Monthly Archives: February 2010

Take the Time to Become an USAWA Official

by Al Myers

One of the exciting things about the membership voting to pass the new rulebook at last years National Meeting was the development of an USAWA Certified Officials Program which was included in the new rulebook. The USAWA has never really had an system for certifying officials before this. Several things have been tried through the years to develop an Officials Program but nothing ever took hold. Mainly it consisted of anyone who wanted to judge a meet was considered an official. Sure, at the 2006 National Meeting, the membership voted to develop a test that must be passed in order to be an official. But this turned out to be an optional requirement because meets were still being contested and records being set with Officials who didn’t take or pass the test. Only a handful of people took the test. Nothing really changed. A few years before this, a system was developed where there would be regional official’s chairpersons, who had the “duties’ of certifying officials in their area. But again, no guidelines were given to the Chairpersons in how to go about implementing this so it died about as quick as it was started.

Why didn’t any of these previous Official’s Programs work?

My opinion is this. They were either too extensive and time demanding that it wasn’t worth it for someone to go “through the program”, or the program didn’t have any backbone. What I mean by this is that having a program is all fine and dandy, but if there are not repercussions for NOT going through the program, why do it? Afterall, if you can still be an official and not go through the program, what good is the program?

I don’t think anyone would argue with me about the importance of having a system in place of certifying officials versus not having one. Everyone wants their lifts to mean something in competition, and having a certified official in competition passing your lifts lends to credibility. Now what people will argue about is what is required in an Official’s Program, or how it is implemented. Luckily this has all been sorted out by the membership agreeing on our current Officials Program, by voting in favor of it, at the last National Meeting. The new Official’s Program is far from perfect, but at least it is something to start with. I think it is best to start small and grow, rather than start big and fail. There are obvious things that need to be added to it as it develops through time, but those hurdles can be jumped as we come to them.

I know one of the arguments against this new Official’s Program is “passing a test does not make you a good official”. I absolutely agree. It is only part of being a good official. I think THREE things make up a good official: 1. Knowledge of the rules, 2. Experience, and 3. Judgement Skills. (and their importance is probably in that order). Passing a rules test only tests your knowledge of the rules. Experience only comes with hours of sitting in a judges chair and learning from your mistakes. This can be somewhat measured by the number of meets one has officiated. Judgement skills is the hardest to evaluate, but is a very important characteristic of a good judge. It can truly only be evaluated by a practical exam in which a master official “judges” a judge. Many other larger lifting organizations require this in their Official’s Programs. We are far from that! We all know each other and it is hard enough to be impartial judging each other lifting, let alone finding someone to judge our judges in a practical exam. That person would have to be someone with a very thick skin who didn’t care in having any friends after wards. Practical exams would never work at this time – it is hard enough just talking individuals into taking the short 100 question rules test!

I want to highlight some of the requirements of the Officials Program.

All of these come from the Rule Book.

VII.8. There will be two levels of certified USAWA Officials

Level 1 – The official has passed the USAWA Rules Test OR has the experience of officiating in 25 or more competitions or events.

Level 2 – The official has passed the USAWA Rules Test AND has the experience of officiating in 25 or more competitions or events.

VII. 10. The USAWA Rules Test will consist of 100 open book questions regarding rules within this rulebook. To pass the test, an applicant must score over 90 percent.

VII. 11. All sanctioned USAWA events must use certified officials, and the officials must be willing to sign a meet document proving their involvement in the competition or event as an official.

V. 4. Records may be established in any USAWA sanctioned competition or event provided that one certified USAWA official is present to officiate and approve the lift. If three USAWA officials are used to judge the lift, the lifter must receive approval of two.

The authority of a Level 1 Official is the same as that of a Level 2 Official. Nothing in the rules say otherwise. It is only a designation that shows that Level 2 Officials have achieved both of the criteria required. The experience criteria is the USAWA way of having a “Grandfather Clause” to allow those older, seasoned officials not to be asked to take the test. But to maintain integrity in our program the 25 meet experience requirement must be adhered to. I would hope that even those meeting the experience criteria would still take the Rules Test, and by doing so, would show support to this new Official’s Program and set a good example for others to take the test. Rule V.4. will be adhered to from now on – so if you want a record in the future you must have a certified Official judge you. You may notice that there are not any time limits imposed on Officials to re-certify. This is one thing that will need to be looked at by the membership in the future.

