When USAW announced the American Open Series I was a little skeptical. At the time I was coaching a couple lifters , but for the most part my own lifting was far and away my number 1 priority. I had qualified for Nationals every year I competed and didn't "see the point " of holding a meet like this with a lower entry total. To be perfectly honest , as an athlete , I wasn't not big on "participating" , I skipped my first nationals because I wasn't in an A group ( I should have went and gotten the experience ) . It seemed kind of silly to me . All of a sudden people were calling themselves "National Lifters" after competing in an AO Series meet. I just didn't understand.
Then last fall we got a new lifter in our gym. Dom had been coming in to train for about 2 weeks when he informed us that he had signed up for the AO3 in Grand Rapids and all of his friends backed out and he needed some help in the back . Maggie and I jumped at the chance to help. Grand Rapids is a cool city, Dom is a great guy, and we had never coached anyone but me at a bigger competition. I was still skeptical. How would the meet go? What was the point? Then we got there and I finally "got it" . The entire experience was incredible . Dom was in the D group , that was our competition , win his group. I can't remember how he placed, but I do remember the experience. We had to run the back like a national meet . It was fast paced, and we had to really had to be smart with how we ran the back . Most importantly ... it was so much fun!
After we got back we were starting to understand the importance of the AO Series , but we still didn't quite" get it". It was really fun though so we encouraged all of our athletes that qualified to sign up for the AO1 at the Arnold in the spring . Link Here:)( www.pfpbarbell.com/blog/pfp-barbell-arnold-classic-recap).
We had a similar experience as we did with Dom the first time. Fun , competitive sessions, big meet atmosphere , and high pressure. Afterwards is where the magic happened. Our athletes left the meet INSPIRED. They wanted to get back to the gym and get better. Most of our athletes are new and just qualified for the meet and lifted in the first sessions . These folks were hungry to get better and to make progress. The rest of the weekend they asked how they could get better. Then they got back and got to work!
As a gym we have been getting our athletes ready for the AO2 in Philly . For most of them this will be the longest they have trained for a meet. As a coach this will be the longest I have trained athletes for a meet . 20 weeks of hard work and trust in the program, themselves , and their coach . As a new coach coaching new athletes the AO Series give us something to work towards. Not everyone who picks up a barbell is destined for nationals. But it allows us to strive to be better than we were yesterday, gain experience, and make sure we are maximizing our potential . The AO series has helped give our gym a focus, a cause, and a goal that most of our athletes can reasonably attain.
Will we develop some national level talent, I am sure! But we will continue to make the AO Series a big freaken deal at PFP Barbell because.. it is ! Not one of our athletes goals and aspirations or more important than another. We want to light a fire in the belly of each athlete that walks into our doors . We will always celebrate and encourage every person, every accomplishment, and every PR , to stoke that fire and to become their best selves. Weightlifting has changed our lives and these events help share those life changing experiences that made us fall in love with the sport.