We are sure that Greg Everett does not need much of an introduction for anyone who has an interest in Olympic Weightlifting.
Greg runs Catalyst Athletics with his wife Aimee - the weightlifting team, training facility, all around weightlifting education providers! Greg’s credentials in the weightlifting world are impressive with lots of successes. He is an Olympic Trials coach and coached over 30 senior national level or higher lifters, including national medallists, national champions and national record holders. Greg himself used to compete on a national level, has been a masters national champion, masters American Open champion and holds a Masters national record as a 105kg lifter for the Clean and Jerk at 175kg.
With a background in publishing Greg has created several books himself and for others through Catalyst Athletics. Greg has said that he wrote the hugely popular ‘Olympic Weightlifting - A Complete Guide for Athletes & Coaches’, as the book that he “had always wanted to have as a new lifter or as a new coach” (ref), to meet a gap he acknowledged in the market. We can safely say that we believe that his book is now probably the first stop for most people on their weightlifting journey! As well as Greg’s books Catalyst also offers the largest amount of free educational weightlifting content there is! Their website and other resources (see below) are loaded with amazing free content, including a video exercise library and the Weightlifting Life podcast which he hosts with Ursula Garza Papandrea (the first female & current IWF Vice President). Greg & Catalyst Athletics also offer courses & seminars and a whole host of online coaching pathways too!
We have been following all of Greg's fantastic content during these weird times of Social Distancing, and it's been really beneficial for staying on top of weightlifting content and even technique focussed programs for people who don't have much or any equipment at home!
We were very fortunate recently that Greg offered some of his valuable time in his packed schedule to answer our questions that we had for him.
Our Interview with Greg
CS: When you have a new athlete come to the club, what characteristics do you look for in their personality/mentality.
Greg: Work ethic and attitude. Physical ability is secondary—if I can’t stand them, it doesn’t matter how good they are because coaching them isn’t worth the misery, and they’ll be toxic for the team community and atmosphere. I want to work with athletes who want to work hard, who want to learn everything they can, who don’t have egos and a need to prove themselves to anyone but themselves, and who are willing to do what it takes to achieve the goals they say they have.
CS: Have you ever been surprised by the success of a lifter, who you initially thought wouldn’t cut it?
I can’t remember ever being truly surprised by a lifter being more successful than I expected, but I have been surprised by lifters not living up to what I believed they were capable of.
CS: Do you run a test battery for physical assessment - if so what does it include?
I rarely do any kind of formal assessment—more basic exercises and use those as a way for me to see any issues.
CS: How do you get your lifters to understand their responsibility and take accountability with training & lifestyle?
Greg: Primarily by setting a good example myself because if I don’t, they ultimately are unlikely to buy in to what I’m telling them to do. A lot of it comes down to continual check-ins and reinforcement and plain old nagging. It helps to draw attention to non-compliance during or after bad training sessions or training cycles—help them associate the cause and effect.
CS: How do you maintain a positive and motivational training environment in both a 1 to 1 coaching session, and in group training? We are sure that now you never or rarely encounter someone showing up to training with the wrong attitude but in the past how would you have dealt with this?
Greg: If you want a good atmosphere, you have to create it. So you decide that’s what you want, and then you behave accordingly. That behavior is generally contagious, just as negativity is, so you have to be willing to put more energy into the positivity than anyone else is putting into being negative, which is usually pretty easy since negative people tend to be lazy and uncommitted anyway.
You have to be proactive at all times and prevent the negativity from taking root. That might mean in a given training session you jump in and start joking around if athletes are in a bad mood, or the one rain cloud lifter walks in and it suddenly gets quiet. Ultimately as the coach you have to be responsible, which means being positive when you’re exhausted and don’t particularly feel like it. But once you let it go, it’s very hard to get control again, so you just have to stay on top of it.
If you have a particular athlete who’s just pathologically negative and clearly has no interest in changing, you show them the door. No single athlete is worth harming the entire team/gym, and the rest of the team will appreciate it.
CS: Obviously the coach and athlete relationship is very important, but we are interested as well in what level of involvement you have with your athlete’s family and social support networks? Also in how much value you would place on the athletes support network in terms of how successful the athlete becomes?
