Perhaps it’s the weird libertarian side of me, but when I first heard the news that USA Weightlifting was getting booted from the OTC, I felt a sweet bit of joy. No longer would the organization be limited by a small room. No longer would they be controlled by physical constraints and a weight room with a strange set up. Or maybe it was the business side of me jumping around inside, singing happy tunes thinking about the endless potential for USA Weightlifting and where it could be headed over the next few years.
I have been to the OTC in Colorado Springs for three separate camps; my wife has been there for one camp, athletes that I train have been there countless times. Does it have an incredible prestige? Of course, it gives you tingles every time you walk on campus and know you have a week to spend with the best athletes in the world. The Center is awesome and does a good job of capturing that nostalgic feel. With that being said, one of my first memories at the OTC was seeing the old wooden platforms and bars gliding across the platform because they weren’t level. When my wife spent a week at a youth camp, she had noted bars were all over the place and proceeded to tell me that a CrossFit games competitor (and subsequently one of the best coaches in the US) had been demonstrating at her camp and things were so crowded, his foot hit a bar and he partially tore his meniscus!
Last December, I had the privilege of being at the Elite Youth and Junior camp and did have numerous discussions with some of the top weightlifting officials on campus at the OTC. We had a lunch meeting and I had asked why they continuously train in an outdated facility. Sure, they got the new platforms from worlds, but the room was poorly set up, there are pillars inside the room to block coaching view and there was no area dedicated to mobility/recovery. This individual mentioned they had been thinking about moving off campus, much like Ice Hockey and Field Hockey have done in recent years. Would it be difficult? For sure. But in reality, the USOC didn’t have the same goals in mind that USA Weightlifting holds and USAW is at the point where they can afford to move out and provide a better environment for the residents.
My thoughts: I have seen numerous gyms set up better than the weight room at the Olympic Training Center. If a private entity can afford a high level set up, then USAW certainly can provide an incredible set up for our future teams. The short notice is the part that frustrates me. Typically, this is an endeavor that would take 18 months to 2 years to accomplish, minimum! Now, in a rather short period, USAW will have to find a new location, set something up for residency, food preparation and appease all members of the body. In the interim, USAW will also need to find a viable solution that includes a place to stay and some type of food/nutrition stipend.
Where will they ultimately end up? I believe that USAW will continue to keep the Training Center in Colorado Springs, however there are plenty of great options out there. Being a selfish Pennsylvania Dutchmen, the first thought that popped into my mind was to move the center to York, Pennsylvania. Land is cheap, buildings are affordable and food is very affordable. Not to mention, proximity of travel. Based out of York, the residents would be 2 hours from a New York City airport, 1 hour from the Baltimore airport, 1.5 hours from the Philadelphia airport and 2 hours from Washington, D.C. Being located on the coast would dramatically improve travel times, not just to Europe but to anywhere in the world, outside of Asia. Not to mention, 60% of the US population lives in the Northeast corridor. I would favor seeing the Training Center moved to one of the coasts (east or west) simply because of travel and proximity to a large portion of the population.
There are endless opportunities for USAW to grow. Yes, it isn’t the greatest situation to be forced to leave the OTC in 3.5 months, but to me this is a blessing in disguise. It is the shackles being taken off and now the organization will no longer be based in an overpriced room. The new building needs to be nothing short of impressive, an active physio on staff is now just as important as an excellent coach and better living conditions are needed to attract more residents to the future site. This project and the next two years need to be slowly calculated and analyzed, what is best for the residents and what is best to continue growing the sport through camps and coaching. Contrary to social media’s belief, this is an exciting time for USA Weightlifting.