December 7, 2005
L.J. Maile, Ph.D., President
USA Powerlifting, North American Powerlifting Federation
Marketing, Growth, and Legitimacy
As we reach the close of 2005, in many ways, it has been a great year. While I can't project membership statistics as yet, we appear in preliminary projections to be healthy. At the end of the third quarter, we were at approximately the same number of members as in the first three quarters of 2004. However, we were also projecting 6 more sanctioned meets in 2005 vs. 2004. When I review the year next newsletter, I expect that USA Powerlifting will have done as well as last year.
But is that really sufficient? My pride in our organization, and my love of powerlifting says "No." Just as good as last year is not good enough, even when you consider that there are a number of powerlifting federations in the U.S. that are losing membership, having fewer meets, and losing out on public exposure. We must also ask if there are other measures of success that are less positive, both in terms of USA Powerlifting and for the sport of powerlifting in general.
One of these is the participation by sponsors in our sport. At the present time, sponsorship in powerlifting is from a very narrow group of firms. These specifically cater to lifters, and most often, to powerlifters who compete under IPF rules. This possibly speaks to a perception on the part of potential sponsors in the more general fitness/health area that we do not bring a significant market share with us, or that we will not appeal to the people in general. We may believe that we are normal, athletic, and appealing as a sport, but we apparently have not generated broad appeal or recognition.
Another area that speaks to whether we are a successful sport is the interest on the part of young people to participate in our sport. This interest develops through recognition of athletes and a desire to emulate them. It follows that if we are short on recognition, then we will also lack for young athletes trying to come up through the ranks in powerlifting to be one of those famous athletes. And this area speaks to another area of possible growth for powerlifting: the development of roles for athletes that allow them to be esteemed and recognized as successful.
There are many other measures that could be cited: competition results, lifter appearances, records broken, referees certified, and the list could go on and on. The short summary is that we could do a better job of building our sport. Those of us in it love it, and those outside remain to be educated. We, as athletes and administrators need to grab the interest of the public, let them meet our athletes, embrace them as role models and heroes. If those things are initiated, our success will be reflected in every facet of powerlifting.
Happy Holidays, LJM