Greg: Varies a lot among athletes. I’ve coach some lifters for literally 10 years without ever having met family aside from maybe a significant other, and others whose families I’ve meet straight out of the gate. It’s more a function of their relationship with their families than my relationship with the athlete. The closer they are to their families, the more that support matters, and the more I’ll play a role in helping foster that if needed.
CS: How much do you use self assessment and reflection to evaluate your coaching, and do you also get your athletes to use these tools to improve their performance?
Greg: All day every day informally. I’m continuously thinking about what I’m doing, how it’s working, and how I can do it better. Unfortunately at this point, because I’m so busy, I’m not able to invest as much time as I’d like to in formal evaluation and continuing education.
For lifters, I want them doing self-assessment daily in journal form, both training and otherwise. They need to be totally engaged and conscious of what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and how its affecting their performance. I give them various journal prompts, post-competition evaluation forms, and other things periodically as I see fit.
CS: As an athlete realises they are going from recreational to a position where they would qualify for national competitions and higher, what are the changes you have noticed in their character/behaviours, and also what are the key changes in routine and major sacrifices they are likely to have to make to hit the next level, if they are pursuing it?
Greg: Honestly, I typically don’t see much change at this transition because the ones who succeed are already behaving like great athletes before they objectively are. In other words, at least part of the reason they make it to that level is because prior to it, they committed to doing what it takes to lift that well. They got their sleep, nutrition and schedules sorted out to support their training rather than squeezing lifting in around the rest of their lives—it’s already been a priority. I think if someone has to be persuaded to make those kinds of changes to advance, they’re not really candidates for much success — it really needs to be intrinsic motivation overwhelmingly.
"I think if someone has to be persuaded to make those kinds of changes to advance, they’re not really candidates for much success— it really needs to be intrinsic motivation overwhelmingly" - Greg Everett
CS: Logistically and practically, what number of athletes would you consider optimal for a coach to be looking after at any one time? (In terms of being responsible for their programming, coaching during training and competitions etc.)
Greg: I think it really depends primarily on what other obligations the coach has. If coaching is the only job, he/she can manage a lot more lifters effectively. I personally am spread incredibly thin with everything I do for Catalyst, so handling a dozen or so lifters is more than enough, and much of the time, it’s a stretch and I feel like I’m a bit short on my time for them. Of course, the fewer athletes, the more focus and energy a coach can put into each, but if it’s your livelihood you don’t have the luxury of limiting as much as you might if you didn’t rely on it for income.
CS: What were your take-aways, both positive and negative from moving Catalyst? Is there any advice you would give on moving a club?
Greg: Our move was unique in that we completely changed the model—we didn’t really just relocate, we completely shut down the gym business. It’s not something most people can get away with, but we could simply because we were so well established and the gym itself was never a significant income source. It’s not ideal for coaching to be doing nearly all of it remotely, but Aimee and I have made it work well and our team continues to grow and improve. The drawbacks were far outweighed by the benefits for us.
CS: How much and in what way has the culture of weightlifting changed during your career? Particularly since making the American Weightlifting Documentary. Do you think there has been fluctuations in popularity? Of course the rise of CrossFit has seen more weightlifting taking place, but have you noticed an increase of weightlifters who have not participated in CrossFit too?
Greg: Dramatically different from 2013 when I released AW. The number of lifters has increased probably 10-fold, and that’s meant the depth of talent has increased greatly. Where we used to have maybe 1-3 truly good lifters in any given weight class, we now regularly have legitimate battles among half a dozen lifters in a single class, and making an international team is brutal these days because of the sheer number of great lifters. A total that won a national championship 10 years ago in some cases would barely qualify for the meet now. Definitely plenty have come from CF, but more and more are finding WL without it now.
We have always admired Greg and the Catalyst Athletics mission to "To rely on the quality of our content and services rather than marketing to succeed". Greg was very approachable when we asked him to help us with this project, and we would like to thank him again, hugely, for answering our questions and sharing his valuable wisdom in these areas of coaching.
Check out these links to Greg's websites and social media for much more content!
Website: www.catalystathletics.com (used as reference for bio information)