Second String Syndrome
Words of Wisdom w/ Gerald
(aka midnight powerlifting-ramblings of a night owl)
Article seven: Second String Syndrome
Powerlifting is a sport…Do you play to win? We are all sick enough in the head to punish ourselves with training week in and week out, but there seems to be an argument floating around regarding whether lifters should compete to win or compete to hit personal bests. I’ve heard conversations, read articles, and have gathered other people’s opinions on this topic; and while there are no right or wrong views, here’s my take on it!
You’re damn right your mindset should be to win meets. Personally, I enjoy the trials of training, and I enjoy stepping on the platform testing myself against everyone else on that given day. Sport is a competition that is meant to be won. To quote one of the greatest sports movie speeches of all time, “You find out life's this game of inches, so is football. Because in either game - life or football - the margin for error is so small. I mean, one half a step too late or too early and you don't quite make it. One half second too slow, too fast and you don't quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They're in every break of the game, every minute, every second. On this team we fight for that inch. On this team we tear ourselves and everyone else around us to pieces for that inch. We claw with our fingernails for that inch. Because we know when add up all those inches, that's gonna make the fucking difference between winning and losing! Between living and dying!” –Tony D’Amato (Any Given Sunday).
Maybe at one meet that inch is pulling a PR deadlift for the win, but maybe at another that inch is playing your attempts conservatively to secure the win. At the top level, a lot of the time the winners do not come out of the meet with any PRs at all. Sometimes the winner is who survived the conditions of the meet, who made the right attempt selections on that day, or who put their past experiences to use that meet. I think first we need to step back and objectively be able to classify ourselves as lifters. As a beginner/new lifter, you’re probably best off competing in small local & state level meets. On the strongman side of things, maybe enter an event in the novice class to get your feet wet. If you’re one of the gifted freaks that annihilates everyone at your first meet, it may be time to look for larger events and seek better competition right out of the gate. BUT, if you’re like the rest of us, this is going to be a slow process. Once you have gone on to win your specific weight class at the local level, maybe your goal for next year should be to win best lifter at that same meet or at a similar level meet. Skipping ahead and now you’ve won a best lifter award or two, what’s next? Let’s look for regional/national level meets to compete in or perhaps a meet where some money is on the line. After that, it’s world events and the notoriously large money meets that are offered. Then finally there is the never-ending mountain to climb of solidifying your legacy on the all-time world record list. Whatever level you are at, the end goal should be to win!
I can already hear the dweebs chirping in the back, “But Steve, not all federations have the same level of competition!” This is true, and if you happen to accrue some wins at the top level in one of those smaller federations and find yourself & your total not in the current 50, let alone top 20 totals, then I pray you’d be smart enough to switch to a different federation to again seek out better lifters to compete against. If you can’t come to that realization, you were never worried about really competing in the first place. As fans of powerlifting everyone knows where the best athletes are competing. Look at the top lifters in the world; they choose 1-2 meets per year and that is it. Could they go and collect trophies at their nearest BFE backyard local meet? Absolutely. It isn’t about that, it’s about pushing yourself to fulfill your highest potential, to do what it takes to win. To say that on this day I beat the best that are doing it today, and this one is mine. Feel free to recall my view on what it takes to become a winner in “Article 6: Brick x Brick.”
Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t hit a local meet as a tune up or as a qualifier meet, I’m saying that if you’re an elite athlete, that one local meet shouldn’t be your highest achievement of the year. That shouldn’t be your end game. I think lifters/competitors should be seeking out better competition to beat to push themselves in their own training. Yes, you will need to chase personal bests along the way. Yes, you may be stuck a certain level for a few years, but that is the whole draw of sport. On the flip side of things, if you’re content with mediocrity like most of today's population then just be sure you take home your one PR and third-place medal to your wife and have some real wild missionary style sex to celebrate...
But really, you are bound to lose, and you are bound to have to overcome these losses. They should haunt you, or at the very least fuel you to prepare better next time. Personal example of what I'm talking about; I was a solid high school basketball player, could shoot the three, hustle, and had some lock up defense. This developed into being an average small college role player…that’s the level that I made it to at Rochester College (now an NAIA power house). My senior year we had our best finish of second place at the 2009 USCAA National Tournament. That loss hurt, and would have hurt just the same if I would have dropped a 40 coin with a triple double. If I lose a meet and PR - wonderful, one goal complete, but moral of the story, I still lost. If you’re role isn’t where you want it, maybe you’re on the second string riding the bench, you better be busting your ass and scrapping in practice to claim your spot. To further paint the picture, in the professional world, your boss isn’t going to pat you on the back saying good job if your company didn’t hit their yearly sales quota. Even if you “PR’ed” and had more sales than the previous year, but are still $1 million short, guess what? Good talk, kick rocks, better luck at your next job. This isn’t me saying winning is EVERYTHING. Sport (powerlifting included) can be fulfilling through the friends we make, the camaraderie, the lessons you can apply elsewhere in life, ethics, etc. However, this is me saying winners play the game to win, to maintain the integrity of healthy competition, and to not just PR! I’ll leave you with this one quote from the great Larry Bird, and later quoted by C.T. Fletcher as they stepped into the locker room/warm up room, “Which one of you motherfuckers is coming in second?!”
Powerlifting is a game, don’t ride the pine.
Rochester Performance Gym
If you want to play the game at RPG, check out the registration for the 2019 UPA Winter Warfare Meet coming this January! https://www.rochesterperformancegym.com/meetsignup