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Podcast: Weightlifting’s Future with Olympic Medalist Cheryl Haworth

It’s almost impossible to talk about the history of USA Weightlifting without Cheryl Haworth’s name popping up. She’s one of America’s most accomplished lifters, with accolades that include:

  • Three Olympic appearances (2000, 2004, 2008)
  • An Olympic bronze medal (2000)
  • A World Championships bronze medal (2005)
  • Multiple Junior World Championships 
  • A Pan American Games Championship (1999)
  • A Youth World Record (snatch)
  • 11 consecutive Senior USA Weightlifting National Championships
  • USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame Induction (2015)

After a storied lifting career, Cheryl began coaching the sport and now travels around the globe teaching lifters of all ages and ability levels. She’s also an in-demand color commentator for national and international weightlifting events, in addition to co-hosting the USA Weightlifting Podcast.

In this episode of The BarBend Podcast, Cheryl and host David Thomas Tao talk about her career, transition to coaching, and thoughts on the future of weightlifting.

Want to go even more in-depth on our conversation? Check out the full podcast transcription below on this page.

In this episode of The BarBend Podcast, guest Cheryl Haworth and host David Thomas Tao discuss:

  • The early days of weightlifting on YouTube (1:30)
  • Cheryl’s weightlifting career, including competing in the first-ever Olympic Games with women’s weightlifting (3:26)
  • How Cheryl found out she set a World Record — 17 years after she made the lift! (7:30)
  • Cheryl’s reputation as one of the world’s best athletes in the jerk (10:10)
  • What it took to win an unheard-of 11 straight National Weightlifting Championships (18:20)
  • Cheryl’s toughest career injury and what it took to return to the sport’s highest level (21:00)
  • Finding coaching mentors and building teams (32:00)
  • Cheryl’s advice for athletes making the transition to coaching (39:30)

Relevant links and further reading:

Transcription

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

Welcome to the BarBend podcast, where we talk to top athletes, coaches, influencers, and thinkers from around the world of strength sports. Presented by barbend.com.

Today on the podcast, we’re joined by multi-time Olympian and Olympic Bronze Medalist, Cheryl Haworth.

Today on the BarBend podcast, I’m really excited to talk to one of my favorite people in strength sports, and particularly in the sport of weightlifting, someone I’ve had the pleasure of working with multiple times over the last few years on color commentary and weightlifting. That is none other than Cheryl Haworth. Cheryl, thank you so much for joining us today.

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

David, thank you so much for having me. What an honor. I’m so excited now because I and…Well, Chad’s been in the game, Chad Vaughn, for a while, but myself personally, I’m very new to podcasting.

I know it’s a bit of an endeavor. This is brand new and you’re one of my favorite people as well, David. Always good for the pep talk and the quick boost of the ego. I’m super stoked and I love people like that. I’m super stoked to chat with you today, man. Thank you for inviting me, it’s really an honor.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

I always have to pinch myself a little bit because I remember back when I was learning about the sport of weightlifting. Beginning to learn the movements, learn the snatch, the clean and jerk.

My coaches would always, when it came to the jerk which was always my weakest modality. My coaches would always say, “Hey, go find videos of Cheryl Haworth.” This is back in the early days of YouTube, not to date myself too much.

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

I was thinking I’m like, “There was a video of me somewhere jerking.” This has been a couple of years. [laughs]

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

It was people uploading stuff that had been ripped four times from different from like VHS or whatever. Not that old.

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

Oh yeah, some of those videos are dusty, it’s OK.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

They’re like, “Go watch her jerk and just do that.” I was like, “Well, I did” I watched and I was like, “That’s great. I can’t do that, but I’ll attempt to.” Now a decade or more later, being able to chat with you, to work with you at USA weightlifting events, and international events, too, is a real treat.

Just as a little background for folks who might not be familiar with your weightlifting career, you’re probably better known as a weightlifting coach and a broadcaster today. How long have you been in the sport? How did you get started? What are some of those highlight accomplishments in that very long resume?

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

Wow, David, I don’t think I’ve ever been called a broadcaster. You just made my day. You made me sound so important.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

You’re a guest on this podcast. You have your own podcast and you do color commentary at international weightlifting events. I think that qualifies.

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

[laughs] I guess so. I feel like I need to call my mom straight away and tell her, “Guess what mum, am a broadcaster. Somebody else said it, it wasn’t my word.”

