Keep Pulling Named as 2021 USA Weightlifting Community Development Training Site

Posted on Posted in Olympic Weightlifting

For the third year in a row, Keep Pulling has been selected as a USA Weightlifting National Community Development Training Site based on our outstanding achievements and community outreach programs within the sport of Olympic Weightlifting!

We are proud and excited to have been chosen in 2019, 2020, and now 2021! We are looking forward to this opportunity to further contribute to the continuing growth of our sport.

2020 Community Development Training Site

2019 Community Development Training Site

Keep Pulling has many programs that are designed to bring Weightlifting to the surrounding community. See below for our responses to our 2021 Community Development application:

Describe your community outreach program(s):

Weightlifting Meetups

These are free events that are open to the Tampa Bay Area and anyone in the surrounding areas. We started holding these events in 2013 as a way to bring lifters together to train with other lifters in the community in a no-pressure and fun environment. These events are essentially “open gym” for anyone that would like to come and train. Our first meetup had 8 people have since grown to as many as 75 lifters with local small business vendors, food trucks, and a DJ. 

Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we postponed our Meetups for the remainder of 2020 and aim to restart our quarterly Meetups in the Spring of 2021 based on the most current CDC and WHO recommendations at that time.

Sanctioned Competitions

Our competitions started as non-sanctioned events (one in 2013 and one in 2014) purely to gain interest and exposure to the sport. Since then, Keep Pulling has hosted 12 sanctioned Weightlifting competitions in the Tampa Area as of September 2020 while holding to an annual schedule of an event in the Spring, Summer and Fall every year. 

We have exclusively partnered with VALOR Fitness through 2021, a Tampa-based fitness equipment manufacturer with a strong passion for community events. Our Keep Pulling events are now held in the VALOR event warehouse and by combining the events staff of Keep Pulling and VALOR, we have worked together to elevate the experience and showmanship of the local Weightlifting competition. Our collective idea was that many lifters may not progress past the local level, so we aimed to create an “experience” for the beginner and advanced lifters alike including: athlete/coach/etc credential badges, WWE-style athlete introductions with smoke machine and laser light show, games & prizes for spectators, guest “elite” lifters, professional venue appearance and setup, full HD live stream with multiple cameras/commentary/live score boards, and much more. We pride ourselves on making our events accessible and welcoming to first-time athletes and beginners by providing a fun, positive experience for everyone.

We have also launched a local “Grand Prix Series” to link our Spring, Summer, and Fall meets together with a “Finals” event at the end of December offering cash prizes and other incentives for lifters of all levels to participate with no prior qualification requirements!

Keep Pulling Podcast

One of our newest projects this year has been creating a podcast to deliver Weightlifting-related content. The show is hosted by myself (Patrick Costello) and Andy Blaida from LiftingLife -- SInce we have been friends in the Weightlifting community for 8 years, we decided to start this project to share our experiences in the world of USA Weightlifting, talk about current WL issues & pop culture, and touch on technique-related topics.

FHSAA High School Weightlifting

In the summer of 2018, we launched a 2-week summer training camp for high school Weightlifters in the area to improve their Clean & Jerk, Bench Press, and introduced them to the snatch. 

In 2020, KP Head Coach Patrick Costello was hired as the Girls’ Weightlifting Head Coach at Land O’ Lakes High School in Pasco County and is now runs the Weightlifting program for the school. With the addition of the Snatch to high school Weightlifting, he will be bringing his 10+ years of club coaching experience to this high school program along with the systems, relationships, sponsorships, and team culture that Keep Pulling has developed over the past 7+ years. We are very excited to be a part of this programs’ development!

Youth Athletic Sponsorships

Keep Pulling offers reduced club dues to any active student from grade school to college. Additionally, we offer club sponsorships to underprivileged student athletes on a case by case basis. These sponsorships equate to drastically reduced (sometimes free) club dues/membership fees. The athlete must sign a Code of Conduct Agreement and fulfill certain requirements to remain eligible for this special offer including a minimum GPA, minimum class enrollment, assistance with our events & facility, minimum weekly practice attendance, and more. It is our hope that this arrangement will increase accountability and respect for opportunities that will be applicable in “real-life” scenarios for them in the future.

