Best way to get around Southern Colombia in January
Ivan, little Gwen and I went to Colombia to 1) work on the new shoes and 2) weightlifting -- lifting, coaching, and learning.
Colombia is a fun place. Firstly, the people are so nice, very easy going, and very affectionate. Really, people warm-up to each other much faster. The food is awesome; you can eat grilled steak, pork, chicken, or roasted chicken fairly inexpensively and rather easily (ie most places offer one or the other). Ohh yeah, and the coffee is good; nice, rich, smooth, strong coffee.
Going on to lifting and shoes...let's talk lifting first:
We trained in Bogota with the City League. First, let's preface how it is even possible to train on equipment...
In Colombia, city's like Bogota have public parks. These parks include sports complex's, which are funded by a 4% tax on phone bills. The sports themselves - team selections, championships, etc-- are coordinated by the Colombian Olympic Committee. So, the training complexes we worked out at were all public parks, organized by the city weighlifting League, each individual center being a club (2 clubs in Bogota, expanding to 4 more this year).
But that is just for the equipement: the coaches and lifters filling these halls get support from the federation.
So, for example, each of the coaches we met had studied for 10 semesters universtiy curriculum related to sports training and weightlifting. Many of them were former world or PAN AM medalists. The current national coach is Gancho, from Bulgaria.
The coaches at the city leagues would train lifters at all levels below Olympic team and wolrd medalists. Each level of lifter experience was eligible for training stipends and trips, after meeting a certian criteria.
For example, at Salitre, one of the city Leagues clubs, there was a 14 year old girl who received trainign support. She had competed at a schoolage international meet and won first place. In effect, she receives almost 300 USD per month ot help her to continue to train--- BUT, she has to meet federation requirements to continue to receive a stipend: She must train atleast 10 hours per week and meet a very attainable training total.
Similarly, there was a new crop of lifters who just started lifting. If they train for 3 weeks and begin to show technique, they are eligible for a free snack and lunch every day (to help with training nutrition, most kids are poor). If they continue to train, atleast 10 hours per week, and meet a standard total, then they recieve increased benefits -- snack and a meal, money to commute to training.
More interestingly is how they select teams. They do have national meets for qualifying to national teams, AND teams are chosen on training results. Here you can see the Bulgarian influences. At certain levels and training cycles, athletes will Max out every FRI. Coaches will report the results, and lifters who are performing best are sent to international meets.
So, I think what I find most interesting is that there are teams and competitions for every level of athlete, ultimately, building a pipeline for the elite teams.
Here is the pyramid of athlete levels:
Elite: Medalist at Worlds and Olympic Games, trains at facility in Cali
Advanced Level: Medals at regional Games, competes at other international cups and competitions
Construction II: Medals at national competition, age 21 - 22 years old
Construction I Junior teams: Medal at junior meets and Junior international meets, Age 17 - 20 years old
Instruction age 13 - 16 years old, trains at different training centers
From an enterprise architecture perspective (doing my thesis at MIT on enterprise architecture), the successful Colombian system of organizing is similar to Human resource employee development plans at large US corporations (sucession planning). There is a clear pipeline to back fill lifters at all levels of training. You will have the fewest number of people at the elite level, AND lifters in the middle levels are not ignored such that these "execitive' or elite level athletes have back-ups in case of injury or retirement. There is a true core to this organization. Additionally, the bottom level is comprised of a strongly engaged base...the future mid and elite level lifters.
Note that at all levels above Construction II, no age is specified. This coincides with the fact that "Master of Sport" level takes, typically, ten years of consistent training. Additionally, it permits transition from junior levels to senior level lifting. Overall, the structure emphasizes that lifters at all levels are kept engaged in the sport. Again, with 10+ yrs of straight training needed to reach master of sport levels, the "up and comers" have training goals and teams to work for, while working to a path to the Olympic and world teams.
Note, that this is not a strict sports school in the Old Soviet sense. There is much emphasis on parent involvement and personal dedication. Again, this is more like a corporation: build a culture of dedication and commitment, set standards, reward performance at all levels, keep everyone engaged, resources available to help assist your core when needed.