One of the topics touched upon by national coach Zygmunt Smalcerz was the selection of candidates for the national weightlifting program in Poland. To many readers this may sound like a novel concept since we don’t practice it in this country, and there is a considerable bias against selection for elite programs in general. In an effort to counter ageism, sexism, racism and any number of other “-isms”, there is a fair percentage of the general public that believes that anyone should be allowed to enter any program and that the deciding factor should be the individual’s desire. Well desire is a factor and the athletes that stand on the medal podium at the Olympics have a lot of it and talent too!
We need to stop dividing populations into the two groupings of talented individuals with little or no desire and undertalented individuals with overwhelming desire. At the Olympic level everyone has talent and everyone has desire. The degree of talent and the guidance of that talent are probably the more overriding factors. 11 world records and 33 Olympic records were broken in London. This indicates that the many participating nations are still seeking out talent and that developmental methodologies are continuing to improve. Of course, if you are an intellectual sloth you will attribute it to drugs.
Anyway back to the presentation by Zygmunt. He presented this to us at the coaches meeting, and it was good to find out how other countries are doing this. Certainly it provides us with food for thought as to how to proceed.
Zygmunt told us that he annually tested 1500 students at ages 11–14 and ended up selecting 10 of them for participation in the weightlifting program. His general points of reference were:
- Personal interest and agreement by the parents
- Approval by a sports doctor
- Anatomical suitability
- Body structure preconditions
- Attainment of minimum standards on standardized tests
He tested them in physical education classes at the beginning, the middle and the end of the school year. The tests were as follows:
Vertical jump performed with a measuring tape attached to a waist belt. The best of 3 jumps in cm was taken and divided by 2 to yield a score.
Standing long jump. The best jump in cm is divided by 10 to yield a score.
Bench Press. The score is the number of repetitions performed with 50% of bodyweight.
Overhead Squat Position and Front Squat Position. Each can earn a score of 10 points for a total possible of 20 points for the score.
Age/Weight/Height. A scale for each parameter yields 20 points maximum possible for each. Age 11 gives 20, while age 20 yields 2. For weight, the range is from 40 to 85 kg, and the highest points are awarded to students at the ends of the range. The same is true of height which has a range of 140 to 185 cm. The highest points are awarded to the shorter and taller students.
Biomechanical suitabilities. The arm span cannot be more than twice the height of the trunk. The tibia cannot be more than 4 cm longer than the femur. The legs should not be more than 50% of the athlete’s total height. The palm length should be at least 16 to 16.5 cm. The thumb length should be at least 7.5 cm.
Physical, psychological and medical tests are administered at the three junctures to get a clearer picture of the individual development pattern.
The results of all these evaluation procedures are compiled into a report to aid in making the decision for inclusion of the student in the national weightlifting program.
This is a fairly comprehensive procedure for identifying the most talented, appropriate individuals for the national weightlifting program. When these athletes are properly supported and coached by professional coaches, they can expect to be competitive at the Olympic level.
By the way this is not the first time I’ve heard of such an evaluation process being used. All of the top weightlifting nations have some form of talent identification.
Take this type of identification process, and support it with top level facilities, professional coaches, sports medicine and psychology personnel, and sufficient cultural and financial incentives, and the chances of producing an Olympic medalist go way up. The USA needs to explore these possibilities.