The American Open Series
The first ever American Open Series was completed this weekend, and with it, a great possibility for USAW. With another meet encroaching on nigh 1000 athletes, this was probably the most well run and efficient meets so far. The sessions were on time, with some slight delays which comes from things like following yourself and mixed sessions (some sessions having youth and junior lifters) but otherwise, very, very few technical issues. Quite possibly, the best meet in terms of management and effectiveness, even the live stream had very few issues with broadcasting, which was a massive improvement over previous live streams.
The biggest concerns for most USAW fans and members was that it would be a repeat of the USAW Regionals back in 2015, in which it would just be a meet for the big timers to qualify for international meets, and then fade into the aether. But, with the proficiency of the meet, and the turnout for the athletes as well as the athletes themselves, the better stream, venue, everything seemed to be even leagues better than The 2016 American open that happened before. I don't think that this will be an event that will go away anytime soon.
The next biggest concern was that the amount of talent that would show up would not be up to par with that of other National Level meets due to the significantly lower entry totals. In short, people would think it would be a boring meet to watch because it's not filled with the best Athletes in the country for the A sessions. Well, guess what, that's the point of this meet. The point of the American Open Series is to allow people to compete on a stage that is on par with a National meet in terms of appearance, experience, and proficiency. It's a way to get people who can't make it to a National meet yet, or ever, a chance at experiencing what it's like; and rewarding those who finish in the top a chance to compete at the American Open itself if they don't qualify with the proper total.
Getting. Bodies. In. The. Room.
That's the goal, that's what you have to do, that's what's needed to be done with the sport of Weightlifting in the United States if you want it to be something bigger than a niche sport. Do you think that Football would've gotten this big if in the early days, the league only let the best people play? Probably not since in the early incarnations of the NFL, the best (which were college players) weren't allowed to play - my precious Green Bay Packers actually paid a hefty fine for that once. You think anyone would even remotely care that swimming or gymnastics was a sport, if they didn't have the thousands and thousands of clubs in the country to have them tune in during the Olympics or live streams on FloElite? You think the CrossFit Games would be what it is if the only way to participate in CrossFit, would to be doing Regional and Games level workouts everyday?
It astounds me that the concern of less than elite level athletes stepping on the stage is one of the deterrents for people's hopes in the success of the event, and believing that giving only the best the chance at an amazing venue and experience, is the way to grow the sport. The likes of Morghan King or Colin Burns don't pay your gym bills, or for the USAW membership that's coming in now - it's everyday men and women and their kids who want to participate in a sport that is
2) Easy to get into
I bet that if you walked the sidelines of a middle school or high school football game, and pulled the third string kids who won't see play time ever, and showed them videos and pictures of the events and tell them "you could be there within 6 months" that participation in this sport would skyrocket. Everyone wants to find the next freak who will make their instagram blow up, or the next monster who looks good in a singlet to promote their company with a promo code, but that's not how you make the sport grow. You need to find the kids with the athletic ability to be top tier competitors, and show them that for 6 brief moments, that they can be the star, and the center of attention. That they can do something that their parents can show to their family members, and create memories that they'll hold on to for a lifetime.
Third stingers aren't the only ones either; college kids who finish up sports that have no major professional outlet, or those who don't make it to the pros, show them the sport. Let them know that there's still a place to fill that competitive need that burns in them. Show them that they can be the athlete everyone looks at and pays attention to. This is America - where everyone wants to be a star, and weightlifting is the perfect sport to do that, but you still have to give them the chance. This sport is evolving from having dinky little meets in a garage or skating rink, and growing to the point where it's appearance is getting to that of other Olympic sports. But you have to let people play, and sometimes you have to give them a carrot on a stick to do so, and if that carrot on the stick is lifting at a big fancy meet, give it to them. If that's what it takes to keep the sport growing, I don't care if there's a session where half the people are using training plates.
You can't have an event that's filled with amazing athletes if you don't open the door for them to find it.