US Olympic Team weightlifting coach trains PE teachers in Tinley Park

US Olympic Team weightlifting coach trains PE teachers in Tinley Park

By: C.R. Walker, Daily Southtown
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Officials at Bremen High School District put a lot of weight behind their effort to open new field houses at Bremen, Oak Forest, Tinley Park and Hillcrest high schools.

So in advance of the buildings opening next school year, they brought in a heavyweight to help coach their coaches

Mike Gattone, a seven-time Olympic gold medalist and the Team USA weightlifting coach, led a 15-hour course during a cold and snowy weekend last month at Tinley Park High School.

It attracted gym teachers from the district and enthusiasts from throughout the Midwest as they trained to become certified USA Weightlifting Level 1 Sports Performance Coaches.

“The teachers are all excited about all four buildings in the district opening brand new field houses next year, so with these great facilities we wanted to equip ourselves as teachers to be able to instruct in the best way possible in the new awesome weight rooms,” said Cassie Gaines, a physical education teacher at Tinley Park High School. “The kids are excited and we were excited to receive special training. And we learned so much and networked. We had a great resource like Mike Gattone come in and work with us, and he might come back to teach again.”

Despite miserable weather, 23 participants still were able to attend, including guests from throughout Illinois as well as Indiana, Kansas and Wisconsin. Even Pierre Ngo, the assistant strength coach of the NFC North champion Chicago Bears, attended.

“I don’t like to stand still, that’s not for me,” said Stacy Lane, physical education teacher at Hillcrest High School. “When the opportunity came for this I was so excited. I was one of the first people to sign up.”

The whole idea behind the training came from the simple desire of educators like Gaines and Lane striving to gain more knowledge which inevitably would trickle down to help the kids.

“We started on the journey with the idea of expanding our knowledge of strength and conditioning and lifting,” Gaines said. “We networked and met some people that recommended getting this certification through Mike Gattone since he’s been a very successful Olympics coach for our USA team.

“When I reached out to him, he said he had family in Tinley Park so he was geeked about coming out here.”

Gattone shared practical information about weightlifting technique, assessing movement, motor learning, biomechanics, effective coaching, and programming training.

“The knowledge of weightlifting transfers over to PE teachers,” Gaines said.

With this certification, Gaines, Lane and the others attendees can now teach snatch, clean and jerk and are recognized in the weightlifting industry as USA Weightlifting Coaches.

“The certification really gives us enough knowledge to coach our students the use of Olympic weightlifting,” Lane said. “He presented in a way to train our kids in a more functional way the three basic lifts and through the movement patterns so these are useful for any athlete in any sport.”

Lane is closing in on retirement, but like most educators, she recognizes the importance of always learning new things, especially in something such as weightlifting, which continues to evolve.

“Even Olympic lifting has changed the way they do things,” she said, noting conventional weightlifting wisdom concentrated on using back muscles.

Anymore, Lane said, “That’s really not functional or such a good idea.

“The information (Gattone) shared really was helpful and I cannot wait until they offer the next level course because this one already has been so beneficial.”