Monday, March 9, 2009

5 Questions About Strength, Conditioning, & Olympic Weightlifting

Today's interview is with a coach in the Southern California area. Hailing from Auburn, CA , CJ Del Balso was a varsity football player and wrestler at Del Oro High School. He then played one year of football at Sierra Junior College where he was a first team All-Conference linebacker before moving on to play football at Hardin Simmons University in Abilene, TX. A certified USA weightlifting club coach with a Master of Science degree in Human Movement from A.T. Still University, his coaching experience includes 9 years as an assistant football coach, 3 years as a Head Wrestling Coach, and 8 years of being a strength and conditioning coach. Currently at Capistrano Valley Christian Schools, he took time out from his busy schedule for today's five questions that introduce us to an upcoming event in the South Orange County area on March 14.

1. Please explain what the duties of a Strength and Conditioning Coach are - do you work with one specific team or all teams in a school's sports program?

A strength and conditioning coach is responsible for designing and implementing training programs that physically prepare athletes for competition in their respective sports. Each sport has its own unique demands and it is the job of the strength and conditioning coach to prepare a program that meets the needs of each athlete and the physical demands that their sport requires. At my school, I am available to work with athletes in all sports but I mainly work with football, baseball, and weightlifting athletes. One thing I love about Olympic weightlifting is that it develops tremendous explosive power in athletes. Many of our best lifters are also our best football players. These athletes have become much better on the football field as a result of the skills they’ve developed in the sport of weightlifting.

2. Tell us about the sport of Olympic Weightlifting - what are the basic events, rules, and requirements? What sort of training schedule and commitment is necessary to get started?

Olympic weightlifting is a sport where athletes compete against each other by completing two lifts: the snatch and clean and jerk. The snatch is performed by lifting a barbell from the ground to an overhead position all in one motion. The clean and jerk is very similar to the snatch except that the weight is first lifted from the ground to the shoulders and then extended overhead. Each athlete has three attempts on both the snatch and clean and jerk with the highest successful attempt on each lift counting towards the final total. The total of the two lifts are added up and the athlete with the highest total for both lifts is the winner. Athletes in this sport compete within specific age and weight classes which makes it a great sport for people of all ages and sizes. In our program, the athletes are required to work out 4 days per week and attend all the local competitions. That is really the only commitment that I require. Each kid must be committed to attending all of our training sessions and they have to be willing to work extremely hard. We have a great group of kids in our club who push each other on daily basis and bring a high level of intensity to the weight room.

3. How young can someone become involved in the sport? What precautions should one take into consideration when deciding to participate in Olympic Weightlifting?

Athletes who are in 7th grade and above are able to join our program. The biggest precaution in training young athletes for Olympic weightlifting is making sure that technique is sound before lifting significant weight. Every athlete who trains with us starts off learning the lifts with a PVC pipe and they slowly progress as various skills are mastered. This process is different for each kid as their ability levels vary greatly. I am very strict about performing any exercise we do with great technique which definitely helps with safety and injury prevention. If the lifts are performed with good technique under the supervision of a qualified coach, weightlifting is a very safe sport with injury rates lower than many of the most popular sports in this country.

4. What is the basic structure and hierarchy of USA Weightlifting and events? How does an athlete progress to the position of Olympian?

USA Weightlifting is organized into Local Weightlifting Committees(LWC) which include individual club programs within each committee. For example, our club is a part of the Southern Pacific LWC. There are four different age divisions athletes compete under. There are: School Age(17 and under), Junior(18-20), Senior(20 and above), and Master(35+). Most competitions take place at the local level and serve as qualifying events for the National Championships of each age division. To qualify for Nationals, athletes must lift a certain total at a sanctioned local competition. Beyond Nationals, there are international level competitions like the Pan Am Games, World Championships, and Olympic Games. Qualifying for international events requires certain totals being lifted at bigger competitions like the National Championships. Typically, Olympic qualifiers will be individuals who have placed highly in events at the international level in addition to winning their weight class at the U.S. Olympic trials.

5. Please give us the details of your event that will take place on March 14th and any other events that come in the near future. Is this your premier event for the sport in the Southern California area?

Our event on March 14th is a local competition and will serve as a qualifier for nationals. There will be 2 more local competitions before June. Our competition is not a premier event for the Southern California area. It is simply a local event that allows athletes to qualify to move on to the next level of competitions. On March 21, the Junior National Championships will be held in Foster City, CA and that would certainly be classified as a premier event.

This local competition will be at Capistrano Valley Christian Schools on Saturday, March 14 at 10:00 am.

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