The beauty of team work in sports: organizing meets is a very specialized occupation

I have been the president of a national powerlifting organization in a powerlifting and ethics-unfriendly country. Our organization never really grew: the corruption tradition was so strong that the IPL/USPA project could hardly be understood by people who were already lifters. Our chance were the newcomers. I didn’t have the time: I moved away.

I learned many lessons, but some of them have universal value:

  1. I hated every second of meet organization. Oh, you bet I know how to do it. Even in the most adverse conditions. After a meet, I was not only tired and worn out, but extremely depressed. In several occasions I considered never organizing a meet again, which, in South America, also meant never competing again (eventually this is exactly what I did: before I moved to the USA, I had only been competing here for two years already). Things are obviously much easier here, the environment is friendly and the meets are self-sustainable. Does it make it any more pleasant for me to organize a meet? Nope. At every meet I help at (by judging, doing cards, expediting, cleaning stuff, fetching stuff, etc.) I am more convinced that I hate the organizer role. There are several things in life that I really dislike and most of them are things I also suck at (it is hard to become good at something that causes suffering and depression). Meet organizing beats even stupid things like lawn mowing (I don’t like lawns, and I hate lawn mowing) or fancy dinner table setting. It beats long lines at the airport (and I need a valium to even approach an airport). It beats a lot of stuff… I really, really hate it. The reason I did it for six years is that there was nobody else to do it and I owe this sport my life. So I do whatever it takes.
  2. I think meet organizing requires skills that I have not developed and others that I was probably born without. You know, congenital deficiency. More and more I think my mother is right and my dad and I are in the autistic spectrum. A meet organizer is, first and foremost, an organized person but (and there is always a but), he must be flexible. And that is one thing that I have a hard time with. A sports leader must be strict but diplomatic; he must be able to “read” intentions and sub-texts. He must embrace with grace the horror of an email inbox full of stupid messages and, what’s worse, some not stupid at all, but real time-bombs: new problems you need to provide a solution for. I just listed many of the skills that haunted my professional life for decades: I lack them, some can’t be developed and some, tragically, I am even unable to actually understand. I know there is such a thing, but I don’t feel it and I can’t see it.
  3. I am bad with money. I can budget everything, but since I’m not this person who can put on a popular show, all my meets ended in financial deficit. If it broke even, I was happy. If there was some money for our poor organization, there was always some vampire who managed to persuade me we owed him for this and that, showed me receipts I stupidly believed in and we ended up with nothing.
  4. There are some things in the sport that I do without really liking. But I still do and will keep doing. Why? For the same reason one day I did things I hated: I owe this sport my life. I give back to it as much as I can.
  5. The good thing here is that we have people with complementary strengths and weaknesses. Without organizers, there is no powerlifting because there are no meets. A bunch of people in gear with a bunch of racks is not a meet. A meet is a complex and periodized event that takes place along several months until the days there is actual lifting. But without good and consistent judges, we don’t have the sport either. We need people like me, then. I’m a good judge and I’m a good teacher. I like teaching. I’m good at that. Ironic, isn’t it? If a person starts crying in front of me, I freeze. If someone tries to save face and not apologize in an objective and direct manner I get angry to a dangerous level. But I can listen and interpret difficulties a student has that he has no idea he even does. Same with lifters.
  6. I don’t understand cheating. Someone made an analogy with presidential elections or elections in general. As a social scientist, it made no sense: political propaganda, argumentative strategies, murders, etc., are part of a very rational interest “game” (yes, game theory applies). There are literally trillions of dollars involved. Power equals economic power. Now, why in hell a creature would cheat on gear use or drug test is completely beyond my ability to comprehend. There is no power or money involved. I’ve heard “oh, it’s the ego”. Ok, this term is being applied in an incorrect technical context. I think people mean pride or personal recognition. The feeling of being “important”. But, I’m sorry, this doesn’t make it any less confusing to me: recognition by whom? By us? This microscopic community of powerlifting lovers? I do understand this in Brazil: by corrupt manipulation, some lifters receive a government grant that, if this individual is an unqualified worker on close to minimum wage, it can mean a 400% increase in monthly income. In this case, yes: I understand cheating and even murder. People kill for a little money.
  7. I love this sport, I love the USPA/IPL family, but not the end of the world itself can make me go to the Olympia, Arnolds or any of these sports events. I am absolutely terrified of crowds. I had to go to the Arnolds twice. In one of these occasions, I had a panic reaction (much, much, much worse than a traditional “panic attack”: it was a Berserk reaction) from which I “came to” crouching behind a trash bin with three paramedics trying to persuade me to let them examine me. How I got from a squeezing crowd (that was happily parked watching some naked person) to that trash bin, I have no idea. All I know is that the memory of that place gives me the creeps. Someone asked: “but how do you manage a meet? There is an audience!”. Oh, come on: we have other lifters, family and friends, and that’s it. Powerlifting is this. I like it exactly as it is.


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