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

[laughs] He said that?

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

So that she can be proud.

Thanks for that. I had a really sort of…It wasn’t the longest career. I think one of my biggest regrets is not having the longevity I feel like I should have but I packed a lot of stuff in there. I was a junior weightlifter at a high level and a senior weightlifter at a high level.

I had the chance to really compete all the time and snag some…because of course, the first Olympics where ladies were allowed to compete was in 2000. I had stepped into weightlifting back in 1996 in Savannah, Georgia, the Anderson/Cohen weightlifting facility down there, to cross-train for softball as a 13-year-old.

It was softball season, it’s the summertime. My folks preferred us out of the house and we were very physical all the time. One thing led to another, I walked into the weightlifting gym and I knew I was a strong kid. Very, very quickly, I think it was the first week they were like, “Yeah, please keep coming in with the weights.”

At that time, there was such a great group of lifters there, similar age. I immediately began qualifying for events and climbed that ladder one event at a time — qualifying for Junior Worlds one year before I was old enough to compete, qualifying for the Senior Worlds the next year also being a year too young to compete, and always chomping at the bit ready for my opportunity for the international stage, won Junior National.

I don’t know how many times I won Junior Nationals, but I think I still have all the School Age and Junior National records. I was credited with a world record because qualifying for the Olympics in 2000, going to that competition, obviously the first year women’s weightlifting was at the Olympics in Sydney, Australia.

While I was there, I managed to get the bronze medal. My last match when they created the Youth World category, somebody again dusted off a lot of old results and determined that it’s still presently the most any woman, 17 or younger, has ever snatched. It was 125 kilos.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

To give some context on that, we went through four years of weightlifting really quickly there. You started in ’96, women are allowed to…

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

Yeah. I was all over the place in that. [laughs] I’m sorry, that was not linear at all.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

It’s great though because for context. You went from beginning the sport as a 13-year-old, as a young teenager to being at the top level and getting a bronze medal when you were 17 at the first ever Olympics where women can compete in weightlifting. You’re 17 years old, you’re on a new continent. I don’t know if that was your first time in Australia.

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

It was actually my second time. I had competed at the test that they had a few months prior.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

It was fine? You were a grizzled 17-year-old at that point?

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

Yeah. [laughs] I had been in some places. My first international trip, I was 14. That was the Copa Guatemala in Guatemala City, Guatemala. I remember Danny Camargo was on that team.

This is back on the day. My first international trip, it wasn’t far away from home, but it was far away from home. Guatemala City was a very interesting place to be as a very young person. Junior World’s is in Sofia, Bulgaria the next year.

Honestly, more than anything, David, that plus the company that I kept, the people that I trained with, I had Cara Heads Slaughter moving to Savannah shortly after I began weightlifting. She almost immediately became my training partner. These were the things that really kept me interested in weightlifting. And very, very intrigued. I just happened to be really, really good at it.

Sorry, I think I might have interrupted you with more storytelling. I’m sorry.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

No. I was just going to say I find it really interesting. You lift in Sydney, you get the bronze medal, your third snatch is 125 kilos. It’s not a world record at the time, but then it was 17 years later around 2017, around when we started working together, they dusted off these old records.

They were redoing body weight categories. They were basically rewriting the record books literally. They were trying to establish the Youth World Record in your body weight category.

They had to go all the way back to your performance at the Olympics to establish, “Well, that was a record. No woman that age or younger has lifted more since then on the international stage. Cheryl Haworth, congrats. You’re a world record holder,” just casually 17 years after you performed the lift.

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

That’s OK. It’s quite all right. At the time, it was an important lift. I don’t think there was any additional incentive that could’ve been added. Youth World Record would have been at the bottom of priorities, reasons to make that lift at the time. It was a five-kilo PR.

I remember at the Olympic trials in New Orleans, Louisiana, I clarked 122.5 kilos. We were only going by 2.5 kilos. Those were the only jumps that you could make. I went from 120 kilos to 125 kilos and was just praying to God.

I remember it just ended up over my head. It was a good lift because I found that we needed that in order to set myself up. My clean and jerk wasn’t very big at that time. I didn’t snatch too much more than that ever, which is quite sad in a lot of ways. I added about 16 kilos to my clean and jerk because I ended up with a lot of efficiency. Just naturally moved really well with a barbell. Really mobile.

