This is an article detailing the powerlifting tertiary scene from 2018 to 2020. Think of it as a document of a small, local story. Here’s some context to understand the article. I’m Wei Cong and I started competing in 2018. In February of the same year and my final semester in NUS, I set up Powerlifting NUS alongside many capable friends, two of whom are currently in the ENSŌ team, Geordi and Ashton.
We gathered the first motley crew of 8 lifters to compete at the SPO’18 in April. By mid-year, we gathered sufficient momentum to send a team to the World University Cup in Czech Republic. Simultaneously, we also started planning for the first in-house NUS meet, Test of Strength.
Officially, this meet was the last event I oversaw as a NUS student. From here on, I joined Powerlifting Singapore as the University Teams Development Director. Throughout this journey, I was able to study past, present and overseas powerlifting clubs, their successes and failings.
Timeline of Development
A lot of our local scene stories and histories aren’t well-kept, and there have been other clubs in the past. Here, I’ve compiled a timeline of developments within the tertiary scene between 2018 and 2020. As this timeline is my individual compilation, there will definitely be gaps. So, please PM us if you wish to add to this!
Pictures shown are not in chronological order, click on them to expand.
Clubs Active during 2018-2020
From left to right: NTU Strength, @powerliftingnus, @powerliftingite, @sitpowerlifting, @smustrength, @sp_strength_athletics
Stories of Other Clubs
The ENSŌ team has been fortunate to compile stories, and budding clubs are no exception. Here are some stories of various local clubs told through the perspective of a committee member.
Ingredients to Building a Community
Building a community is similar to baking a cake. There are many flavours and patterns of cake, but the core ingredients and steps remain the same. Here are the important items in my opinion:
This is not a metaphor; an organization lives and dies by its processes, and sharing a meal together is the central pillar. Even during COVID-19, you could gauge the health of a community by the frequency of their training sessions, post-session dinners, and the folks who turned up. This is the time when people have fun, spark ideas and really get to know one another as people. It’s not surprising when you think about it, powerlifters lift massive weights and eat massive meals. Iron and zichar go hand in hand.
Having a house for the community is naturally part of the equation, and a common gym is a no-brainer. At the same time, powerlifting is currently still an individual sport, so committed powerlifters might not find the school gym sufficiently equipped. Factor these into your considerations if you were to build a club — where would you house it? How’s the traffic and equipment? How friendly are the staff and users towards powerlifters, and vice versa? Clashes and negotiations are part and parcel of using a common space, and the last thing we want to do is to give the sport a bad name and deter newcomers.
Inclusivity, not Exclusivity
In most clubs I’ve observed, members join and stay for the community ties, with many of them rarely stepping onto the platform. While the latter speaks to the accessibility and intimidation factor of the sport, the former is entirely within the control of the club to shape. The next time you see someone wearing Vans in the gym deep squatting, talk to them; they might just be your next club president.
The flip side looks at exclusivity, where membership comprises of denying access. While this is inevitable as the club evolves in structure and its organisation matures, it’s critical to think about not building up walls that hinder folks from joining the community. It is tempting to imagine having a gym/time slot exclusively for powerlifting members, but how would this affect engaging newcomers? It’s easy to say to them, ‘join our club to use our competition weights and get free coaching!‘, but what is the impression given off here? These will be the new members of your community, and they will become the next committee — how would they build their community?
Here in ENSŌ, we believe that the true meaning of a powerlifting meet is in essence the definition of the word ‘meet’, and this rings especially true for clubs and communities. The difference between a community and a club lies in the organisation around a vision and pursuit of directives. This means having a common vision amongst members, committee leaders and stakeholders that informs the what, why and how of the club. Meets fulfill this by providing opportunities for interactions and recognition within the wider school and lifting community, while serving as team-bonding and milestones for individual club members. The good thing about this? The club doesn’t have to compete in external powerlifting meets; these can be informal max-outs in the gym, and these can be really fun events.
Pitfalls to Avoid
At the same time, the committee needs to practice restraint in their goals. Burnout is real. Remember that you have many hats to wear: student, child, friend. Participating in a competitive meet can bring on more hats: cheerleader, coach, athlete. Needless to say, for those who wish to plan such an event, it is really difficult. If your club is newly established, its start-up nature can quickly swamp committee members.
Here, having a strong team to lean back on and work together is key. Each position should have a well-defined job scope and goal. Freely sharing resources and information across both other powerlifting and non-powerlifting clubs, the federation and private organisations can help to foster long-term working relationships. This can offload processes for future committees.
The next question that plagues budding clubs is that of leadership succession. Lack of engagement within the community can severely impact the committee’s ability to find interested individuals who will carry the torch. Student life passes by really quickly, and by the time a committee shapes up to take over the reins, they may only have 4-6 months left. Committees change drastically from one year to the next, and these can affect the character and vision of the club if the succession is not done well. Here, ex-committee seniors and leaders can continue to volunteer as mentors within the clubs to ensure a thread of continuity.
Looking to the Future
Over time, it is our hope that the powerlifting scene can mature to offload these roles to individuals dedicated to coaching a varsity team or directing meets. For the time being, make sure that your committee is well taken care of, and recognise that it is absolutely alright to take small steps. This leaves ample room for future generations to build upon the foundations you have established.
Of course, whatever is written here exists in an almost completely different past. The key is to strip the details down to the principles and adapt them to your club. Be creative and dare to explore solutions that haven’t been tested. Looking to 2022 and beyond, we hope that someone out there will be able to answer these questions. The ENSŌ team looks forward to supporting budding clubs wherever you may be.
Further questions? Feel free to contact us at [email protected].