2017 IPF Classic Worlds...the old coach perspective

It was January 15, 2014 when I got a very short and to the point e-mail from a Jennifer Millican. The name was familiar but, I couldn’t put it together. I am sure I had seen this person at a meet or something as it generally goes that way. To this day, I still can’t recall how I knew of her. Anyway, it wasn’t but a few weeks later that in walks this tiny little lady and her Grandmother and the rest is, as they say, history.

In that time, lots of things have happened with many challenges. So many obstacles on a personal, professional and lifting level and too many to list but, be assured, this has been a journey and not all has been smooth and effortless.  What did and has happened was lots of talks, lots of messaging and lots of notes. How to get better, how to overcome each one encouraging the other. Each meet, an evaluation. Taking notes as to what needs to be worked on, changes that might be made and so forth. 

Once the Arnold was done this year, Jenn and I spent a lot of time talking, well Jenn talked a lot more than I did…but, anyway, she never shut up the entire time we celebrated which was the rest of that day into the wee hours of the following morning. We both made a couple of key mistakes and drew from the past successes and what we needed to do to get better and grow. Jennifer trusts me and trusts me to rely on my experience. I have competed in many meets and different sports at a fairly high level. I have coached at a high level and I have judged at a high level. All those things count but, it still has to be applied come game day and for me to be of any assistance to her, at IPF worlds, I needed to be and we would have to be on point.

Jenn and I spend a lot of time talking about strategy and attempts, all cycle long. I generally write down what I think is feasible for her to attempt at the meet and she comes along and blows that out of the water with what she thinks is “feasible”. Then we work on it, hone it down and talk about it some more and repeat the process all cycle long until we pinpoint a plan. We did great at 2016 nationals. We were conservative and precise and when there was a little adversity, we didn’t panic. The results speak for themselves. At the Arnold, we chased numbers, there was adversity and we didn’t panic but, we fell short of our best. So, going into the training cycle for worlds, we discussed lots of things and knew that just like nationals, we had to make attempts and there was no ego. Attempts were discussed over and over, warm up routine honed precisely and then we discussed with the team coaches Siouxz and Matt Gary and they offered a few options and the plan was laid. Now, if you want a lift by lift account, please read Jenn’s blog about the meet in her recap. What I want to talk about is other things.

If you read any of Jenn’s writing, you will see that there as a theme with her family. We were leaving the Sunday before Jenn lifted on Thursday. We had a brunch and lots of family we there to send her off and some go with her on this trip. Not many of us have that kind of support. They cooked food, told stories, laughed and clapped for Jenn as we loaded up and headed to the airport. It’s that kind of support, that I assure you is always present and apparent, that is a rock for her. As you read in Jenn’s recap, we get to Chicago, so far so good and boom, Mike has no passport. I even saw him with it in Nashville. This was the first obstacle to overcome and by far the biggest. I knew it was hard on both of them. And let me say this about Michael. I know he felt awful, I could see it in his eyes and I know he felt he let Jenn down but, let me say this. There is noone that is more resilient. He shakes my hand and says, “take care of her” and stays behind and I hope and pray and yes, have threatened him if he doesn’t post a blog about this because, it wasn’t easy, it was really hard for him to pull off what he did. But more, it’s all the things he does you never see. The morning coffee, the kids getting off to school, the endless work hours. I have seen it with my own eyes and the guy just gets it done. There is no bitching, no moaning, just getting it done. Today, I tip my hat to you sir! This is the rock and glue that it takes day in and day out. Again, let’s hope he posts about what he went through and what it took for him to get there.

I can’t say enough nice things about SIouxZ and Matt Gary. There was plenty of communication prior to the meet and discussions about meet attempts and even warm ups. I like it. When we got out of the van once arriving at the hotel, they were the first people we saw. We had time prior to the meet to talk and it we melded and were on the same page basically immediately.  It was decided that Matt and I would have a better vantage point at the side of the platform from a distance and that also allowed me to take video. SiouxZ would be in the coach’s box and it was easy for us to discuss and consult between each attempt. They knew that we had a plan and that Jenn and I are very connected on game day. It was as well a collaborative effort as there could be and we’d never worked together. This is where experience really mattered and for the 3 of us, it was really what was best for Jenn and getting the absolute best result for her and the team. I would work with them again in a flash. It was a blast and we really worked well together.

As for Jenn, I think the thing that works so well for us is that we are in many ways very much alike. There isn’t a ton of talk or anything on this day. Each lift, the warms ups are hit with precision, everything warm up wise looks great. With squats, the misses from what I felt were the contenders allowed us to be a bit more conservative and we wanted the world record and knew that would give us a lead and honestly, that is not where we expected to be. I will say this about squats, I was confident. Training had gone well. I can only recall once a missed squat and she came back to hit it. I remember she asked, “Should I lower the weight?” and I used some colorful expletives to gently get my opinion and point across and that was that. I say that tongue in cheek. Now, I did blast some expletives but, to be clear, Jenn is not someone that is looking for something outward to be motivated, she’s already there. I’m just the one that if she gets a little nervous, or a little concerned or even scared, I just tell her to load the f’n weight and let’s get it done. I say it all the time, to be all time you have to be all time all of the time. Being a best lifter at nationals and then at worlds is not a fluke. Keep in mind, everyone there is not good, they are great and contenders and all of them can be a dangerous opponent so, to win and then be best lifter, you have to do the one thing that I love more than anything about Jenn, she loves to prepare and simply, that’s what it takes. Anyway, after squats and Jenn being in the lead, I knew she had what it took to go 3-3 in the bench and once the bar hit the floor, based on what I was seeing and what I had researched about each lifter, no one could beat her as long as she kept her composure. I repeated that to her. It was 3 words. Composure, patience and execution and every now and then I’d say something about precision but, this day was about staying composed.

