USA Weightlifting is the national governing body for the sport of weightlifting in the U.S. The mission of USA Weightlifting is to enable United States athletes to achieve sustained competitive excellence in Olympic competition and to promote and grow the sport of weightlifting in the United States.
Sports Destination Management: How is participation in weightlifting going?
Phil Andrews: Participation in Weightlifting has significantly increased since around 2012. We’ve gone from around 6,000 members back in 2009 to 27,000 members today. It’s the fastest-growing Olympic sport in the last four years. Much of this is down to the CrossFit movement which has really exposed the barbell to more people.
SDM: With another summer Olympics coming up, do you expect to see a boost in participation?
Andrews: We do generally see membership grow in Olympic year as people see our sport on television and are inspired to go and try it. However, our participation is growing day to day.
SDM: Do you see it growing in any certain levels, such as at the youth level, in the women’s market, etc.?
Andrews: It has really been our whole sport, but it has been noticeable (and great!) to see more Women coming in. Now, 47 percent of our senior athletes are female, which is something we are proud of. That’s showing effects on the achievement of our national team too. We have had consistently more women than men participation in our events. The last eight events had, at least, 53 percent female athletes. That’s a reflection of our membership growth among women.
SDM: Over the summer, we saw the news about a corporate partnership between USA Weightlifting and the National Federation of State High School Associations. How is that working out?
Andrews: Really well – we are talking to seven state associations about being a sanctioned sport in their state. We expect to deliver at least one by the end of the year and this will likely see another uptick in participation.
SDM: How does USA Weightlifting go about selecting sites for its sanctioned events? In other words, in selecting cities, what are you looking for?
Andrews: We have an RFP we put out each year. We are really looking for a great financial agreement, combined with great access to an airport, good hotel rates for our members to support participation, and of course, the relevant flat space that we need. That space can be a little unusual in nature, it doesn’t have to be a straight-out convention center or hotel ballroom, though it commonly is.
SDM: Are there any specific types of venues you prefer to use, over others?
Andrews: Unusual venues are always a hit. Our best-reviewed venue by our membership is still the St. Louis Union Station. However, we generally end up in a hotel ballroom or convention center. We like short walking distances so athletes can keep their legs for the lifting. Therefore, being under one roof or adjacent is always a plus.
SDM: Last year, USA Weightlifting launched athlete development camps. How is participation in those coming along?
Andrews: They are growing slowly; we are still in a trial period in the western and southeastern areas of the nation, but they are beginning to pick up speed. This year, we launched a major high school combine series and an online search for the "Strongest High School in America."
SDM: In the American College of Sports Medicine’s report, it was predicted that strength training and circuit training would be big in 2018. Are you seeing a corresponding uptick of interest in the sport of weightlifting?
Andrews: We agree with the ACSM! We are seeing more interest from commercial clubs. We recently partnered with Lifetime Fitness to bring weightlifting to their facilities around the country and are working on more similar partnerships.
SDM: What kind of participation initiatives or other programs are you currently working with, that our readers should know about?
Andrews: Right now, we are really focused on talent identification and finding athletes that might have a great future in our sport. That’s super-important when it comes to Olympic medals!
Senior Events Manager Pedro Meloni contributed to this article.