Navigating USAW by Crystal McCullough

Raise your hand if you are a weightlifter, a coach, or a parent. This article is definitely for you.

Do you find it a bit overwhelming to navigate through all the great information on the USA Weightlifting website? The website is most certainly user friendly – but if you are somewhat new to the sport, it can be difficult to know what exactly you are even looking for.

Even if you are veteran in the sport, there have been a lot of changes made over the last year you might not be fully aware of. My goal for this article is to break down some of the most important parts of the website and what you should know. I realize that all of this information is already out there for you and is nothing new, but I want to provide you with some guidance through this article.

First Steps

First and foremost, regardless of whether you are an athlete or coach, you must have a membership with USA Weightlifting in order to compete or take a coaching course. That should be the first thing you do. Here is the link to join.

You can now opt for a monthly draft rather than paying the whole yearly membership up front. This can certainly be more cost effective, especially if you are coupling a new membership with a competition fee. After you join and sign in, you are able to sign up for local competitions. The website has a really cool how-to guide with the steps on how to compete.

Competitors (and parents of youth)

I guess there are weightlifters out there who are content with competing at a local meet, but most athletes do a local meet in order to qualify for a National level meet.

There was a point in time where the only national level meets were Youth, Junior, Senior, Universities, Masters, and The American Open. The last two years, three national level events have been added in an American Open Series that allows athletes to compete on a bigger stage who might not have a total for one of the other national events.

It is important to know there are deadlines for qualifying for those national events. Once you have made it to the national level, there are deadlines for qualifying and making an international team. All of these national level events not only have deadlines, but they also have qualifying totals an athlete has to meet. You can find the qualifying total for your respective national level event here.

Here is a breakdown for the remainder of the 2019 calendar year:

Youth Nationals
Anaheim, California
June 27th – 30th
Qualification period: May 27, 2018 to May 26, 2019
Registration Period: January 1, 2019 to May 30, 2019 (2pm MST)

American Open Series 2
Albuquerque, New Mexico
July 24th – July 28th
Qualification period: Jun 24, 2018 to Jun 23, 2019
Registration Period: January 1, 2019 to Jun 27, 2019 (2pm MST)

American Open Series 3
Daytona Beach, Florida
September 12th – September 15th
Qualification period: Aug 12, 2018 to Aug 11, 2019
Registration Period: January 1, 2019 to Aug 15, 2019 (2pm MST)

American Open Finals
Salt Lake City, Utah
December 5th – December 8th
Qualification period: Nov 4, 2018 to Nov 3, 2019
Registration Period: January 1, 2019 to Nov 7, 2019 (2pm MST)

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As you choose which local event you are going to do, be sure that it falls in the qualification period for the given national event you want to qualify for. The next step once you’ve qualified is to make sure you sign up before the deadline.

For athletes who are already competing at a national level and looking to make international teams, it is important to know what national meets are qualifiers for international teams. There is a live document on the USA Weightlifting website that gets updated as new International events are released. In order to keep a close watch when new events are posted along with the qualifiers, use this resource.

Some other things to point out about the website is you have to be in the Random Testing Pool (RTP) for 6 months before you are eligible to compete on an international team or receive a stipend. To register for the RTP, you have to sign in to your account and locate the Anti-Doping tab on the right hand side, click the plus sign, and click RTP Athlete Sign-up. There is no cost to be put in the RTP.

Something new that is very exciting for our up and coming youth athletes is the scholarship fund. For the parents out there, be sure to check this out.


I know there are coaches out there who have other ‘certifications’ or seminar hours from sources outside of USA Weightlifting, but if you plan on coaching athletes at a higher level, the first step is to get your Level 1 Sports Performance Coach. Depending on what area you are in, there are several held every weekend all over the country. You will find the calendar here.

The Level 1 is only the beginning of a long process that can take years to achieve based on athletes you produce. The next step would be to get your Level 2, which goes more in to depth on programming, fixing common mistakes, and coaching in the back room. These courses are fewer and far between than the Level 1s. You can find a course close to you here.

What makes being a weightlifting coach unique is you cannot buy your way to the top. You have to produce athletes in order to achieve the next level. Once you have completed your Level 2, it is all about the athletes you produce at the national and international level. I really like this new diagram that they came out with as there is no confusion at all the number of athletes you need to compete at certain levels in order to advance. See it here.

If you have athletes who have potential to qualify for national events or, better yet, international teams, it is your responsibility to research what events they need to do. An example would be that Junior Nationals this year was a final qualifier for Junior World Championships and Junior Pan American Championships. It also coincided with the Senior Pan American Trials. The American Open Series 2 is now the final qualifier for 2019 Senior World Championships and Youth Nationals is the final qualifier for 2019 Youth Pan American Championships. You can find current international team rankings here.

Be an advocate and a resource for all of your athletes.

I highly encourage you to just get on the website and do some digging. What I have done here is simply provide you with the basics to help guide you and hopefully make it a little easier to maneuver around some of the more pertinent information when it comes to competing. I hope this helps!

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