In 2013, my lifter had never been to a national event. In fact, he had only competed in two meets prior to traveling to Junior Nationals. I reached out to “some British guy” at USA Weightlifting to discuss our goals. That guy was Phil Andrews. And this is an open letter to the Board of USA Weightlifting to HIRE PHIL ANDREWS as their CEO.
The ultimate goal for Tanner Reichardt, at Junior Nationals in 2013, was to go 6 for 6 and hits the total needed to qualify for Youth World’s in Uzbekistan. Phil Andrews told us the number Tanner needed to hit, but he did mention things could be subject to change, and although it was a lofty goal he wished us good luck!!!
When Tanner entered his opening weights for the Junior Nationals event, the meet officials asked to speak to his coach. The officials explained to my wife, Tanner’s event coach, that our athlete was a B session lifter and those weights were a bit high for him to use as openers. She confidently told them that the numbers entered were correct, and Tanner intended to go 6 for 6 and make the Youth World team. Three hours and 6 successful lifts later and Tanner Reichardt was heading to Uzbekistan for Youth World’s! One guy wasn’t surprised to find that out when he called to make plans for Tanner’s trip, that guy was Phil Andrews.
That was our first exposure to Phil. Later in that same year, Phil had contacted me to make sure 1) that I would be attending the senior nationals held in Cincinnati and 2) that I would be bringing my youth lifters to the development seminar with US Olympic coach, Zygmunt Smalcerz the night before competition began. This was a great opportunity for me to bring some of the youth kids out to a big meet, have them be evaluated by the US’s top coach and then proceed to watch their friend and teammate (Tanner) compete on the senior national stage for the first time.
When Zygmunt saw my youth lifters training that night, he pulled me aside and insisted that two of those lifters need to stay in the sport. One of those lifters was Jake Horst, who later became a Youth National champion and is now growing into the 62k weight class as a junior lifter. The other lifter was Tanner’s sister, Hayley Reichardt. I remember Hayley being blown away by Zygmunt being impressed by her and that made her even more interested in the success of weightlifting. Hayley has since gone on to break the clean and jerk and total American record at the Youth and Junior level. This past February she earned the Junior National Title while still a Youth age lifter. Last summer she placed 3rd in the clean and jerk at seniors in the 48k division and is one of the highest ranked lifters in the country. The experience that Phil set up with Zygmunt on that Friday night in Cincinnati was a crucial part of peaking her interest in the sport of weightlifting.
As a lifting coach, my background is in track and field and wrestling. I have competed in national events as a track and field athlete, and I have attended numerous state wrestling competitions. Nationals for track and field are a spectacle, an awesome event over a few days, typically held in impressive venues. Same for wrestling, lots of action and a great venue set up for the national stage. I was bewildered when we made the trip to Cincinnati and walked into a…skating rink. Yes, a skating rink.
Phil has always been a guy to keep his cool. When technology is slowing down a meet, Phil is running around like a madman to repair what is broken. When the platform is separating during Junior Nationals in Oklahoma City, he is up on stage tightening the bolts between sessions to improve the surface for lifting. When young loaders at a youth competition are loading a bit slow and he notices in passing, he sprints up and loads for an ENTIRE session to teach them how to properly load, all while ensuring the meet is moving along.
Phil kept his cool with me that evening in Cincinnati when Tanner was called on a press out on an American record attempt. I approached the judges after the session to find out where he had pressed the jerk and was given no answer. I am a hothead lunatic and lost my cool. I berated a judge and told a few people running the meet that they should be embarrassed that they chose to run a national event in the a skating rink. I proceeded to yell at them to take notes from track and field, that if weightlifting events were run more like other sporting events it could be wildly more popular. In my mind, Crossfit had embraced Olympic weightlifting but weightlifting was refusing to embrace CrossFit, and that was mainly due to the national stage being held in a skating rink!!! Three years later, track and field is at a point where they need to start taking notes from USA Weightlifting. Why is that? Because Phil Andrews has done an impeccable job developing athletes, coaches and the funding system for the athletes.
What did Phil Andrews tell me? Well, first he told me to calm down to make sure I didn’t get arrested. Then he proceeded to tell me that things were going to change, he was going to grow this sport properly and get venues that would attract lifters. In doing so, he was going to put a plan into place to develop young motivated coaches so they could continue to cultivate the next round of elite lifters in the United States.
There are a few things to remember about that meet. The 94k division was won with a 180k clean and jerk. Today, a 180k clean and jerk in the 94k division will be lucky to get 6th or 7th place! That growth can’t be directly linked to Phil Andrews but it can certainly be linked to the fact that he has grown the sport by embracing a large body of potential competitors and by putting on incredible meets!
Three years later, I have been to 3 different training camps at the Olympic Training Center. My athlete’s have been on numerous international teams and have trained alongside some of the best athlete’s in the country. We have formed relationships with some of the absolute best senior lifters in the United States, one of which trained at the OTC until 2009/2010 and is back again during the Phil Andrews era. What has been said about Phil? “Nothing got done before Phil came to the OTC. Any issue an athlete ever has with housing or funding or travel, Phil always takes care of them.”
Every lifter, coach and senior resident can attest to the commitment of Phil Andrews. If you have a question about a trip, Phil is the man to reach. If you have an issue with a registration, Phil fixes the problem right away. When your coach is a lunatic (me) and is afraid of flying (me again), Phil makes sure your athlete’s have the best coaches (Cara Heads-Slaughter and Tyrone Harvey) in the country in their corner (Salt Lake City 2015)! When you need specific details about camp arrivals or departures, who is attending, who are the coaches, Phil will fill you in on everything. Phil makes sure the athlete’s understand what the expectations are and holds them accountable for their actions and their ability to respect the privilege to train with the countries best lifters. This is a man with an ice hockey background that is now one of the most well versed weightlifting fans on the planet! He hasn’t just taken this job and gone forward, he has gained an understanding of the sport and grown it to massive new heights!
One of the most impressive signs of commitment I have seen from Phil can be summed up in two experiences. Phil knew I had a throwing/shot put background. He enlisted me almost two years ago to find the next Shane Maier. The next Caine Wilkes…a superheavy weight that could be an elite weightlifter but not necessarily the greatest shot putter. He fully extinguishes his resources to grow this sport in America. During the CrossFit Open last year, he scoured the results for WEEKS, finding young lifters who had a large max on the clean, then emailed their gym owners to entice the owners to get those youth competitors into an Olympic weightlifting meet. Three of those lifters were at the OTC elite camp this past winter and they all competed at Junior Nationals!
Phil’s commitment is incredible, his ideas are creative, and he ALWAYS sees them through. He is constantly working, constantly looking to improve, constantly working to support our current coaches and current athletes, all while trying to develop the next generation of American Olympic weightlifters. USA Weightlifting NEEDS Phil Andrews as their CEO.