I found the sport of weightlifting in 1996. I was able to earn my USA Weightlifting Level 1 Coaching Certification in that same year.
In 1997 I made the move to Colorado Springs to be coached by two-time Olympian Wes Barnett. I thrived under his tutelage, and in 1998 I was invited to train at the Olympic Training Center with Coach Dragomir Cioroslan. Shortly after that I moved home to North Carolina because my father was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.
Thanks to CrossFit, the sport became popular around the entire world. By 2009 I started dabbling in the sport once again, and coaching a few people in my gym. By 2013, weightlifting was slowly becoming my focus as a coach. Around 2014 I started writing articles about improving the sport of weightlifting in America. I was working with Team MuscleDriver USA as a coach, which gave me a pretty solid voice in the sport.
Making the Sport Better
Some of the things I was recommending were:
- A better culture overall – one of expecting to win versus happy to just make a team.
- Providing financial assistance to our top athletes to motivate them and also so they would be able to focus on training.
- Targeting all the mundane areas of performance that add up to big results – like sports psychology, nutrition, and recovery.
- A successful university program to motivate exceptional young athletes and to get the buy-in of their parents.
Phil Andrews has taken USA Weightlifting out of the dark ages during this Olympic quad. Our athletes are winning medals at every major international competition. Our athletes are breaking world records. We are no longer happy to simply make the team. Our top athletes are receiving stipends that allow them to focus on their sport. Phil has done a tremendous job of assembling a staff of rock stars that are supporting our top athletes in the areas of sports psychology, nutrition, and recovery. Phil obviously had a similar vision – and more importantly he knew how to execute the plan.
The University Dream
My dream as a coach has always been to start a university weightlifting program that would provide athletes a place to become truly great at their sport – while providing scholarships and academic opportunities to pursue the career of their choice. If we want the parents of exceptional athletes to buy-in to the sport of weightlifting, there have to be opportunities for their children. If not, those athletes are going to choose sports like football and wrestling where there are opportunities after high school.
I have worked on this dream for over five years. I have approached four different colleges only to get lost in red tape and decision makers. Finally, Lenoir-Rhyne University answered the call with the help of Professor Alex Koch. They announced the new program last week, and we wrapped up the details yesterday. I am starting the recruiting process now, which is why I am releasing this article now. I want the other coaches in America to know where I am coming from.
First off, I have dropped my personal club, Mash Mafia Weightlifting. I don’t want any conflict of interest. I will form a club for Lenoir-Rhyne, but our athletes only have to list that team for the competitions that we attend as a team, which I am anticipating to be University Nationals and Junior Nationals. Otherwise, they can keep their current affiliation for events like Senior Nationals and the American Open.
We still have on online team, and we are still coaching athletes online. Nothing is changing there. We still want to help all of you crush your goals. The only reason I’m dropping the personal club is I don’t want there to appear to be any conflict of interest with me being a coach for two clubs.
Second, I want the athletes to keep their current coaches as their number one coach. I get what it’s like to develop an athlete to the top national or international level only to have them picked up by another coach. That hurts – and in most cases, it doesn’t work very well. If I recruit an athlete who is enjoying constant and steady improvement, I would be a fool not to collaborate with that coach. I would only ask that their programming fit the weekly structure for the team. (For example, Friday is a heavier day for snatch and clean and jerk with Saturday being focused on strength work.) This way the athletes can still benefit from the camaraderie and competition of the group.
Of course, I am going to want to communicate with each of the coaches based on what I am seeing. That way, adjustments can be made when needed. I am not trying to benefit from anyone’s athlete. I am simply trying to provide an opportunity for young athletes. If you send me an athlete and they make it to the Olympics, you will be going and not me. This brings me to the other half of this announcement.
Want to come to Lenoir-Rhyne?
Here are the benefits to being a weightlifter at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, NC:
- There will be scholarship opportunities based on level of performance.
- All weightlifters will have access to athletic training.
- All weightlifters will have access to the recovery methods provided to all athletes (cold tub, hot tub, sauna, etc.).
- All weightlifters will have access to intra-workout and post-workout nutrition and supplements that are NSF certified.
- The facilities are beautiful.
For anyone reading this who doesn’t know about me as a coach, I am a USA Level V Senior International Coach. Since 2015, our team has produced 23 Team USA athletes. I have been the Team USA Head Coach at four major international competitions – including the 2016 Men and Women’s Junior World Team. We have taken beginners all the way to Team USA – like Ryan Grimsland, Morgan McCullough, and Hunter Elam. We have also taken athletes with some degree of success and made them even better – like Jordan Cantrell and Nathan Damron. The point is that we can help you get better regardless of your situation.
Starting in January, I will start the long process of pursuing my PhD. Here’s why! In our industry, most of the time coaches are either:
- The great athlete turned coach
- The great coach who wasn’t a great athlete but has produced countless amazing athletes (much like Coach Don McCauley)
- The PhD, PT, or Chiro who has all the research and book knowledge
My goal is to combine the three and see what happens. I want to perform research in the areas that we all debate without any concrete science to back our theories up. The other complaint I constantly hear is that certain research studies were performed on non-athletic general population folks. I want to use athletes and gen pop folks to figure out these questions. I have so many questions to answer! What average intensity is best, and which is best for different populations? How often should someone squat? Are deadlifts good, bad, or indifferent for snatch and clean?
These are just a few, but I am so excited to go to work. I am excited to be challenged both academically and as a coach. I am excited to work with all of you on developing a university program we can all be proud of. I want a program that:
- Produces champions.
- Produces athletes with functional degrees.
- Produces humans who make a positive impact on the world.
- Aids in the research that will benefit all coaches and athletes in America.
- Aids in the research that will make our practices as coaches safer than ever.
Here are a few final thoughts I want to make all of you aware of. In the past we have raised money that benefited our athletes for Mash Mafia Weightlifting. Starting right now, any money raised by our nonprofit will go toward scholarships and competition expenses for our future athletes. The minute I learn about the ins and outs of how this will work, I will start raising money for this program. My goal is to make this program as attractive to top athletes as possible.
DONATE TO THE SCHOLARSHIPS FOR UNIVERSITY ATHLETES
NEW T-SHIRT DESIGNS TO BENEFIT THE NON-PROFIT!
* Special Facebook Group Access to the Team
* Discounts on Ebooks
* Tax Deductions
One thing I am considering is working with CrossFitters who either want to do weightlifting as well or who simply want to get better at the Olympic movements. If that is you and you are of college age, you might consider this opportunity as well. If you are awesome at the movements (like David Bradley), you might get a scholarship as a CrossFitter as long as you can compete at University Nationals. If not, it would still be a good decision. I will teach you how to be a great weightlifter, and you can still CrossFit. This is an aspect of the program I intend to elaborate on immediately, so please start considering it. Contact me if you are interested!
For now, here is what I need from coaches, athletes, and parents:
- If you are interested in the program or you’re a coach with an athlete who might be interested, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and soon at Travis.Mash@LR.edu
- I am totally open to suggestions – so once again, email me or message me. I want this to be a program we can all be proud of.
I am excited for this new era in my life. My family is excited for the move. For all of you who I coach online, nothing will change. If I am your coach, I will continue as your coach. Of course, if you have one of our other awesome coaches, you will continue with that coach. Our gym in Lewisville, NC will continue along – and I will be present there until August of next year. Most of my athletes will be coming to Lenoir-Rhyne, and other athletes we work with will be able to train with the team at Lenoir-Rhyne. So nothing really changes there. Now we are simply able to provide more to our athletes. Wish us well please because this will be my legacy to the sport of weightlifting.