In March of 2006, my dad and I got in my bench seat, stick shift Ford Ranger and made the trip from Gainesville, Georgia down to Altamonte Springs, Florida for the Junior National Championships; my first National Championship meet of any kind.

I remember the trip vividly for many reasons. I left my left arm out of the window the whole drive leaving me with a nasty sunburn. I ate a massive meatball sub after weighing in promptly throwing it up after my third clean and jerk. Dad dropped me off in Panama City Beach, Florida for Spring Break with my fraternity brothers. And I forgot a pair of longer black socks and had to borrow my dad’s Champion ones.  

Ever since that underwhelming yet impressionable first championship, I have found myself on a National Championship stage as a competitor. Each time, slowly but surely, inching my way up the final rankings. Every now and then sneaking away with some medals.

This Wednesday night I got home and before going to bed began packing my bag for this year’s National Championships outside of Chicago. I packed my normal essentials: far more workout shorts than I need, a plethora of properly branded t-shirts, and went to reach for those same pair of black Champion socks that I have worn in every meet since 2006. It was then that it dawned on me, and I had to put them back. I took my singlet out that my sister bought me for Christmas in 2008 almost as if to say “I’m sorry” that it wouldn’t be making the trip this time. For the first time since 2006, my credential won’t say athlete.

It has been my distinct badge of honor to wear both hats as coach and athlete and be one of the few to do so. This year I think life has finally caught up to me. God has blessed me with a wife FAR BETTER than I deserve, a wild three-year-old little girl who is far too much like her dad, and most recently a 6-week-old newborn.

Weightlifting is a funny sport. You may actually only lift a barbell a total of 10 minutes in a training session. However, the body preparation, necessary rest and recovery between sets, and the ultimate length of a training session can last 3+ hours.  I asked my very first coach, mentor, and now one of my best friends Stan Luttrell when he knew it was time to leave competition behind. He didn’t give me a straight answer, but in no specific words it seemed like life would eventually give him that indication. I sat on his couch hoping I wasn’t there yet.

This weekend I have the honor and privilege to lead our athletes as they take the platform and experience the same high and lows that makes this sport so addicting.

I have the honor and privilege to stand in the shadow of some of the giants in the sport in Ursula Papandrea, Greg Everett, Danny Camargo, Sean Waxman, Cara Heads Slaughter, Paul Fleschler, Bob Takano, Bob Morris, Kyle Pierce and so many others.

 

I have the honor and privilege to give back to the sport and these athletes a mere speckling of what the sport has given to me. That said, I’ll miss the rush. I’ll miss the butterflies. I’ll miss the scowls and sizing up from across the warmup area. I’ll miss the peaks of pinnacle performance and the misery of missed moments. Most of all, I’ll miss the chance to step on the platform to honor my God, my coach, my family, and my team with my performance.

 

I’m not saying this is it or that I’ll never pull those Champion socks out again, but this weekend will be from a different view.