It is now time for a third interview. Greg Everett is the owner of Catalyst Athletics. which was founded in 2006. He is a weightlifting coach, an author (he has written 2 books and writes the Performance Menu journal) and, as of lately, he is also a (weightlifting) documentary maker. Indeed Greg will be releasing his new documentary called ”American Weightlifting” very soon and I had the chance to see it. I will publish my review of the documentary tomorrow, so make sure to check it out.
Without further ado… Here is the interview with Greg Everett
Background and coaching
What attracted you to weightlifting and how did you get into coaching?
I just naturally gravitated that way. I can’t explain it any more than I can explain liking brunettes more than blondes. Same reasons some people choose football instead of baseball. It’s not that I was particularly well-suited physically for it (arguably it was a terrible choice in that regard), it just appealed to me.
I became a personal trainer when I was 18, so basically I’ve been involved with the fitness-type industry in some fashion for my entire adult life. Coaching weightlifting specifically was something that just happened—it wasn’t something I really set out to do specifically. People ask you for help, they have success, and it just snowballs until you have to make a choice. I chose to pursue it and the business I’m in full time.
You trained under Coach Burgener. Can you describe how this experience was?
It was one of the best experiences of my life. I picked up and moved to southern California just to train with him, and that decision and the experience really opened the door for everything I do now. He is a great coach and a great person, and the atmosphere in his gym is what made it what it is. I now have one of the biggest and best-equipped weightlifting gyms in the country, and I still often miss training in that garage.
Did Burgener’s coaching influence the way you actually coach weightlifting?
Of course. I was self-taught as a lifter initially, but obviously spending a couple years under his coaching changed and improved my lifting and really created the foundation for me as a coach. I think lineage in coaching is very important. This is something that’s really emphasized and prominent in the martial arts world, for example, but seems to not be valued as much in other sports. Over time, of course the things I do and the way I do them have changed as I’ve gained experience and learned more, but I would say that fundamentally, I still coach like him in many ways, particularly with regard to my manner, my relationships with my lifters, and the atmosphere I foster in the gym. With technical specifics and programming, we don’t always align perfectly, but nothing dramatic.
As new coaches, we are bound to make mistakes. What lessons did you learn from your first experience as a coach? Any advices to new – or old- coaches?
I don’t know what exactly my first coaching experience was, but I would say that the most important lesson I’ve learned, and one that I regularly remind myself of, is to not get dogmatic or wed to any particular method or idea. It’s easy to become entrenched and to avoid considering things you don’t do, but it’s a mistake to not give things a fair evaluation if they merit it. My other piece of advice to new coaches would be to get the real experience. You have to be a lifter, you have to train in a real weightlifting gym, and you have to be coached by a real weightlifting coach at some point along the way for a significant period of time. There is no more important education than that experience.
Training and technique
Many people have criticized the way technique is taught in the USA. What are your thoughts on this matter? Are Americans really doing something different than other countries, in terms of technique?
First of all, it’s a ridiculous generalization to claim that all Americans do anything the same way—so whatever else a person who makes that claim says next is immediately suspect. With the incredible access to lifting footage the internet affords us all, how can anyone really believe that a) Americans all lift the same and b) Everyone else lifts the same. Again, if anyone makes that claim, I’m not particularly interested in what they have to say next, because this idea is fundamentally flawed. People love to stand out by making novel or controversial claims—novelty and controversy don’t mean much to me.
According to you, what are the most important aspects of the classical lifts (Snatch and Clean and Jerk)?
Consistency with the manner of lifting that best suits the individual. In other words, all lifters will lift slightly differently even with the same fundamentals. But what matters is that each is allowed to maximize the effectiveness of his/her lifting according to his/her strengths and weaknesses and various peculiarities, and that that technique is then relied upon and ingrained to the point of being second nature. All we see in the US and countries in similar situations with the sport about learning and perfecting technique along with other training is really a product of our circumstances. If you do it right, that stuff has been taken care of at a young age and lifters are focused much more on training than on learning and practicing.
Do you program differently for men and women? Why?
Programs need to be designed for the individual, not for the gender. There are things that tend to be true (e.g. women tend to be able to handle more volume and tend to be able to perform more reps at a percentage of submaximal weight than their male counterparts), but there are no hard and fast rules, and to rely on any set notions is a disservice to your athletes.
