Cultivating New Talent
C.J. Cummings’ coach, Ray Jones, shares his formula for identifying and creating successful youth lifters.
Step 1: Assess Commitment
For two weeks, Coach Jones limits his new athletes to bodyweight and core exercises. This period is all about attendance. Teaching weightlifting technique is time consuming, and Jones wants to invest his efforts into athletes who are serious about showing up to practice.
Step 2: Assess Abilities
During the two week trial period, Coach Jones observes how the athlete’s body moves. He has the athlete do overhead squats with a broomstick or PVC pipe to check flexibility. He also tests balance, core strength and overall athleticism.
Step 3: Design an Individualized Plan
Coach Jones firmly believes that each lifter must be treated as an individual. Some kids are naturals; some kids require more work before they can lift weights. Jones does not lump all of the kids together. Rather, he gives each child exercises that will challenge their personal abilities. Coach Jones says,
I go with whatever level the kid is at, and make them better. I’m going to take each kid and treat them as an individual. I’m not going to take a more athletic kid and make them work at the same level as the non-athletic kids.
Step 4: Find a Competition
Once Coach Jones determines that an athlete can move well with the barbell, he finds a competition. Jones says:
After a week or two of executing full movements, I find a competition that is about 6 weeks away. My goal is for the kid to go 6 for 6 at the competition. Competitions build confidence and commitment, both of which are necessary for success in the sport.
Step 5: Use Positive Reinforcement
Coach Jones is a firm believer in positivity. He says:
Everything that comes out of your mouth needs to be a positive. Nothing is ever negative. Combine sweet and sour. If you’re going to say something sour, you need to have something positive to say as well.