Jenn went on to go 3-3 in the bench and that kept pace with her closest competitor Maria Htee. They both hit 100kg and for Jenn, the 100 was a big get and going 3-3 with no issues or hiccups. 6-6, all white lights and a 2 kg lead going into pull. All warm ups were silky smooth and lots of power. I have told Jenn since the first day, I know you love squat and think it’s your best lift but, to me, when the bar hits the floor, it is her time to shine and she is a great, world class puller. I knew that the gamesmanship would come into play and what the other lifters didn’t know, how the day went through squat and bench played right into our hands and put us exactly where we wanted to be save we didn’t anticipate a lead. The only thing Jenn ever asked and it came abruptly out of nowhere and we’ve since chuckled about it, WADE! Everything looks ok, right? I mean, she is 6-6 and a lead, I just nodded and said everything was great. I had to quell my excitement all day long and it got harder as each lift attempt was hit. It was time to pull.

The thing that struck me at this meet, not only with the 57’s but the 47 and 52 classes were how heavy the openers were. I am all about and teach and coach rhythm in lifting. Get an opener that is solid and gets you a number in and gives you a good platform for your 2nd and 3rdattempts. When I saw the order, I felt like the contenders were too heavy for an opener and again, quelling more excitement, felt this played into our strength. The ability to check the go and make lifts. Jenn pulls her opener and it’s super-fast and easy, we went to 187.5 and we knew that it would make it so to beat Jenn, 200+ would have to be pulled. I knew Jenn had a 195 and could break the 190.5 world record. We played the game with attempts and eventually, Maria went for her 3rd and on this day, it was simply too much and gold was Jenn’s. She yelled, not knowing weight selection, “Wade, I want to go 9-9” and I said, you are, you can pull this. And she did but it was turned down and the only 2 reds she received all day. Honestly, based on video, I took it much harder than she did. We smiled, a brief hug and it was off for her to change and get ready for testing. There were lots of handshakes and hugs. I took a minute to walk away, it was an emotional experience as it came back to all the moments it took to get Jenn to this point. All the changes and growth and just everything. I was all of the sudden just winded. I bent down, hands on my knees and took a minute. SiouxZ came and asked if I was ok and I said yes and she said, “Jenn needs you, NOW” and here came Shorty. She hit me head on and just cried and I teared up. I knew what this meant to her. As a coach, there is nothing better than to see a dream and goal achieved. What a huge achievement and, for her to want me to be a part of it, it goes well beyond saying it is and was an honor. What a cool thing. Lots of memories and a goal achieved. When she went up for her golds and they played the national anthem, the tears flowed for all of us. I can’t even express how it felt to see that and watch it. Once all the thanks and the handshakes and hugs are done, Jenn and I walk back and she even asks if I was just spent. I think she could tell. I got her to her room, went to mine and had 3 bourbons so I could chill out. I messaged Jenn and she was at the bar and in true Shorty and Ogre fashion, our way to celebrate, pizza and some beers and it was fitting. We met with her parents and walked out to this odd little place and ate and drank more and I was done. I headed back to the room and the next day, it was time for me to fly to Detroit to coach my Missy and my boy Thad. Our little gym has an IPF world champion and a top 10 finisher in the men’s Light HWT masters nationals and the women’s masters’ strongman nationals were Missy placed 3rd. A podium in her first nationals. Thad placing 6th achieved the goal of breaking into the top 10. All that was left was to get up the next morning and drive home from Detroit to our little gym/home in Mt. Juliet TN.

As a coach, I couldn’t be more proud for Jenn. As her training partner, it’s fun and a blessing for me to watch it all unfold to see her continue to grow and to improve and how infectious it is to the others around her. I got messages from Aaron and Michael all day. The girls, Missy, Cory and Damn Gina were in the gym with Power Your Own gear on cheering her on as well as many of the Team Ogre online folks. What a great effort. What an incredible result. It’s these things that continue to spur me on to work at this and inspires me to continue to grow and improve as a lifter and as a coach. As a gym owner, it just goes to show you, it can be a tiny little spot in the middle of nowhere. It’s never the building or the gear that makes the gym. Simply, it’s the lifters that train there. I continue to be blessed beyond anything I deserve.

So, what’s next? Cory is training for a qualifier and wants to join Jenn at nationals this year. Jon and Jodey expect to be there as they have both qualified so, it looks like nationals will see team ogre in the house again.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Aaron Thomas. AT and I spent more time this cycle communicating and even some face time about training, concerns, reports and other things. What a brilliant mind and, he likes bourbon, too. I love, again, the total collaborative effort that went into this. A lesson for all that lift, you do the lifting but, have really good people around you for the thinking part. I’ll take this team into a meet anytime and anyplace and I like our chances. 

So, be on the lookout. There is more training, planning and scheming to come. I’ll say it again, I truly believe, the best is yet to come.

Lift heavy, train smart & eat more pizza

Davie Smith