I was mobile even before a 13-year-old girl. My strength really took a long time. I wasn’t one of those kids. I was strong, certainly, but it took me a long time to get a big squat to get a big clean and jerk.

Cleans are my nemesis. If cleans were a person and walked into my living room right now, I’d punch it in the face. I’d be like, “You jerk, get out of here. Nobody invited you here. Go away.”

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

I remember asking you once how many jerks you had missed in competition. In international competition, you said one, and it was on purpose. I asked you how many cleans you had missed. You said, “Well, how long do you have? How long do you have to chat about this?”

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

[laughs] Many, many, many cleans. Now, I missed one jerk. It was a Pan Am championship I think. We were in the States, and I missed it. It was somewhat heavy. Something weird happened, and that was completely accidental.

Then we went up, and it was fine. I still don’t understand how I missed that jerk. If somebody has a video, please send it to me. There was more than one jerk that I did miss intentionally at a national championship, which is another long story, different times in USA weightlifting and things like that.

Cleans? Yeah, by far. It depended. I explain to my athletes all the time that you’re going to go through phases where you’re in love with the snatches, and you hate the clean and jerks.

Then you get strong, and clean and jerks feel OK. Your timing is off where you’re a little bit tired, and your snatches go completely to crap. It depends on what part of the training cycle you’re in. I had a strength problem for sure.

 

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

If you’re someone who likes to be completely satisfied and at peace with yourself, maybe consider a different sport. You’re never [laughs] going to find that with weight, no matter what level you’re in.

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

You can’t reach perfection ever. Everybody has a point at which they fail in their technique. It’s just how heavy does the barbell get before that happens. You never put it on cruise control, and you’re always, always, always…

Then sometimes, those adjustments that you make at a certain level are going to be so minute that a lot of people aren’t going to notice. I point out changes to my own technique.

When I watch a video of myself weightlifting at any time, because I haven’t lifted competitively I don’t think since I retired in 2010. My last competition might have been the Olympics as a matter of fact in 2008.

My technique is so much different when I train now. Even though it was efficient, I moved well most of the time, there are so many flaws in it that I see now as a coach. It’s so rewarding for me to go ahead as a coach now.

I never really enjoyed weightlifting as much, David. I like to travel. I liked the company that I kept training and stuff. I needed Cara in there with me, man. If she wasn’t there keeping me on track, I probably wouldn’t have made that Olympic team initially.

She taught me what she could about discipline and being accountable in the gym, but I didn’t enjoy weightlifting until I started coaching it. Until I started explaining it to people, and realizing and appreciating how complicated it is and how cool it is.

Also, stepping back and going, “Man, how did I get so good at this? This is so complicated.” I’ve forgotten what it’s like to learn the movements, but I also know what’s a waste of time based on my practical experience and what’s not.

It’s satisfying for me to solve those mysteries. Talking about the jerk, like you said, David, I think there are some fundamentals that I know which work. I can go ahead and clear the air, and lay them out for people, and maybe make it a little less complicated.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

It’s interesting. I was always told, and Dennis Reno was my coach for a period of time. He’s a storied name.

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

I love Dennis.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

You still him. He’s almost 80 years old. He might be over 80 years old, and you still see him announcing at USA weightlifting events. He’s one of these people who’s been around forever, and he’s seen the sport of all since the ’50s, if not earlier.

Dennis always said, “The weightlifter’s job is to not think. The coach’s job is to be their brain.” I’ve talked to a lot of elite athletes across strength sports. They say the same thing.

They’re like, “You know, when I was an elite lifter, I didn’t always have the most fun. I didn’t enjoy the training. It felt like work.” To be fair, that’s their job. They’re professional athletes. Then they’re like, “I really started enjoying it when I became a coach.”

I think those people tend to be a little bit more cerebral. They like using their brains. When you’re an athlete, you have to rely more on your training — that repetition, that muscle memory. You have to trust that all those hours you put in the gym will pay off.

When you’re on stage, you can’t do that much thinking. It’s only going to get in your way. When you’re a coach, you’re always thinking. You’re thinking of every scenario.

You’re doing the cards in the back. You’re trying to make sure your athlete is taking the right attempts. You’re trying to pay attention to the other athletes.

It’s more like a game. It’s more like chess. Whereas when you’re the athlete, you feel more like a pack animal. You’re like, “Well, I’m there. I lift the weight. I step off the stage, and then if they tell to go back on…”

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

That’s important. Those wiser words have never been spoken from my friend, Dennis Reno, who, again, like you said, has seen and experienced so many weightlifters in his time at all skill levels and a coach and, you say, the evolution of weightlifting.