Mentorship & Coach Development Program

What started as a hiring tool for our own coaching staff now doubles as an accredited internship program with the University of Tampa. Students from the Exercise Science and Human Performance department take part in this ~100 hour curriculum which includes a self-written 110 page course manual, section quizzes and reviews, evaluations, hour log book, and specialty activity worksheets. Participants are exposed to scenarios such as weekly training sessions with the team in both assistant and lead coach roles, athlete interactions and meet handling, travel and logistics, training program development, and general business duties.

Great American Teach In

We participate in Hillsborough County Schools’ annual GATI in which they invite various industry professionals as guest speakers for the day. Since 2016, we have used this opportunity to teach roughly 200 students at Walker Middle Magnet School about the sport of Weightlifting with games, fun quizzes, and other engaging activities ending with a hands on portion of teaching the snatch.

Professional Network

Keep Pulling strives to create local network of industry professionals and has partnerships with providers of physical therapy, massage therapy, chiropractic care, nutritional supplements, and orthopedic specialists. By offering these resources, we are able to keep athletes healthy through preventative maintenance and rehabilitation.

University Organizations and Affiliations

Keep Pulling is an affiliated employer and internship provider for the University of Tampa. We are also the off-campus host of the USF Weightlifting Club of which 3 of our own lifters are the club officers. USF Weightlifting currently meets once per month at our Keep Pulling facility for their club meetings and training sessions at no charge. 

The purpose of this club is to expose students to the sport of Olympic Weightlifting, identify University-level talent who may compete on behalf of the USF at the University nationals, and also teach new and beginning lifters the Olympic lifts through our professional coaching staff.

Weightlifting Academy Courses

Keep Pulling offers monthly Weightlifting intro courses as a way to teach participants the fundamentals of the Olympic lifts. We offer two levels of beginner courses: Academy Level 1 and Academy Level 2 -- these courses onboard our new and beginning lifters and provide milestones for them to shoot for during the duration of the courses. Since its official inception as the “Weightlifting Academy” in 2018, it has had over 120 beginners start Weightlifting through this program alone!

“Try Pulling” Free Community Class

In the spirit of “Try Weightlifting Free” day, we have created a free community class that is available every single Friday called Try Pulling. This is a one-hour class for those new to strength training, Olympic Weightlifting, or gym-going in general to try strength-building exercises under the direction and supervision of our coaching staff. Participants are invited to Try Pulling with us and then Keep Pulling if they like it!

COVID-19 Related Practices:

What has your club done to stay engaged with its members and outside community during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic?

During the mandatory shutdowns here in Florida between March-June of 2020, we provided 5 hours of training daily via ZOOM. These virtual sessions included a 60 minute bodyweight only workout regimen, 45 minutes of technique practice with PVC or broom sticks, and 2.5 hours of “normal” training for those who had appropriate equipment at home, and 30 minutes of flexibility training. We also made sure to increase points of contact with our members to instill human interaction and socializing during a time of isolation.

We also offered a free at-home workout regimen to anyone to access through TrainHeroic. These were 45-60 minute workouts designed to be performed with zero equipment which we offered for 10 weeks at no cost to a final number of 91 people.

Upon returning from the closures, we hosted the first Weightlifting meet “post-COVID” in the state of Florida. To do this, we added many provisions to our events standard operating procedures handbook to include social distancing in the warm up and spectator areas, increased and constant sanitizing of surfaces and equipment, face covering requirements, and more to ensure that everyone was safe and felt at ease when coming back to a sporting event.

What safety measures has your club put in place to help keep its members safe during the COVID19 pandemic?

Per our Keep Pulling "Return to Training Guidelines" documents, we have implemented the following measures as of May 2020:

Addition of new class times to spread out capacity throughout the day.

Class caps & class reservations -- class sizes have been limited and based on first-come-first-serve reservations through our membership management software to ensure proper capacity adherence. 

