The sport of powerlifting continues to grow and the physical benefits are obvious.
But how does it impact a young athlete’s mind?
“I think I have mostly told you what it is like being a part of this sport, but I love it so much and I love the sense of confidence it gives girls,” Basehor-Linwood senior Maria Howard said. “I love going to the meets and cheering on other girls and my teammates, telling them they can do it and to just be strong. I can't even describe it. All I can come up with is: self-confidence that comes over them and their face fills with a giant smile as they just successfully completed a lift.
“I love being able to bring positivity to the other females because if we believe in ourselves and tell ourselves we can do it, the milestones we accomplish are astounding.
“You have to be positive, that is one thing I have learned. The minute a negative thought comes to mind, you just defeated yourself. Powerlifting gives many other girls a sense of accomplishment and confidence in themselves that may have been lacking before.”
Basehor-Linwood athletic director and former powerlifting team head coach Ross Schwisow sees plenty of benefits of the sport.
“We truly utilize it as a confidence builder,” Schwisow said. “While we have had some very successful lifters and state champions and records, our biggest success has been in the number of students we reach and how much they all develop. The students take a lot of pride in the commitment and work ethic the sport creates. They truly get to compete against their toughest opponent each day: themselves.
“Mentally it is tough. Most likely they will not be the strongest at every event or every meet. This is where internal competition is key. They are there to beat themselves and do something better than they have ever done. We follow what is called a PR Paradigm. If you improve in one area daily you will constantly improve overall each day. That can be in anything during that day, not just the lifts.”
“Most kids who excel in powerlifting have a higher level of attention to detail,” Leavenworth coach Sean Sachen said. “They learn specific techniques or have routines that they do. Powerlifting also has a major impact on confidence. It is fun to watch kids who seem shy realize something they might be good at, work hard and reap the rewards both physically and in competition.”
How do the girls battle the image of powerlifting: one full of muscles and sinew?
“There are so many different viewpoints when you think of a female powerlifter,” Howard said. “You think big, bulky, heavy girl, but that is not the case whatsoever. We have girls in the program that compete and place from weight classes ranging from 105 to power weight. To be strong is not always bulky, we aren't men after all. I think that is the common misconception that scares many girls away from this sport. They think that they are going to get too bulky or they think they aren’t strong enough.
“This program is open to anyone who is willing to commit to get better every single day. I promise you, you won't look manly and the only thing that can come from it is progress and confidence in your physical appearance and can improve your mental health as well because you will feel better and better about yourself every single day.”
Bobcat Jackson Jennings sees the sport’s benefits bleed into every other thing he does.
“Powerlifting has affected all of my other sports in very positive ways,” Jennings said. “Without powerlifting I would not be in the same position I am right now. I have been a starting centerfielder in baseball since sophomore year. This would not be accomplishable for me without being in the best shape I can be during baseball season. In my personal life, powerlifting has been a special gift.”
The athletes have to sometimes battle getting through injury that can happen at any time.
“As for injuries, strength and conditioning, programs that are well-rounded, technical-based and properly programmed give the student the ability to move, challenge, recover and repeat,” Schwisow said. “These steps make the person and the body better prepared and able to withstand the daily stress or injuries they may be faced with.”
New Basehor-Linwood head coach Justin Wieser also sees how the sport’s improvement of body impacts a youth’s betterment of mind.
“Outside of the physical benefits that this type of training can provide, I believe that the mental aspects of the sport are of greater importance for our students,” Wieser said. “Pushing the physical limits of your body allows you to also learn how to push yourself mentally. It is awesome to see how much students change when they realize that they can complete physical tasks that they once believed were too difficult to even attempt.
“In the beginning, the younger athletes will work more on how to properly complete the program and will progress to more complex movements and programming as they become technically sound and efficient in executing the lifts. As they develop these technical skills, they will see themselves being more comfortable completing the lifts and building confidence in what they can do in the program. Younger athletes often see large jumps in how much they can lift in the early stages of their training which can create huge confidence boosts that will often improve their confidence in other areas of their lives.
“Many of the techniques and movements that are taught in the powerlifting program are essential to the success of developing young athletes. There are certain movement patterns and mobility issues that need to be addressed when students start the program. As the students learn these skills, it helps them perform better in their other sports.”