2020 in Perspective

Kevin Cann

At the end of every year I like to look back and see what I learned along the way.  We need to rewind back to 2019 to see the true effects of 2020.

2019 was the year that I felt I really began to come into my own.  My roster was the largest it has ever been and also the strongest it had ever been.  We had more women that squatted 300lbs than didn’t squat 300lbs and the majority of them started with PPS.

We brought 9 people to Lombard, IL for Nationals.  8 out of the 9 hit total PRs and the only reason we were not perfect was because we really sent a 3rd deadlift for that lifter.  We could have secured an easy 7.5kg total PR with a more conservative deadlift.

Jess Ward qualified for the Pro-American at the Arnold and Kerry hit her first deadlift PR in 2 years to cap off a huge 12.5kg total PR.  Both of these lifters would compete at the Arnold.  Jess would hit a small total PR there and Kerry would win the squat challenge.  I was confident and we were really on cruise control.

The world shut down immediately after the Arnold and everything would change.  I remember when it first happened that everyone was saying that it was only going to be for a couple of weeks and replying back “No fucking way this ends that quick if the virus is already here.”  

It is easy to scramble and react to a completely unexpected situation.  I chose to let things play out a little before I made my next move.  I was worried for the state of the world, but I was also worried for my livelihood.  I knew this situation would lead to lifters deciding that they really didn’t want to lift anymore.  The momentum of PPS had shifted.

Out of the 9 that went to Nationals, only 4 are still lifting.  The PPS roster has not been this small since the birth of the group.  The number of girls that squat 300lbs has dwindled to less than a handful.  

The internet noise has gotten louder.  I have always had haters, but these keyboard warriors have even less to do these days than they did before.  These are never attacks on the information that I articulate in this blog or on the podcast, they are always personal in nature and they have led to me losing some business I am sure.

I seem to have become the villain in powerlifting to lifters in their early 20s who weigh under 200lbs.  I even got way more hate than Westside on an IG post from these raw lifters.  Not one piece of constructive criticism, but hundreds of comments with personal attacks.  Some from people that I have personally helped out.

The day before the post, I helped out some lifters at a meet loading bars and cheering them on.  One of these lifters’ online programmer (not a coach) even chimed in on it.  I got made fun of for helping a beginner at a meet, by literally giving her a singlet, socks, and trying to teach her the commands.  

This group also likes to bring up an incident from my past by saying “Shouldn’t everyone be aware of this before they hire him as a coach?”  This incident happened 17 years ago.  Since then I have had my first legal drink, finished college, went to grad school, and oh yeah, grew up. 

Albert Einstein said, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”  The adversity I faced growing up did prepare me well for the harshness of the world.  Sports also helped there quite a bit as well.  I am not sure I would be here writing this perspective on 2020 if it wasn’t for those experiences.

As the smoke cleared in 2020, I may have been left with a small roster that hasn’t experienced much success in this sport yet, but I was left with a roster that did what it took to train through a pandemic when gyms were shut down for an extended period of time.

I had lifters doing lunges in garage parking spots with a barbell, training in their kitchen with couch cushions as safeties not for them but for the floor, and many who invested in home gym setups to continue to be able to train.

We have core values at PPS.  Focus on and apply these values and good things will always happen.  Our 6 values are commitment, consistency, discipline, perseverance, patience, and respect.  I really made it a point to emphasize these values in 2020 because they were more important than ever.

I came up with our “Standards of Performance” based off of these values.

  • Process over results
  • Commit to the championship mindset from day 1
  • Dominate every repetition 
  • Out-work and out-think your opponents, and be willing to do what they won’t
  • Keep showing up
  • Execute the fundamentals with perfection
  • Respect the sport and its competitors

I saw this situation as an opportunity.  I have a group that is willing to work, and that is living by those core values.  Making them strong is the easy part.  This situation really made me focus on executing the fundamentals with perfection.

I enjoy trying things as a coach.  Sometimes this can lead to losing sight of these fundamentals.  I went back and reread my grad school texts and really got back to the basics.  Having this extra time at home gave me these opportunities.

I decided that we were going to do things the right way from here on out.  There was not going to be anymore “good enough.”  If people don’t like it, they are welcome to leave the group and find someone else that will give them a fancy spreadsheet and tell them their knees are caving in because that is just how they squat.

There would be no ore 50lb PRs on lifts so we can pat ourselves on the back on the internet.  We will hit incremental progress, and exhibit patience with those weights so that our performance is stable and steady.

We will strive for perfection with technique, knowing we can never achieve perfection.  Too much focus on technical execution can lead to a decrease in velocity and strength output.  This is not a free pass to not focus on it, but the lifters need to understand their mind being right is part of perfect execution.  This is a coachable trait.

I have often criticized periodization.  I acted as if periodization was the program instead of a guide to write long term programs.  I am not smarter than all of those researchers and coaches that came before.  It is not my job to prove them wrong by doing things differently.

My job is to take what they taught us and develop a system that works for myself and my lifters.  We developed a 3 phase training plan that applies these principles over a 4 to 6 month period of time.  Now it is seeing how it plays out in a larger scale and addressing any glaring needs.

2020 was a very trying year, but it saw the birth of our own system.  We have a periodized model that utilizes the max effort method along with a lot of what I learned from Boris Sheiko over my 3 years with him.

We are doing something different from what everyone else is doing but applying the same principles.  Much like the Greek weightlifting system differs from the Bulgarians, even though they both use a lot of singles.

I will share more information about our system in the future.

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