2001 Billy Jack Talton Award for the Coach of the Year
As Interviewed by Katie Ford
KF: Congratulations! First off, what’s your reaction to receiving the “Coach of the Year Award”?
- JF: Very surprised! And also very honored that members of the USA Powerlifting would think my work merited this commendation. It’s named after Billy Jack Talton, and rightfully so. He’s done some great work himself over the years and advanced lifting programs on the Collegiate level.
KF: Have you worked with Dr. Talton before?
- JF: Yes. In 1998, when the USA Powerlifting first won the IPF sanction, we scrambled to get together our first Jr. World team for the IPF meet in Hungary. Prior to this, with the USPF’s stewardship, the junior representation in the IPF had really dwindled. I think their placing was no better than 13th. We felt we could do better, and began trying to assemble our best JR. lifters. Dr. Talton’s team at LA Tech University comprised a large part of that 1st IPF JWT. I’ll never forget that 1st year, 21 lifters and just us 3 coaches: Dr. Larry Maile, Dr. Talton and myself. But all our team performed well, and we were able to improve to a 5th place overall finish.
KF: Tell us a little about yourself.
- JF: At present I’m acting as coach/manager for the 2001 Jr. World team, coaching collegiate lifters on the University of Texas Longhorn PL’ing team, and an active member on the USA Powerlifting Coaches Committee working with some great minds to accomplish some huge projects. I’m employed in Austin as the elected Vice President of the IATSE “Stagehands” Union. We primarily provide technical labor for stage and theater productions; that is audio, video, lighting, stage, carpentry, etc. You know, the set guys backstage on movies and videos; those who make the magic happen. My responsibilities are primarily twofold: Education Administrator and Disciplinary Action. I supervise the programs that teach the young apprentices to become accomplished Journeymen in their trade. Also, I have the dreadful job of disciplining them when they screw up, not at all unlike the job of a coach.
KF: When I asked others what qualities they felt merited your earning the Coach of the Year Award, time and time again the answer was your concern for the Jr. Lifter. One such comment came from Mike O’Donnell, “I would say that the best qualities about Jim are that he is concerned and in contact with his lifters on a day to day basis, not just at the competition. This is tough and takes a lot of time and energy on top of team management. Another attribute is his emphasis on the importance of Junior lifters, he knows without them powerlifting in the USA will die soon. 2 Jr. world team members are on the open men’s team this year and there are more to come. Jim also understands the need for patience while dealing with immature Junior lifters…guiding them along while sometimes they would just as soon quit the sport or do something stupid to hinder their performance. Jim is often given ugly tasks because he knows how to do the dirty work involved in coaching…he can do it all and deserves the recognition.” Can you tell us some of your philosophies with regard to training young lifters?
- JF: Well, that’s a big topic, but I’ll throw a few out there. I enjoy coaching because one of the things I’ve learned is that there are many ways to get from point A to point B. You must experiment around and find what works for you. We don’t all start from the same point, genetically, motivation, time restraints, etc. So, what works for one person may not work for you. You must be brutally honest in your appraisals of your lifting, or have a coach that is competent and you can trust. Having found a system, you must stay with it long enough to give it a chance to work, while you’re “tweaking” that to perfection. And of course, you must commit to hard, “smart” work. If you won’t work hard at this, or anything in life, you won’t succeed. For the Junior and intermendate lifters, it’s just like other sports. You must master the “fundamentals”. I’m talking about flawless form, gear mastery, consistent training (not over training) and the patience that experience teaches. This will season you out to become an Elite class lifter. Many times, in a young lifter who may be fabulously strong, this may be the only thing keeping him from big numbers.
KF: Earlier, you spoke about work on the Coaches Committee. Can you elaborate on that?
- JF: As we move closer to Olympic Acceptance, we must be ready, as a Federation, in all areas. That would include having a cadre of qualified coaches, who cannot only coach at the International level, but all levels: beginning (club coach), state & regional, and National level. Also, keeping in mind that there are big differences between those who can platform manage a team, those that business manage a team, and the trainer that handles the conditioning of lifters at every level. So, towards this end, we are moving towards a certification program for our coaches, and a manual that will be the template for this program. There is still much discussion, but we are moving in the direction of the program style in USA WEIGHTLIFTING. When we gain access to the Olympics, we want to have certified PL’ing coaches to steward our teams. Not weightlifting coaches, which the IOC could require. Dr. Larry Maile accomplished much as head of this committee for years. We now have a new, smart, young head, Rob Wagner. He’s very knowledgeable on these issues and has all our support.
KF: What coaching accomplishments are you most proud of?
- JF: My experiences with the USA Powerlifting have been most rewarding. Several come to mind. Producing a video presentation to aid in the Olympic push was gratifying. Seeing our teams improve in the competitive atmosphere of the IPF. Also, this certification program for coaches will be another milestone in bringing our Federation more credibility as a sporting organization.
KF: What are some goals that you see for our Federation?
- JF: Early on, it was realized that to field successful international teams; we must have a system that supplies our Jrs. and Open teams. We were losing many quality lifters after HS & College. The answer was to tap this huge amount of HS’ers, and better prepare our Collegians & Juniors. These divisions are on course now with help from Committee Chairs James Hart and Jon Magendie. When we begin to tap this young talent pool, recognize talent early on, develop it, and keep them in the sport, we will have solved one part of the puzzle of keeping a large pool of quality lifters for our teams. It won’t hurt budgetary concerns either.
KF: What do you see as some of the biggest problems facing PL’ing today?
- JF: Two of the biggest problems are the drug issue and the political arguing. I won’t get into the drug thing. It’s just so huge and ever changing; we couldn’t give it justice here. Being around since the mid 1960’s, believe me, I’ve seen it all. There are excesses and extreme views on both sides of this issue. So, it suffices to say, I believe in the principles of the USA Powerlifting. Chart a progressive, honest path. The world will eventually fall into line. The Political arguing is not for me. I often run a Labor Union Meeting with several hundred thick-skinned, blue-collar workers, so, excessive arguing is not new to me. I don’t come to Pl’ing to argue politics. I come for the joy of the sport, and the positiveness of helping someone improve their skills. Every year there is a new crop of lifters, and I’m very gratified by those who comeback to thank me for the time spent with them, especially if they benefited from the important lessons.
KF: Which are?
- JF: That it’s a very noble and honorable sport that we participate in. So, strive to keep it on that level. Lord knows there’s really no money in it. If that was our motive, we’d be better off in some other activity. But we should be proud of the sacrifices we make; they make us very unique. It’s not the chase and achieving the Gold that’s the most important. It’s the journey to compete and improve ourselves, the friends we make, and the great love we have for our sport.
KF: Thanks for your time, and once again, congratulations on your award.