Athlete and Coach on meet day

I’ll start with the disclaimer that Fortitudo Fitness (FF) was indeed founded in August of 2020, and that is well over 2 years ago. The name was claimed then – but my position as a powerlifting coach wasn’t realized yet. I started working as a personal trainer at a local gym with plans to use the name one day, but was not sure when.

January 2021, I established some trial online clients under the Fortitudo Fitness name.

April 2021, I gained my first powerlifting-specific client.

November 2021, I coached my first client at a meet.

However it is States 2021 that I consider the official start of Fortitudo Fitness. 

I prepared for the meet as well as possible. I met with my mentor to go over my client’s attempts that I had chosen and walked through these with my client. We practiced commands and worked together to prepare her for the best meet day experience possible. 

I competed in the morning session and coached in the afternoon session at this meet. It is nothing new to me to be nervous on the day of meets. I’ve had to work through “meet trauma” that has brought me immense anxiety years prior – but the nerves were much more channeled into coaching this time. I can still remember people asking me if I was okay because of how much my hands shook the entire time. In almost every photo of me from the meet, I appear as if I am checking my pulse or upset to be there.

I was nervous because I cared. I cared about the outcome, and more importantly, I cared about the athlete. I feel And this feeling is something that has stuck with me through this way at every meet, because of the high regard I have for each of my clients and I want everyone to be the best they can be when they compete.

(Ultimately, that athlete went on to have her first 9/9 meet, qualify for collegiate nationals, and reinsert herself into the world of powerlifting after a hiatus.)

Caring about my athletes and their goals has been at the forefront of my decisions. After that meet, I sought out additional professionalism for myself. This improvement came in the forms of new meet-day shirts, more streamlined meet-day plans, and continued therapy/growth for me to improve my nerves to best support my clients on meet day.

Between January and April, I coached at one additional meet, handled at another, and volunteered at a third. All with the intention of learning meet day in and out and supporting individuals towards their goals. 

Handling and volunteering gave me different perspectives – allowing me to observe other coaches, athletes, referees, volunteers, spotters, etc. Despite at this point competing in 10 different meets by this point, I actually had never had the role of handler or volunteer. These experiences reaffirmed my care for prioritizing the athlete experience overall. As I observed other experiences and compared them to my own, I empathized with just how much the meet-day experience can impact one’s perceptions of the sport and thus their longevity.

My second meet I coached at was a much different experience. It was much more hectic – multiple athletes, cramped space, qualification goals on the forefront – and I attempted to prep for this. I had another client and game day coach, Savannah, help me with loading warm-ups. The result was that game-day preparation was better than before.

This meet was the first time I’d had an athlete miss an attempt. Now, powerlifters miss attempts all the time – we all know how 3rd benches notoriously go. But, this also led to  my selfreflection and self  doubt started to creep in  as a coach.

How could we have prepared better?

Should I have done X instead?

What could I have done better?

Should I be even coaching? … You can see how it spiraled.

And this is when I learned my second lesson: Missed attempts happen – make it better the next time – but you know you have full capability to be a coach here just as much as the other coaches.

My third meet as a coach was ironically the 2021 USAPL Collegiate Nationals. I say ironically for a multitude of reasons… 1) I was supposed to compete at this meet but had dropped out due to needing to prioritize my well-being 2) I had a Motor Control exam that morning before the competition. I drove from Ann Arbor to Chicago and made it to the meet just in time for squats.

I was lucky to have support from another coach who helped my athlete warm-up for the meet. As frazzled as I was to be walking in post 4 hour drive right when my athlete was about to go, this was the first meet any element of calm and composure settled in. This was a new demand of a meet – but national-level meets were also my personal favorite, and I was used to the atmosphere a bit more. 

This was the meet I learned the importance of matching the client. You see, different clients/athletes need different things on meet day – some people want you to talk their ear off, others want the coach for affirmations, others want minimal conversation – and all of which are okay. But given I had coached this athlete once before, I learned to fine-tune my support. 

Between April and July, I took a hiatus from coaching at meets. During May and June, I was on a study abroad trip in Italy. I learned the value of planning and streamlining operations due to this experience. During this time, I focused on my clients while balancing my requirements while abroad.

We’re going to make a big jump forward now all the way to the marathon that was September to December 2022. During this marathon of Rookie Rumble, my own meet, States and an Ohio December meet, I learned the importance of taking care of oneself. This semester (era) of life was exciting for several reasons but chaotic to the point of exhaustion. Getting ill multiple times, prepping almost 10 athletes, doing a full class load, being on meet prep myself, working, managing multiple organizations, etc. beat me down. I indeed did this to myself – however, sometimes you need to hit a low before you realize how important certain aspects of self-care can be (at least in my experience).

But, with all of this going on, my favorite memories from that semester were the smiles and excitement that my athletes exuded post-respective meets. It sounds cliche – but seeing athletes put their all into their training for weeks on end and then go out and see achievements they’ve sought after is something that is more exciting for me than any competition I have competed in.

Overall, each meet has brought about several lessons for me, but most of all reaffirm that this is no hobby for me. Meets are when the work all culminates together, but it all depends on the work outside of those meets – both by my clients as well as myself. Having been in powerlifting for so many years, this work is not new, however, the novelty comes from working with clients and expanding the reach of powerlifting as a whole. I am excited to see where the next year takes FF. I could not be more proud of all the highs and lows I’ve been through so far.

Thank you for being on this journey with me.

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