Weightlifting was a very different sport in the ’50s than it is now. It’s a little bit different than when I was a competitive weightlifter, and it hasn’t been that long. You’re absolutely right, and being coachable, too.

Being coachable, you can be so, so talented. I like to think that I was coachable, and I think most of my coaches will agree. Now, I could get a little diva in that I get a little lazy about going into the gym and blah, blah, blah.

I didn’t enjoy the training, but you know what? When I was there, I gave 100 percent. My coaches gave me feedback. I didn’t argue with anybody. When we were in a competition, it was, “You tell me what to do. Don’t ask me.”

I would get irritated sometimes, because every once in a while you’ll have a head coach who’s not your personal coach and hasn’t worked with you as much. When I say irritated, I say extremely mildly.

It would throw me off when they would approach and go, “All right, what do you think you could do?” My response would always be the same, “You tell me what I need to do. What do I need to do to make whatever you…Do I need a medal? Am I going for a fight?”

“You figure that out, and you put it on the bar, and I’m gonna go do it, because I don’t wanna have to do that. I don’t wanna have to dedicate any more of my brain other than making this next lift, period.”

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

You see very few coaches, especially at the international level. I’ve noticed very few coaches, asking their lifter’s opinion.

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

It’s weird.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

It’s weird.

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

It’s only happened once or twice. I was like, “Wait, what? No, just tell me what do, man.”

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

That’s all fantastic background on your career, and I do want to emphasize, you said earlier in our recording at the very beginning that you wish you’d had a little more longevity in the sport, and fair enough but not to undersell the longevity you did have.

You started weightlifting in 1996. You were an Olympian in 2000. You were also an Olympian in 2004. You were an Olympian again in 2008, which was your last Olympics and, I think, probably one of your final international competitions.

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

Yeah.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

During that time frame, you won 11 straight national titles in the Women’s super-heavyweight category. All that to say, you were the best in your weight class in the United States for, I would argue, at least 11 years, probably a little bit more. That’s still a pretty long run.

You started when you were super young, but that’s over a decade of dominance in the sport in your country. I’d say that’s a pretty good run for most sports, especially most sports.

Any sport that you would call very physical or taking a toll on the body. You know what I mean? You see golfers who can compete into their 50s. You don’t see a lot of weightlifters doing that. You know what I mean?

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

Right.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

Or at least competing…

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

You’re right. Yeah. In that perspective, you’re right. In 11 times in a row, I blew my elbow out in 2003 at Junior Worlds. That was my last Junior Worlds. It would’ve been my third Junior Worlds championship that I won in a row.

I’m not sure, somebody once told me. It could be wrong. I remember, it was somebody who I remember thinking would know. It was the first time anybody had won the Junior Worlds three times in a row. I was like, “Oh, sweet.”

Again, that’s anecdotal. It could be completely not true. I know it’s not true now because…

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

Right. [laughs]

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

…I had seen USA. You’d turn it up. I love seeing that by the way.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

Just for folks who aren’t quite sure. Yeah, I’m not sure who the first person to win three Junior World Championships in a row was. We do know the first person to win four in a row. That is CJ Cummings who just had his…

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

Woof! Woof! Yeah.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

 …fourth Junior World title in a row just a couple of weeks ago. We’re recording this podcast. When this comes out it might be a month or so after CJ did that. He’s the first from any country to pull that off.

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

Yeah and I remember being taken aback when that person mentioned that to me. I just assumed that somebody had already done that but it was so…At that competition though, I was 10 kilos ahead in the snatch.

I had just broken the American record at the National Championships just a couple weeks before with 128 kilos. My elbow was irritated and it usually got irritated after heavy snatches. What happened was between the National Championships so it was on the calendar because remember, I would compete at Junior Nationals, Senior Nationals, Junior Worlds and Senior Worlds.

It wasn’t just the National Championships, the Pan-Ams and the World Championships. It was all that plus Junior Nationals and Junior World Championships, which I was expected to at least peek at, especially the Junior Worlds.

My elbow’s a little achy, but I only had two weeks so I continued building and getting stronger and stronger. I felt great, my legs are strong, and I knew I was going to snatch a lot of weight. My last attempt was 130 kilos and I snatched it. On the way up, I took a step forward and blew my elbow out. I tore the radial collateral ligaments off the bone, ulnar collateral ligament in half, I really, really just shredded my elbow.