The Rules Test has been rewritten this past year and is much shorter in length. If you have ANY understanding of the rules you should be able to complete it in 2-3 hours. All of the essay questions have been removed. The test is open book and ALL answers can be found in the Rule Book. All the test really achieves is guaranteeing that a Official has LOOKED at the Rule Book, and hopefully will know where to go to find the answers to any judging question. This system couldn’t be any easier – so to say it is too hard to become an USAWA Official is just not true. If someone doesn’t have three hours to give to take this test only tells me that they are not really that interested in becoming an official. You don’t even have to be an experienced lifter to take and pass the exam! Maybe someday our organization will grow to a point where we can have Level 3 Officials, whereas a Practical Exam would be required, but for today I would just hope that everyone would support the program that is in place – so we can TRUTHFULLY say that we have a Certified Official’s Program in the USAWA.

World Team Postal Competition

World Team Postal Competition
“IAWA World Open Team All Round Weightlifting Challenge 2010″

USAWA President Denny Habecker and IAWA President Steve Gardner at the 2009 IAWA World Championships.

by Al Myers

Our IAWA President Steve Gardner has just released the details of the World Team Postal Competition. Last year it was a great success – with 10 teams and 33 individuals entering! Steve has picked new lifts for this years competition. The lifts this year are – One Arm Barbell Snatch, Two Hands Pinch Grip, Feet in the Air Bench Press, and the Ciavattone Grip Deadlift. I always felt one of the reasons lifters lost interest in the prior World Postal Championships (before it was hosted by Steve Gardner) was because the same lifts were contested year after year. However, I competed in it every year to show my support. But one of the main things that attracted me to the All Rounds was the variety of lifts and I was starting to get bored with this meet because it was the same meet year after year. So I’m glad to see Steve “mixing things up” with the lifts in this new World Postal Meet. It also changes the dynamics of the meet – because different lifters are stronger in different lifts. When the same lifts are done every year, the same lifters win every year. Changing the lifts every year will enhance the excitement of the outcome of this World Postal Championships!

There is no entry fee for this meet. Everything is done over email and the website, with practically no expenses incurred. Another problem with the prior World Postal Meet was the expense of sending everything through the postal service, and the money spent on medals and plaques for the winners. There was never enough income through entry fees to offset the expense of hosting it. Steve sends nice certificates to the winners via email, allowing the recipients to print them out if they wish at their own expense. This is a great opportunity to compete in a “World Meet” without ever leaving the confines of your own gym. Steve has done a great job putting this meet together, and has organized it in a way that should have continual success. One thing I want to point out is this is an IAWA competition – thus THREE OFFICIALS are required instead of one. These officials must be Certified USAWA Officials. The information page and the entry form for this meet are available on the Website Event Calendar. Steve has given plenty of notice on this meet – so put the dates on your calendar, organize your team, and get ready to TAKE ON THE WORLD!

Ledaig Heavy Athletics

by Dave Glasgow

Dave Glasgow and Larry Traub represented their new USAWA Club, the Ledaig Heavy Athletics, at the Grip Challenge last weekend.

Al wanted me to write a history of my club. I told him that the history of my club would be more like a readers digest version as I have just put the ‘club’ aspect of it together. I will try not to bore you all too much.

I started on the iron hi-way when I was in high school. While in college, I really got interested in weight training with my buddy and roommate, Larry Traub. We both got married and moved on, but both continued with the weights.

In 1976, I bought a set of York Olympic weights. (as a side note, this was the largest purchase my wife and i had made up until that time) Now friends, how many wives would have sit still for that kind of deal?? What a girl I have. She has always been supportive of my lifting and throwing endeavors. (thanks, Gunner!!) I set up shop in my great uncles basement and that was the start of the “club”. I have had NUMEROUS training partners over the years, none that stuck to it very long. The location for the weights have moved SEVERAL times and now resides at our farm, which, following a trip to Scotland, I named LEDAIG, which is Scottish Gaelic for “safe haven/harbor”. At the urging of my great friend and confidant, Thom Van Vleck, I just recently named my training facility the LEDAIG HEAVY ATHLETICS. The ‘heavy athletics’ being due to the fact that I am HEAVILY involved in the highland games. (I lift to throw, not lift to lift.)

However, the one constant over these past 35 years has been the relationship with my ‘bestest friend’, Larry Traub. We would see each other about once a year and do our ‘obligatory’ yearly workout together. But, from the outset, it was clear that he was a much more accomplished lifter than I. Regardless, any time we got together, the majority of the conversation was about lifting. So, when I told him about the USAWA, he was immediately interested!

So, there it is!! We are a two man club! We live eleven hours away from each other, but because of the “brotherhood of the iron”, and the wonders of modern communication, we will compete together as we did as college kids decades before.


USAWA Club Challenge

by Al Myers

Multi-talented John McKean loves to fish when he's not lifting. He even wears weightlifting T-Shirts for good luck!

