This is the second instalment in a two-part series on Sam Coffa. Read part one here.
In an exclusive interview with The Weightlifting Platform, AWF President Sam Coffa explains what direction he sees the AWF — and the sport more generally — taking in the near future. After putting some questions to Sam, we at TWF can confidently say that he and the board are considering some truly exciting ideas.
What direction are you and the board heading?
“The direction we have taken is more strategic, rather than being focused on a day-to-day basis,” Sam says. “We work towards a specific aim and do everything we possibly can to reach that.”
Obviously, being an Olympic and Commonwealth Games sport, the aim for Australian weightlifting’s peak body is always to win gold at these events. This focus is at the heart of the most recent plans Sam has implemented during his second run as AWF President.
Something worth remembering is that within the space of 10 years the AWF has had five presidents. This revolving door of presidents has hurt continuity and, to some extent, prevented the development of the kind of solid long-term plans and change our community so badly wants to see. Sam hopes to establish the sense of continuity needed to achieve that.
A big focus for Sam now is to look after the athletes. A key mantra he kept returning to was “We don’t look after our athletes, we’ve got nothing”. Sports Australia is giving the AWF money to spend on high performance, and Sam intends to use it to help improve the athletes’ quality of life.
The AWF has four squads who had their first team training at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) last month:
The AWF is paying the Super Squad members $1000 per month to help supplement their training. “Now, it’s not an enormous amount of money,” Sam admits. “But it’s a kick in the right direction.”
Athletes selected in the Super Squad are eligible to get bonuses on such things like:
$250 if they increase their total within the six-month membership period
$100 to break a national snatch, clean & jerk, or total record
$150 if these records are broken in an IWF international competition
Again, this is not enough for athletes to live off but the AWF has to start somewhere and incentivising athletes to pursue these high-performance squads is a great start.
Will Australian weightlifting ever return to the glory days of the ‘80s and ‘90s?
A big roadblock as far as the AWF is concerned is that there is minimal collaboration between the AWF, the state weightlifting bodies, and the clubs. This has impacted the growth of the sport, which has, in turn, hindered Australia’s ability to develop high-level athletes.
Sam concedes that the states are not solely to blame for this. The AWF must bear some responsibility too “for not bringing them [the states] in … What I want to see is that whatever we do, we do it together.”
“Will we ever get back to the glory days? Yes!”
But, Sam explains, not because of the reason you’d expect: “Not because of what we can do here [in Australia], but because of the doping problem overseas.”
‘Will we ever get back to the glory days? Yes!’: Sam Coffa on the future of Aussie weightlifting
With so many countries and athletes getting caught for doping, it makes it easier and easier for consistently clean countries such as Australia to move up the ranks and be competitive on the world stage.
We have seen the AWF acting a lot more transparently recently. For example, the Information Bulletin is upfront in laying out a lot of their decisions and changes. We hope to see a lot more of this free-flowing information from the AWF to the public, which creates a more open and collaborative environment, and helps states, clubs and athletes to follow the sport within Australia much better.
We thank Sam for giving up his time to chat with TWP and for sharing his insights on what’s happening around weightlifting’s halls of power. We hope to continue this great relationship with the AWF and bring you more information as it’s released.