I had a really wonderful surgeon, Dr. Kim Andrews, who at the time was in Birmingham, Alabama. He may still be there. He did Roger Clemens’ elbow and John Elway. He’s the elbow guy so he fixed me right up and I managed to…because I could squat. Again, remember David, it’s very true that my legs were really…Overall strength was what I had to work on.

Even with the elbow injury, I was able to squat, keep my legs strong so the very next year I was able to…because it was 2003. I had to skip the Pan-Am Games that year and I had to skip the World Championships that year, so I wasn’t able to help Team USA qualify for spots.

We only had two spots for the Olympics the next year in 2004 but because I was able to keep my legs nice and strong, I was able to win the National Championships less than a year later after blowing it out, and also managing to qualify for that spot on the Olympic team. A lot happened in 2003 and 2004 so that 11th consecutive National Championships and being able to qualify for the Olympics in 2004 was all pretty up in the air there for a while.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

It was touch and go

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

It was. It was tricky

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

It was. It’s fantastic to hear you coming back from that injury. Obviously, James Andrews is maybe the most famous orthopedic surgeon in the world, just with…

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

He was incredible.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

…the number of folks he’s worked on. I didn’t realize he is the one who had done that surgery. I knew you had that injury, so I can add you to the laundry list of athletes he’s helped get back on the mound on the platform.

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

He told me too, David, which is pretty cool, because you are so familiar with him. He had worked now, and he did do some surgery on some other weightlifters subsequent to that based on my recommendation.

He said, “You know, I’m not so sure if you’ll ever straighten out all the way. Just real doctor talk here because you messed it up pretty good.” He said he’d only seen that thorough of an elbow blow out a handful of times.

In one particular time it came to mind, he said it was because a bull rider had strapped his hand to the bull, got thrown, and his hand didn’t come unstrapped. He got thrown, and his arm remained attached to the bull. He messed his elbow up similar to the way I did. I was like, “No.”

It wasn’t even particularly that violent. I dislocated it, and then I think I accidentally popped it back in when I grabbed it. It wasn’t too gross, but I did a number on it. He fixed it right up.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

The snatches always did remind me of bull riding, because you have to pull and pray at a certain point.

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

Pretty much, yeah.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

[laughs] There’s a certain point where you have to let a higher power take the wheel, whether you believe in that or not.

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

Exactly. Good thing it’s 130 kilos and not so much what a bull weighs, but that’s enough. It’s a little tiny bull, but that’s bull enough for me, I guess.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

It was a calf. [laughs]

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

130-kilo bull. [laughs] Yeah, that’s all I can handle.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

It was enough to do some damage. [laughs] I want to talk about two more things during this recording, Cheryl. The first thing I want to talk about is your transition and then just in general your tips for transitioning from a career as an elite athlete to a career in the coaching sphere.

You’re someone who I think has made that transition very well. I know it’s been a transition that has not been without its ups and downs. You have to move from taking care of yourself as an athlete to managing many athletes at once and leaving impact there.

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

Being a grown-up. Yeah, I do.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

 [laughs] Being an adult. It’s still how you transitioned from being an athlete to a coach. That was at a point in your life, and that’s at the age to where everyone has to start defining their career, figuring things out as an independent adult.

What are some tips you would give to people, to athletes who are maybe wrapping up their careers and maybe considering moving into the coaching sphere?

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

That’s an excellent question. I grappled with it for a long, long time. Cara Heads Slaughter come into the rescue yet again and also still my dear, dear friend. I was toying with the idea, because I got a BSA in Historic Preservation.

It’s a really cool field. It has nothing do with anything sports-related, of course. I was thinking about getting a graduate degree and going into academia, seeing what was going on in art and design. I recruited from my alma mater for a while.

I enjoyed it a lot. I really did, but I didn’t see myself working in higher education as a career. I was talking to Cara, and she was like, “You know what,” because I wanted to go back to school. She said, “People go back to school to acquire a base of knowledge. You have such an incredible base of knowledge.”

She was explaining to me that she felt the same way. Cara is very, very cerebral and really enjoys studying, being a student, and learning. She was doing a lot of school stuff as well, but then she realized the value that she already had.

