Continuously teaching and reinforcing sound technique
2) Making the sport fun through appropriate challenge and progression
3) Creating an environment and culture that young people value and strongly desire to be a part of

CJ Del Balso, MS, CSCS, RSCC USAW International Coach

At Conqueror Weightlifting, we offer expert coaching in Olympic weightlifting, strength training fundamentals and sports performance. Are you ready to join Nebraska’s strongest team?