In Western Australia, Danielle Waller has designed an innovative kids’ weightlifting program. It’s called Oly 4 Kids, and she’s now hoping to take it Australia wide.
”It’s my life mission to build this structure where thousands of kids can be exposed to this awesome sport we do. And whether they go on with [weightlifting] or play another sport, they are going to benefit from it.”
After being in the game for over 20 years, Dani wondered why there wasn’t any kind of option for kids to learn these skills. So she took it upon herself to research the best way to develop this 10-week program. The resulting program is based around getting kids to move safely, while learning the snatch and clean & jerk using games and characters.
“A lot of what I have created is based around what I was never taught in the beginning,” Dani tells The Weightlifting Platform. Things like learning to squat correctly, right from the start. Things like that are so important not only for the kids who will carry on weightlifting, but all kids. There is tremendous value in learning and developing body awareness through these kinds of movements, and the kids will also improve their coordination and spatial awareness through learning to move an external object safely. These are skills that have wider application for later on in life.
But, of course, a lot of parents have probably heard that age-old myth: doesn’t lifting weights stunt your growth?
No, it does not!
Applying weightlifting training in such a way that Oly 4 Kids has developed, it becomes no more or less dangerous than sports like gymnastics, with a far lower injury rate than contact sports such as Aussie rules football.
Day one, kids ranging from age three up to 12 or 13 will come in and learn the “Standing Monkey”. This position simply teaches the kids the start position, without weights or bars. It teaches hookgrip, flat back and the correct stance using terminology kids can understand and relate to.
In the 2019 Youth and Under 15 Nationals, Oly 4 Kids had 10 kids competing who all started from day one of this program. Considering Dani has only being running this since 2017 that is a great success, and Australian weightlifting will start to see the real benefits from this type of program in the next 5 years as these kids get older and develop into strong weightlifters.
Dani plans to run your own smaller, non-sanctioned competitions for all ages, and get parents and families involved in an inclusive and friendly environment. Plus, this latter option grows a community much quicker! Seeing parents and family members becoming referees or assistant coaches and volunteer on the day gets more people together than any sanctioned competition.
Being in the sport for so long, Dani has filled almost every role possible. From being President of the AWF, to an international category 1 ref, to now being an “Oly mum” with her own daughter proudly competing in and winning the under 15 age group at Nationals this year.