It made me think about it in a different way. I ended up having to move to Hong Kong several years back, in 2015. I was there for about three years. It was out of necessity that I began weightlifting coaching because there were very few coaches there at the time.

CrossFit really started to gain momentum and people looking outward for those specialists. I dropped in their lap essentially, because there’s one particular gym where a competitive CrossFitter was just like, “Oh, my Gosh, we’re looking for a coach.” I got put in a position straight away. I’m very grateful to the folks I worked with in Hong Kong, at Hayes Coastal Fitness.

We did a lot of professional development. I knew nothing about programming. Again, as an athlete, I ignored that whole bit. You know what I mean? I wasn’t involved in my programming. When I walked in a gym, my coach said, “You’ve got snatches today, triples.” I wouldn’t say, “Oh, but we did snatches yesterday for triples.” I just started doing snatches for triples.

I wasn’t concerned with…Now if I was tired, I would let somebody know. I was very in tune with my body. I knew when I was going to hit the wall. Other than that kind of feedback, that was that, learning about all these different things that I was unaware of, programming, and when to give an athlete rest and how to program for CrossFit and cross training.

People who come in were competitive judo players who say, “Hey, teach me the Olympic lifts. I want to get stronger at this,” or cross train for anything and just general fitness and strength training. I was able to gather that base and implement it with the base of knowledge I already had.

People in Hong Kong, I don’t know if you know, they’re very Taipei. These are international business professionals, white collar. They want the best people working with them. They expect you to know what you’re doing because they’re paying you a lot of money to do it. They held me to a high standard. That was a critical step in my development as a coach.

Now, being here in the United States, I think that you need to be willing to learn as a coach no matter what your credentials say as an athlete. I always was very aware and still am aware that just because I was good at weightlifting on paper does not…

If I can’t put myself and my athletes’ weightlifting shoes, if they make a funny face in the gym, David, I’m like, “What? What was that? How’s your shoulder? What was that? I saw that face. I saw those eyebrows go feral like that every day. What just happened?”

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

You’re constantly watching with eyes at the back of your head.

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

Right. I can feel when they get out of position. I was explaining to somebody the other day, I’m like, “When you come off the floor and you shift your toes and you still try to make that clean, I know what that feels like. You just wasted at least 75 percent of your strength just trying to save that lift.”

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

That’s really great coaching. We’re at the point, at least in the United States in the weightlifting community, where you do see these coaches that combine these fantastic paper resumes. Your resumes, it’s on paper, but also you can show them the piece of hardware.

They combined that fantastic experience with putting in the reps and putting in the years of learning how to become a coach, not just immediately being like, “I know how to coach,” but finding those coaching mentors, putting in those reps, building that coaching experience.

You mentioned Danny Camargo earlier in the broadcast as someone who is a teammate of yours. Now, he’s got one the biggest weightlifting program thing in the United States, and it didn’t happen overnight.

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

No. That’s a good point.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

People didn’t start seeing him as a coaching authority the minute he retired from being an athlete and became a coach. He had a whole other career as a police officer as well as he built his reputation as a coach.

It is nice to get your image. It’s cool. It’s nice to have that paper resume. It’s nice to get your foot in the door with your accomplishments as an athlete. That only gets you one step in the door.

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

Yeah, it does. It gets you a little credibility because you can’t…I don’t want to say can’t. I’m sure it’s possible that you can go through three Olympics. That’ll mean world championships and high-pressure situations and not have anything interesting to say or useful to say to another athlete. I’m sure it’s possible, but it’s really hard.

People know that you have something that you can contribute and lend to the development of another athlete who is inexperienced. It really does matter how well you know the fundamentals and the why. When I’m trying to figure things out, as long as I know why something happens, then I’m…You know what I mean?

Then you can apply. If you have an understanding of logic and how it works, if you have the fundamentals, you can then start filling in the blanks. If this is true, then this must also be true if we’re to believe that logic and reason apply…Again, things do get complex very quickly. We have a variety of varying techniques and controversies.

As an experienced weightlifter, putting in so many repetitions and understanding how it felt and what I know to be expected, for example, the internal versus the external rotation and the lockout overhead. I explained this to somebody. You can say internal, external all day long, and people still get confused. I still get confused.

Right now, David, I have my hand over my head trying to figure out how to explain this to everybody. You know when you get blood drawn, that vein in the pit of your elbow right where your elbow creases? I like that to be facing the ear, if possible. I don’t want those pits of the elbows facing forward. That’s what I mean when I refer to that overhead position.

