COVID-19 has knocked small businesses around all over the country. Weightlifting clubs are no exception.
We thought nothing could stop the steady growth of AWF members over the past three years. Commercial clubs were popping up all over the place. Coaches were willing and able to take risks, which greatly expanded the small weightlifting world we all live in.
COVID-19 has suddenly halted this progress in 2020, which looked like it was going to be the biggest year yet (not in terms of numbers at Nationals, but overall participation rates).
Clubs are no longer able to take on new members. And, unfortunately, a gym is a luxury service for most people, so this is the first thing to go when times get tough — especially when people aren’t even allowed to attend their gym.
Clubs have lost anywhere between 15% to 50% of their income. Some have even closed their doors for good.
Jax Solofa, the owner of Ipswich Weightlifting Club, spoke to The Weightlifting Platform about how the shutdown has affected his business.
“The gym is my livelihood, that’s how I support my family … I only have a handful of athletes that have their own equipment at home. More than 50% of my members can’t train so obviously there is no income coming in. So the financial strain of that and not being able to support my family in that way is putting a lot of pressure on me.”
This is an unprecedented time and gym owners across the country are battling with the fallout.
“We built the gym to be a community of people training together, lifting together, so obviously that is the biggest hurdle,” says Chris Ackland, owner of Iron Tribe Weightlifting.
“I haven’t crunched the numbers because I don’t want to crunch the numbers,” he jokes.
“We are going to be really investing in our current members and getting the systems in place so they feel they are still getting value out of our service.”
Chris believes that there is an opportunity within this time to still be able to grow and add value to new members that want remote coaching and guidance. Others also see an opportunity in the challenge.
“We got our equipment out pretty quickly and moved to our online communities and that sort of thing to keep everybody lifting as much as possible,” Ant, the owner of Rev Barbell Club, explains.
This is a real testament to the ingenuity of gym owners around the country.
When we asked if there is a chance they won’t be able to re-open the doors after this is all over, Jax replies “there’s no way I’d let that happen. Even if I restart with one member I’m going to start with one member. Even if that one member’s my son, we will make it work and make something happen. We’ve worked too hard to be where we are now to let something take control and take over.”
The government’s assistance by way of rental waivers on commercial leases will be a massive help to gyms Australia wide.
During this period, it’s safe to say that training will not be the same, coaching will not be the same and weightlifting in Australia could shrink into the shadows once again.
At the moment, it looks as though it will be left to clubs and gym owners to salvage Australian weightlifting, as the AWF hasn’t implemented any strategies to counter this disruption.
The grassroots is where life starts, of course. And there’s so much life left at the club level of Australian weightlifting, it’s inevitable they will push through this and continue growing in the years ahead.