What is the most underrated assistance exercise?
Maybe the muscle snatch. Also one of the most commonly incorrectly-performed exercises in my opinion, which may explain part of why more people don’t find it as useful as I do.
On women and weightlifting
As of lately, I have published two articles on the special conditions women find themselves in this sport (here and here) as well as how their technique has evolved through the years. I noticed that a lot – if not most- of your athletes are women. Is there a special reason for this? How different is it to coach women in comparison to men?
It’s just how things happened to work out—it’s not anything I’m doing intentionally, except possibly for not being a creepy jerk-off with female athletes like some coaches. Again, I don’t like to say that all women are a certain way and all men are another. I have female lifters who are tougher mentally and physically than some of my male lifters; I have female lifters who respond better to my being harder on them, and some who don’t. It’s all about finding what works for each individual, not using a blanket approach to a group. I would say that the most consistent thing I find is that women tend to be more emotionally invested in training and in their relationship with me—that means that when things don’t go as well as they want, they often are more concerned about disappointing me or how I feel than anything else.
States of American weightlifting
According to you, why isn’t the USA a top country in weightlifting?
The biggest reason is that we don’t have enough athletes in the sport. We have the talent pool in this country to be a world power in the sport, but it’s diverted elsewhere, such as collegiate scholarship and professional sports. We’re beaten by countries who don’t have those options—weightlifting IS the best choice there for an athlete. I think Jim Schmitz said it well when he said, “We give up what they gain… We give up a good job and a good education to be weightlifters, whereas they can get that by being weightlifters.”
Of course there are a lot of other factors, such as a lack of money, too few coaches/gyms, questionable drug testing of athletes in other countries, etc.
What do Americans need to do to claim back their dominance in the sport?
The easiest way would be to get rid of our other professional sports. This of course won’t happen, so we have to find ways of attracting more and better athletes to the sport and creating opportunities for them to train full time long term. The sport has to be funded well somehow, whether it’s from the USOC (unlikely) or privately (more likely but difficult). Many things have to happen together, such as getting more media exposure, bringing in bigger sponsors, educating more people about the sport, improving our coaching education, etc.
What do you think of the efforts of the USAW?
There are a lot of good people trying to do good things in USAW, but like any organization that makes decisions by board and committee, it can be very difficult to make changes. Bottom line is that with such a limited budget, there’s not a lot that can be done, so it’s really in the hands of the coaches and athletes and clubs to move things in the right direction at this point. I do think USAW is improving by doing certain things, such as providing webcasts of national meets.
American weightlifting: The documentary
First of all, thanks for allowing me to view – and review American Weightlifting (Review to come shortly). It is much appreciated. What made you want to take on such an ambitious project?
I wanted it to get done, and no one else was going to do it. The sport is dying for exposure, and I think it and so many coaches and athletes deserve some recognition and celebration. I figured I had just enough ability to get it done (although I had no idea how to make a movie).
Was it hard to find funding and realize the whole movie by yourself? Any challenges?
It wasn’t hard to find funding because I didn’t look for it. The budget was essentially non-existent—I just worked with what I had in the course of normal business, which isn’t a lot. The entire process has been a huge challenge. It’s an enormous amount of work, which I did entirely on my own—there was no crew, no editors, nothing. Doing it myself was the only way it could have been possible financially, so it’s the way I did it.
Why should the reader view the documentary?
It should have an obvious appeal to anyone in the weightlifting world, but beyond that, I think there are a lot of universal elements—aside from the sport specifically, it’s about the willingness of people to dedicate themselves to a seemingly impossible task because of their love for it.
I created First Pull to promote weightlifting as well as to make it the ultimate stop for good weightlifting information and good interviews. What do you think of this approach to create interest in this sport?
I think it’s part of the solution, but you can have the greatest weightlifting resource in the world and it won’t make a bit of difference if there isn’t any interest in viewing it. People have to hear about the sport and be intrigued enough to seek out information. That may happen at times by chance because of the nature of the internet, but there needs to be more of a widespread cultural interest in weightlifting.
So there it is folks. Make sure to check out the review tomorrow and visit First Pull’s facebook page!