Everything You Want to Know About USA Weightlifting’s Development Camps

When news broke earlier this week about USA Weightlifting’s brand new talent development camps, the organization was flooded with questions from hopeful young athletes wanting to attend and seasoned coaches hoping to hold a camp themselves.

BarBend sat down with Suzy Sanchez, the Director of Development Programs at USAW, to ask her all the questions you might want the answers to, whether you’re an athlete who wants to go to a camp or a coach who wants to host one.

So You Want to Go to a Development Camp

BarBend: Is this a youth development camp or can anyone go?

Suzy Sanchez: There’s actually no age restriction, and that’s the cool thing about this program — it’s not just looking for young talent. We have 4 age groups we’re targeting:13 and up, 17 and up, 20 and up, and 21 and up. After all, Morghan King didn’t start until she was 27 and she made the Olympic team in less than three years.

So, what if I’m a Master’s athlete? Can I go?

I’m more than happy to have whoever would like to participate in the camps, but I encourage the Master’s athletes to look into the Master’s camps that we host two or three times a year. We usually have them in Colorado Springs. The Athlete Development Camps (ADCs) are looking for athletes to develop. Master’s athletes are usually over 35 and at that point it’s a bit too late to start developing you as a lifter.

OK, so what are the other requirements if I want to go to a camp? Do I have to be a USAW member?

In order to participate, you do have to be a member of USA Weightlifting — mostly for insurance reasons — but you don’t have to have any prior experience weightlifting.

Basically, we’re looking for the next CJ Cummings, Harrison Maurus, Mattie Rogers. Because these camps are structured to athletes who’ve never done weightlifting before, we’re not considering athletes who have competed at national level.

What happens at the camp? 

The way the curriculum is set up is that it is an introduction to the sport of weightlifting over two days.

The way it’s set up is that it’s broken down by age group. You can go online to see the schedule.  Each age group has a certain amount of time allotted — we didn’t want to put 13-year-olds with 25-year-olds, for example.

On the first day, we go over the basics of the snatch and clean & jerk and on the second day we do a round of athletic testing: vertical jump, standing long jump, overhead squat, thirty-yard dash, and overhead medicine ball toss.  All of those tests will be scored, they will be uploaded to our data system, and we’ll be able to create a ranking list of all the different age groups. Then we determine who will make it to the regional camps.

So there are different kinds of development camps?

Yes: first local, then regional, and finally national. Local is specifically made for people who have never done weightlifting and they’re open to anyone.

Can you tell us how those tests will be scored? For instance, how far will someone need to be able to throw a medicine ball behind them?

With those movements, we’re really testing for athleticism, not strength — flexibility, speed, explosiveness, power, and mobility.

We’re not making the minimum thresholds for regional camps public just yet because we don’t want to discourage anyone from attending. You can go in blind, and you can always participate in another local camp to up your score.

How many camps will be held?

Right now, because we’re just starting the program, the best way to test the long-term feasibility is to do them in two regions: the West and Southeast.

The West region is Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Montana, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado.

Southeast is Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

For both regions combined, we’re expecting 500 camps, so 250 in reach region.

Wow. Don’t the camps start soon? 

The local camps will be held between June 1st and August 31st. So they start soon, but there’s plenty of time for hosts to organize.

So You Want to Host a Development Camp

Who can host a camp?

Any USAW-certified club.

And they’ll run the camp?

No, the host won’t be running the camp. Once a camp is scheduled, USAW will assign a national level coach to run it, the same people who teach the USAW certification courses. If there are more than fifteen participants, the instructor will need an assistant, who will be paid 250 dollars to assist the instructor.

Can I assist?

The instructor is most likely going to reach out to people in the area, but if it’s your club and you want to help, that’s OK with us.

Why would I want to host a camp?

Well, it’s a lot of fun, and you’ll be helping USAW find the next generation of world class athletes. Hosts also receive 70 dollars per participant, and there’s a minimum of 10 participants per camp.

Do I need to sort out accommodation for attendees?

No, people don’t actually sleep over. It’s a two-day camp and the athletes go home at the end.

Is there a limit to how many people can attend a camp?

There’s a cap on three athletes per weightlifting platform. If you have the platforms, though, there’s no limit.

If you’re interested in hosting, make sure you’re in communication with your regional administrator, which you can find on our website.

Editor’s Note: BarBend is the Official Media Partner of USA Weightlifting. Unless otherwise noted on collaborative content, the two organizations maintain editorial independence.

Featured image via @usa_weightlifting and @liftinglife on Instagram.

Nick English

Nick English

Nick is a content producer and journalist with over seven years’ experience reporting on four continents. His first articles about health were on a cholera outbreak in rural Kenya while he was reporting for a French humanitarian organization. His next writing job was covering the nightlife scene in Shanghai. He’s written on a lot of things.

After Shanghai, he went on to produce a radio documentary about bodybuilding in Australia before finishing his Master’s degrees in Journalism and International Relations and heading to New York City. Here, he’s been writing on health full time for more than five years for outlets like BarBend, Men's Health, VICE, and Popular Science.

No fan of writing in the third person, Nick’s passion for health stems from an interest in self improvement: How do we reach our potential?

Questions like these took him through a lot of different areas of health and fitness like gymnastics, vegetarianism, kettlebell training, fasting, CrossFit, Paleo, and so on, until he realized (or decided) that strength training fit best with the ideas of continuous, measurable self improvement.

At BarBend his writing focuses a little more on nutrition and long-form content with a heaping dose of strength training. His underlying belief is in the middle path: you don’t have to count every calorie and complete every workout in order to benefit from a healthy lifestyle and a stronger body. Plus, big traps are cool.

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