Continuation of Virtual Coaching -- we have continued to offer the ZOOM live coaching option to those with equipment at home who may not be ready to come back to in-person training.

No Open Gym -- we have done away with unsupervised gym usage to control the handling and sanitation of equipment.

BYO-Chalk -- Members have been asked to purchase and bring their own personal chalk to reduce shared and communal chalk bowl touching.

Social Fitnessing -- Luckily, our platforms are 8’x8’, so it automatically creates a socially-distanced “station”. Each of our 10 stations has a full 185KG competition set and technique, 15KG and 20KG bar.

Athlete screenings -- before the start of each training block, we screen all athletes by asking basic questions to confirm the absence of any symptoms of illness of any kind.

Distribution and Cleaning of equipment -- Coaches set out barbells at each station and athletes are asked to clean/wipe down all equipment when they are finished with their session along with hand washing, personal cleanliness, etc.Prospective members by appointment only -- We no longer accept “walk-ins” and rather schedule 1-on-1 introductory sessions via phone, zoom, or in person.


What goals to you hope to accomplish with your club in the next 5 years?
  1. Events Development -- Our events (Competitions) are quickly becoming the flagship of Keep Pulling as an organization. With the help of our exclusive event partner VALOR Fitness, we will be working together to create memorable event experiences while creating new standards in both presentation and showmanship for the athletes, coaches and spectators.
  2. High School Programs -- We aim to grow and develop the Girls’ Weightlifting Program at Land O’ Lakes High School. By creating and developing a program with a brand, structure, and team culture, our hope is that it will bleed into other organizations in the district and region. With FHSAA Weightlifting essentially becoming Club Weightlifting in regard to the competition lifts, our goal is to help this grow in tandem with USA Weightlifting.
  3. Foundations and Charities -- We are looking to partner with local foundations and charities that specifically support youth athletics as an opportunity to grow both our High School Program and increase youth participation in our USA Weightlifting sanctioned events.
  4. Athlete and Club Development -- As always, we will always seek to grow and better our club through our multi-level Weightlifting Academy Courses, ongoing training and athlete development, and fun, inclusive complimentary Community Events.
What do you think is your biggest obstacle in regards to starting successful outreach programs?

Responsiveness and buy-in. When acquiring new leads through our website, only about 33% respond past their initial inquiry. We have follow-up protocols and schedules in place to gain the most opportunities for communication with new people coming into our programs, but overcoming that first hump of conversation engagement via email/phone/text can be somewhat of a challenge. Of the ones we are able to connect with, over 95% convert because we have created something that we are proud to call a fun, inclusive, and friendly environment.

Additionally, when trying to create a youth-facing program to include schools and curriculum implementation, little emphasis is placed on the importance of physical education in schools. Many students who are athletic end up naturally turning to club sports to supplement their athletic endeavors, but as far as school clubs, classes, or student organizations, health and fitness is unfortunately not generally sold as a “need”.

Please write a brief paragraph on why your facility should be selected.

Keep Pulling has been a part of the Weightlifting community at some level since 2009. Beginning in 2014, Head Coach Patrick Costello left his corporate career and has made Keep Pulling his primary focus and career path ever since.

The focus of our company has always been to become a Resource for Olympic Weightlifting in our region in more ways than just offering a physical training facility. When compared to other clubs, what sets us apart is that we do not double as a CrossFit, Sports Performance, or other style of fitness provider. Because of this, we are able to ultimately keep our focus 100% on the sport of Weightlifting and ways for it to improve, grow, and develop for the better.

Since being chosen as a Community Development Training Site in both 2019 and 2020, we have kept and refined the majority of our existing outreach programs while continuing to create new ways to promote and engage people into Weightlifting from the beginning level to the seasoned competitors.

To our organization, the most important thing that we can attribute to the growth in our area is our professional relationships. We understand the importance of partnering with people and companies that share our passion, vision, and actions that we take towards the big picture of our sport. The more that we dream up, the more help and assistance that we will need in the long run. Forging these long-lasting relationships will ensure the continuation of our outreach programs, events, and ultimately the sport as a whole in our state and region.