A few years ago, I would have never been the one to boast about the importance of loving your team. This wasn’t because I didn’t “like” the idea because I had always recognized it, but I had never actually experienced it. Before I had found powerlifting, I was a dancer. I had never been on a competitive team, and I learned the value of teamwork through choreography, artistic collaboration, and partnering. It was different, and it was a beautiful world, but it was very different.
Interestingly enough, I was drawn to powerlifting because of it’s element of individuality. The idea of competing on the platform alone was familiar to me. It gave me something to work for and eventually showcase without having to actually play a contact sport with others (because frankly, sports were a foreign concept for me, and I’m uncoordinated). I knew how to squat, I knew how to bench, and I knew how to deadlift. Jackpot. Sign me up.
But what I have learned throughout my brief introduction to the sport, after I threw myself into my first series of competitions and training cycles, both on my own and with groups, was that I fell into something that I had never expected to be a part of. I became a part of a team, a community, and a support system that surrounded me in ways I had never thought possible.
When I stepped into my first competition, I was greeted immediately by friends of friends that were competing, giving me nothing but advice and kind words. When I competed as a part of USF Powerlifting and Elite S&C, I was able to feel the support of my training family when I walked up to the platform to represent us as a unit. When things didn’t go as planned in the gym or in meet-settings, I witnessed the genuine consoling that fellow lifters offered. And during moments of unveiling new PRs, I’ve had the privilege to feel the heartfelt cheers being roared by friends, family, strangers, and competitors. I’ve experienced it in the two teams I’ve competed with, I’ve seen it in other teams attending meets I’ve been to, and I’ve even seen it in the gym when I’m simply just trying to get through the day. In person or through the cyber world, the powerlifting community is one of the strongest teams I have had the pleasure to join.
One thing that you must appreciate and understand about this sport, is that your team is your backbone. Besides that one moment, that one measly 30 seconds of fame you have under that barbell for a set in the gym or attempt in competition, your team is surrounding you with the utmost support. They are there to spot you, to encourage you, to talk you out of a rut, and to motivate you to become better. Even if they aren’t physically there, or you don’t train with a cohesive gym team just yet, you still have an outlet. Plenty of forums and social media accounts are out there. Thanks to Instagram, you’re only a hashtag away from something relevant to you and your training experiences. And, thanks to Girls Who Powerlift, it is next to impossible to not be inspired or encouraged by the constant exposure of strong chicks in this game.
Whether you like it or not, no matter how independent or “solo dolo” of an athlete you consider yourself to be, you are not alone in this sport. No matter where you turn, how “special” of a case your injury is, what type of gym setting you train in, or how painful you think your progression in your program is, there is someone out there that has gone through the EXACT same thing. I know that I am guilty of trying to push myself into a corner of self-pity whenever things don’t go well, but that never lasts more than a few minutes. With every crappy workout, or missed attempt, or sappy post on social media, I never walk away without some sort of feedback. And while I sometimes pretend to not be in need of outside support, I love it each and every time I receive it. It feels amazing to know that I have a squad of athletes/friends that want me to become better, and it feels incredible to know that there is a nation of powerlifters around the world that can (and most likely will) post in response to my videos and “TLDR” paragraphs underneath my pictures.
If you are lucky enough to be a part of a powerlifting team, you can rest assured that someone (if not everyone) on that team will be there for you. If you train “alone” in a giant commercial gym, you have your social media following (GWPL especially (Instagram, Facebook), your gym buddy, or even your fellow competitors to turn to for advice. As long as you stay receptive to communicating with your surroundings, you will find yourself connecting with people all over the place, and thus, grow as a lifter with the support of other lifters.
So here is the bottom line of this entire spiel: value your team. Take advantage of your opportunities to grow from one another, learn from each other’s past experiences, and absorb every ounce of encouragement that your teammates offer you. Work hard for yourself, work hard for your team, and help each other see the potential in one another. Don’t let yourself look passed your surroundings, and definitely don’t look passed every possible network you have that allows for feedback or words of wisdom. Be open minded, be kind, love your team, and lift on.
Also, shout out to USF Powerlifting and Elite Strength and Conditioning, two amazing teams that I have had the pleasure to compete with. #teamlove