I like the…I guess it’s external rotation overhead then where the inside of that elbow is facing the ear. That’s the external rotation. I prefer that overhead because I know if I’m stepped properly and that weight is over my head, my lat is engaged and my elbow is locked, I can almost relax.

Again, I’m a super heavyweight. I understand somebody who weighs 45 kilos is not going to be able to relax with 60 kilos over their head. Take that with a grain of salt, but I’m not using my arms. My shoulders are totally comfortable. I’ve never really had any shoulder problems to speak of at all, so I know how that feels versus the other way.

Now, when I go to internal rotation and try to support anything, it hurts. I know I’m not used to it. You can get used to really anything, but as far as the economical solutions to those sorts of things, I think at the end of the day, I can suss it out.

I understand that some athletes too, they get good at a certain technique and it worked for them. They try to apply that to other athletes, but I think those neutral positions, to me, that overhead position where the arms are externally rotated, that is neutral.

Anything outside of that, and most people are going to be somewhere in between. Having that whole body of experience to apply to the discussion, and being able to concede, I’m only a snob when it comes to the jerk.

Just because my percentage of made jerks just gives me enough license to be able to say, “OK, here are the fundamentals. Really, anything outside of this, you’re doing extra.” Other than the jerk, I’m willing to concede a lot of things and work with people. People are different.

When I worked in Hong Kong, I often would have to explain to people why it wasn’t necessarily the best process to mimic the Chinese national team because we’re all different people in different situations.

You’re a guy from the Netherlands. You don’t look like anybody on the Chinese team. We’re going to move a little bit differently, and these techniques are going to be different based on who you are, and how you move, and what your limitations are.

I’m trying to make you the best weightlifter you can be. You know what I mean? It’s a lot of troubleshooting. It’s a lot of problem-solving. That’s why I enjoy it. I worked with a lot of athletes with zero training age, with zero skill, inherent skill for lifting weights.

I love working with them. As long as their attitude’s OK, and I can hang out with you for two hours in the same room, I’m going to tell you everything I know. We’re going to try and figure it out together.

You have to be willing to do that. If you only want to work with people who already know what they’re doing, you’re never going to learn anything. Because, you’re going to have to…

[dog barks]

I’m sorry, this dog just barked.

 

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

[laughs] It happens.

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

You’re going to have to stand…I’m house sitting for my sister. She’s got three dogs. They’ve actually been pretty good, up to this point.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

Excellent.

How’s their weightlifting?

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

[laughs] Oh! The dogs?

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

Yeah [laughs] . Have you been coaching them?

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

You know what. They are the laziest…they would be really great super heavyweights.

All they want to do is hang out on the couch. We’ll go out in the back, play ball for like, five minutes and they’re like, “We’re over it, Auntie Cheryl. It’s couch time.” I’m like, “It’s cool, let’s go inside, let’s go watch TV instead.”

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

You’re like, “I know about that life.”

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

[laughs] Yeah, exactly.

What I’m saying is just the problem-solving. Not thinking that you know everything, and learning as you go, and being willing to go “Hey! I always taught it this way, and that was completely wrong. I should stop doing that.”

I’ve had a lot of moments like that. I think that would be my advice in athletes who were experienced, and had the good fortune to compete at a reasonable level. That’s also going to…

One of my favorite things to do, is coach somebody in a competition. Because I competed so much, that it’s really easy for me to look at somebody’s demeanor. I would do this with my competitors too.

After weigh in, we’d go into the warm-up room. Sit around. The best thing to do, David, psychologically, is to look like you don’t care. To just be completely relaxed, with a smile on your face. That will mess with your competitors heads, every time. I guarantee it.

Now that I’m not competing, I feel like I can share that little secret.

You can scan the room, and very quickly know, who’s anxious — overly anxious, everybody’s anxious. But you know who’s overly anxious, and you know who’s not. You know who’s going to be a little bit more vulnerable. Almost always, their performances, sort of mirror their demeanor.

So, when I’m in a competition with my athlete, I know if they’re overly worked-up. I can give them tips on how to relax, the night before. What to think about, what to do.

“Go sit over here. No, don’t do that. You need to sit.” You know what I mean? Or “You need to think about this. Stop thinking about that.” Create scenarios for that make them more relaxed and more confident because I’ve had to do that self-talk so much.

