Number Thirty-Eight, March 2008    -    TECHNICAL NEWS & INFORMATION
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Robert Keller
IPF Cat I Referee
Member, IPF Tech.Comm.

Precision and synchronized spotting/loading was performed at its very best by the Garage Ink Powerlifting Team at the 2005 IPF Mens World Championships that was held in Miami, Florida. The platform crew chief was Dennis "Niko" Hulslander.

Part I: Spotting/Loading Techniques/Applications: Recruiting and assembling your platform team

Spotting and loading at all powerlifting championships is the key and most important function that takes place in order to have both a successful and safe competition. The primary and foremost responsibility of the spotters/loaders is to provide safety to the lifters during their attempts and to ensure correct loading of the bar. Overall, the spotters/loaders are the first line of defense, when a lifter falters with a weight. When this situation occurs, it is the responsibility of the spotters/loaders to not only catch the weight, but to assist the lifter in guiding the weight back into the rack. Similarly, they should work like a fine oiled pit crew at a NASCAR race.

In the first of four parts, I will address the recruitment and assembly of your spotting/loading team. Subsequent parts, thereafter, will detail the actual spotting/loading process for the squat, bench press and deadlift.

Now to begin; for those that have never volunteered for such a position at a powerlifting championship, will discover quite quickly, the importance, responsibility and grueling effort that actually goes into this particular function at a competition. The work requires a tremendous amount of physical labor, and each person selected for this particular duty should be in fairly good shape, be willing to work as part of a team, and a be extremely dependable and responsible.

Where is the best place to find spotters/loaders? The top place to recruit volunteers is within existing and established weightlifting/powerlifting teams. What better place to find trained and skilled volunteers in the art of spotting/loading than athletes that practice the three disciplines day in and day out. Most competitive and experienced lifters have the physical capacity and experience developed through their training sessions, to handle the spotting/loading at a championship.

Once you have located your cadre of volunteers, what comes after that? The next step is to locate a [platform chief] that will be able to step into a leadership role to coordinate and most importantly synchronize the spotting/loading operations at your championship. Traditionally, this person is an experienced and seasoned lifter. This person should serve as your back spotter for the squats, hand-off man for the bench press, and jack handler in the deadlift. Most importantly, the platform chief will oversee and supervise the correct positioning and placement of the spotters for each attempt, the correct loading of the bar, as well as pre and post competition training of the actual spotting/loading process.

At all of my championships, the platform chief, alone, and not the referees are responsible for all operations and management of the platform spotting/loading crew, to include who will actually be assigned to the actual spotting and loading responsibilities on the contest platform, cleaning and movement of equipment between lifts, staff breaks, as well as trash removal and cleanup around the platform, etc. If an issue arises regarding the spotting/loading team, the chief referee for the platform or the chief of the jury should consult the platform chief to correct the situation.

Key and important, your spotters/loaders should be paid via a daily cash stipend, and if you have not already done so, should make this your first line item in your budget to direct your championship, before awards and all of the other window dressing that we like having at our competitions. Depending on the size of your event, I know some championship directors that provide cash stipends upwards to $75.00 to $100.00 per day, along with meals, and a uniform. If the championship runs multiple days, they should be provided with suitable hotel accommodations and if necessary transport to and from the contest venue. At the championship, the spotters/loaders should also be provided with ample fluids, meals, etc, and a rest area to take their breaks.

Speaking of a uniform, your platform crew should be uniformly dressed in either matching shorts/sweat pants/track suit trousers, and shirts. The shirts the spotters/loaders wear during their duties on the platform are often times donated by powerlifting sponsors. At your championship, there should be an ample supply of shorts/pants and shirts for the spotting/loading team to change into after each session, after each day of lifting has concluded. Often times by the end of a session, the clothes worn by the spotter/loaders are quite soiled and should be changed out as soon as possible and washed immediately for use again the next day if needed.

Some final words until the next time -- If you treat your spotting/loading volunteers well, they will be more apt to come back and work for you at future championships. It is often times very difficult to assemble a very good team of spotters/loaders to perform this most important and vital function at a championship. If you're a stingy tightwad and not willing to take care of your volunteers, the word will get out quite quickly of your ill-treatment, and you will likely not find many willing persons to step forward to assist you. So, take care of those that provide the first line of defense and safety for the lifters.

Next month's article will look at the spotting/loading of the squat. Until then, safe lifting to everyone!

Robert Keller
Chairman, Technical Committee
USA Powerlifting

Editors Note: Mr Keller knows that this is the FINAL issue of Powerlines, so I have no explanation why he sent in a "Part 1 of 4" article. I have no idea where the other parst will appear.