John McKean, of the Ambridge VFW BBC, has announced a new, exciting meet for this year – the USAWA Club Challenge. It will be held on March 13th, at the Ambridge Barbell Club. It seems very appropriate that one of the oldest USAWA Clubs (the Ambridge BBC have been a registered USAWA Club since 1993) is hosting this Club Challenge. In the recent years club membership in the USAWA has declined, but at one time club membership was the backbone of the USAWA. The early USAWA bylaws even had stipulations in them that changes in the USAWA would only happen by votes of the clubs, with each club having a voting representative at the National Meeting.

John McKean has always been a “major player” in the USAWA. His resume of involvement goes on and on. He has been a National Meet promoter, a USAWA Hall of Famer, multiple National and World Champion, distinguished writer of numerous articles promoting All-Round Weightlifting, and a foremost leader in the USAWA. Now, he is taking on the challenge of rejuvenating the Club Membership program in the USAWA. I feel club membership is the “secret” to stimulating growth in membership in the USAWA. One of the problems we face in attracting new members to our organization is the understanding of the multiple lifts. Potential new lifters look at all of our lifts with confusion. We have over 200 lifts to learn while Olympic Lifting has only two and Powerlifting has three. But by being part of a club, new lifters have the opportunity to learn from the experienced All-Rounders. A club environment gives new lifters confidence to give All-Round Lifting a try. This only starts by those “who have been around” being leaders, and inviting new potential lifters to be part of their group. I would like to see the day return where lifters are proud of their club, and when they compete they wear their club’s T-shirt with pride.

This meet will be a club challenge – with each club having three members compete together side by side with their total points being added up for a Team Score. This meet is not about individual scores, and individual rankings will not be recorded. Clubs that enter need to be registered with the USAWA, but at only $10 per year to register as a club, it is truly just a token membership fee. Clubs may register the day of the meet. There is no entry form or entry fee, but each club must contact John ahead of time to enter. The details of this can be found on the event calendar.

This is one of the most exciting new events that has happened in the USAWA in recent years. Let’s all join together and make this Club Challenge a great success so that it will continue for years to come – and THANKS to John McKean for making it happen!!!

Coney Island’s Iceberg Club Lives On!

by Thom Van Vleck

Yes, it was cold!!!!!

On February 13, 2010 I plunged into the icy waters of Thousand Hills Lake as part of the Polar Bear Plunge Charity Fundraiser. The Lake was iced over with 12” to 14” of ice and they had to clear it out with a backhoe just so we could swim. The temperature was in the 20’s and with all the ice and snow….I felt like a polar bear, only I didn’t have a nice, warm, fur coat!

The fundraiser was part of a school effort. A.T. Still University fielded a team and we raised over $4000, part of $25,000 raised overall for Special Olympics. A.T. Still is an Osteopathic Medicine school with a history of “whole person” health. The Polar Bear Plunge was fitting as it has a history not as some masochistic ritual, but for health benefits.

The event reminded me of Vic Boff and the Iceberg Athletic Club in New York City. I first heard of Vic from my grandfather and about their “Polar Bear Club”. I also read about Vic when I was a kid in the 60’s and 70’s when I perused my Uncle Wayne’s Ironman Magazine collection. I recall an article or two that mentioned Vic and the Iceberg Athletic club taking their winter dip in the ice cold Atlantic Ocean on the beaches of Coney Island. They would then lie around in the snow touting the health benefits of ice cold bathing.

You might think that there would only be one group that would take a winter plunge in icy waters. But you would be wrong. There were several in the New York area and their history is as murky as the cold Atlantic and often bitter feuds have come over beach turf and who’s been around the longest. There were major groups fighting over turf in the 90’s: the Coney Island Polar Bear Club, the Arctic Ice Bears, the Arctic Icebreakers, and the Iceberg Athletic Club.

The slowpoke at the left is me.....I took my time!

Bernarr Macfadden was a physical culturist who started the ritual of “winter bathing” on Coney Island. Around 1903 Macfadden started the “Coney Island Polar Bear Club”. He believed that a swim in the ocean in winter had great health benefits. However, the club I remember most is the fabled Coney Island Iceberg Athletic Club. By most accounts it was organized in 1918. This was the one I remembered my grandfather talk of and perhaps its most famous member was Vic Boff. They are the only club that actually has a physical address. It is 3046 W. 22nd St. Brooklyn, New York, but a phone number I found is now disconnected. I have since found out they are no longer….or are they. I’m researching as you read this as they might still be hanging in there! I have contacted several people who are telling these wonderful, rich stories of a “sport”.

I am in the process of researching this interesting topic. There were numerous clubs I have found, some have been around nearly 100 years, such as the L Street Brownies in Boston. I hope to put a comprehensive story together on this topic. The fact is, it is a part of weightlifting and strongman lore. Now, I have taken the plunge and I feel a part of the legacy. I can say this; whether it is good for you or not, it will definitely wake you up!

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