That’s another really good, I think, skill that somebody who was a competitive weightlifter can bring to the table and it’s your advantage as a coach.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

I think it’s a fantastic point. It’s all about combining that personal experience with what you learn and using your internal logic to, like you said, fill in those gaps.

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

Right.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

We don’t have too much more time on this broadcast but I…

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

I know. I just talk so much, David. I’m sorry.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

It’s gold, I love it. I love it. You gave a great answer there. What I have a little bit time to ask you is my final question. Where can people keep up with the work you’re doing as a coach, as a broadcaster? Where can they hear more of you? This, I’m referencing, I want you to definitely plug the USA Weightlifting Podcast as well as your own social media outlets.

 

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

 Oh, well, I appreciate that, David. You’re such a sweet guy. Well, Chad Vaughn, who is a 2004 and 2008 Olympian, teammate of mine, also David , good, good guy, one of my favorite people in the world, you can actually listen to us do the official USA Weightlifting Podcast wherever you get your podcast.

If you got an iPhone, it comes with an app that says “Podcast,” but if you’re listening to this, you probably already know how that works.

I know. I just realized. I’m like, “You’re doing this on a podcast, you idiot.” It literally is called the, officially, “USA Weightlifting Podcast” so check us out. We do fun things.

We’re just wrapping up the series 1-10. Each episode is an easily implemented tip. It doesn’t have to do with changing program, nothing, just some quick simple things that you can incorporate in what you already do.

For example, the first couple of sets, very, very light warm-up without shoes on. Pausing in certain positions during the warm-up or pausing in those…Some really easy things you can implement if you’re interested in that.

Also, we do interviews with a lot of really cool people, a lot of Olympians, a lot of weightlifting historians, and people who just know what the heck they’re talking about. If you’re into weightlifting, definitely check it out.

Also, you can find me mostly on Instagram. I do have a Facebook page, Haworth Weightlifting. Chad makes fun of me because when I say “Haworth Weightlifting,” I always go “Haworth without a Y.” It’s H-A-W-O-R-T-H. You can find me on Instagram, @haworthweightlifting. Again, that’s H-A-W-O-R-T-H weightlifting.

That’s pretty much it. I’m in the Atlanta area right now. Honestly, what I think I’m doing is I’m not in the spot in Atlanta that I used to be there in Buckhead, so I don’t have my own permanent location right now. I bounce around between my athletes there.

I do remote programming and remote training. I go to competitions. My athlete is going to Montreal for the World Championships, here in a couple of months for the Master World Championships. We got a girl going there, so that’s always fun and exciting.

I’m available to anybody at any time. I do a lot of seminars. I also do the Level 1 and 2 USA Weightlifting Sport Performance Certification. I’m just available to help really.

I get people listening to the podcast sometimes. They go, “You know, I implemented this. It worked out great. Got stuck here. Any further recommendation?” I’m just happy to answer some of those questions for people if I can. I don’t want anybody to be struggling when it’s as simple as just sending a quick message on the Instagram.

That’s pretty much it, David. I’ll let you know when I finally write that book though.

 

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

[laughs] If you want a workshop some…

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

Then we can put in the book.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

Yeah, some titles, I’m available for that.

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

[laughs] Yeah, I just feel like an awesome plug always has to do with a book or a movie. I have neither one of those.

 

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

It is. It’s a book or a movie.

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

That’s OK.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

It’s a book, a movie, or a SoundCloud account for your new concept album, or something like that.

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

Exactly, exactly.

Just follow me on Instagram. That’s good enough.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

Sounds of weightlifting by Cheryl Haworth. That’ll be the concept album in 2020

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

[laughs] Oh my God. That would be quite interesting.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

Someone would buy it. I’m telling you right now, but that’s neither here nor there.

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

Oh yeah.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

We can chat about that in the future for future business endeavors.

Cheryl HaworthCheryl Haworth

[laughs] I’ll be calling you immediately after this call to discuss further.

David Thomas TaoDavid Thomas Tao

Yes, that’s a good idea that you had.

Look, Cheryl, I appreciate you taking the time. It’s always a pleasure to chat. I’m excited to have you as the first guest on the BarBend podcast. I’m looking forward to pushing this one live. Hopefully, it’s not the last time we do this.

Many thanks for joining us. Make sure to follow Cheryl @haworthweightlifting on Instagram to stay up-to-date with everything this legend and icon in American weightlifting is up to.

Thanks for listening, folks.

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