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Spectators And Competitors
By Donny Shankle

I used to think there were two types of people in Weightlifting. Those who competed and those who watched the competitors. I even went so far as to believe one was greater than the other. As time has gone on, I have learned I was wrong. Each are one and the same. Man in his fullest sense or man in his fullest capacity as a man qua man is an observer. His thoughts are made real by his ability to conceptualize what he has seen or learned. In his observation he applies himself to either improve or create. The good man does this to find the best within himself. He lets whatever appears to be the best in him or you to become an inviolable law of his life. It’s the knowledge of men passed on generation after generation which keeps this process eternal.

A few months ago I had the pleasure to coach some outstanding masters weightlifters in Japan. Over a two month period progress was made which even surprised me. I knew what each weightlifter was capable of but I had no idea the amount of fight inside their hearts. Each one of them believed in the capacity of each other and lived up to it. All of them kept their attention on the stretch and gradually chipped away at improvement. I had a wonderful time spectating and watching this all unfold. I sat in my chair about 3ft. from the platform unafraid of weights being dropped on me because I believed in them. I saw the professionalism coming out as they learned each others idiosyncrasies and routine. The group trained strong because each weightlifter remained committed. All of them learned to work with each other and keep the joy you feel on personal record successes each and every attempt. As a result all of them won a medal at the competition we were preparing for and most of them were gold. It was a great day.

Watch, learn, and practice. This is how we all begin our own journey on the platform. The first weightlifting gym I trained in I would stay awake in the late hours watching the best on stage on the TV. I watched because I wanted to make what I was seeing my own. I wanted others to watch me and my journey took me there in no time because I put the work in. I never sheltered myself from competition. I loved the idea of battle and still do but now I enjoy watching others do battle too. I look forward to watching weightlifters I have taught or coached win. I know the feelings they have inside when the medal is placed around their neck. I know the feelings of “the white moment” when all seems clear as they bring their feet together and get three white lights from the judges. It all goes full circle from spectating to competing to spectating again. Knowledge is passed on and more knowledge is gained and as a result the capacity of each man finds no limits.