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Around my sophomore year in high school I was well on my way to achieving my dream of becoming an Olympic champion in weightlifting…or so I thought. At the time I was coached by Richard Sorin. His company Sorinex is now global. You’ll be hard pressed to find a college or professional sports team (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL) without it. In his high school and college years Richard was primarily a discus thrower. He was one of the best in the country throwing over 202 feet in high school. He trained in weightlifting to develop the power and speed required for throwing. He competed in weightlifting meets in the off season. He was the only one anywhere in South Carolina during the early 90’s who knew anything about weightlifting. At this time he rented office space inside the gym I had joined in the 7th grade and built the equipment used in the gym to promote his business. In the far right corner of the gym there were 2 lifting platforms and Eleiko bars and bumper plates. When the weightlifting bug bit me after watching the 92 Olympic Games I began tying to teach myself the snatch and clean & jerk. I fell often trying to snatch. At times Richard would come out of his office and watch me. He was a foreboding figure. 6 foot 5 with massive traps and back with signature mustache. He must have been amused at my attempts to teach myself such complicated lifts. For 2-3 months this went on. Several times a week I fell all over the place. I had bruises the size of dinner plates. Still I persisted. I would get frustrated everyday but wouldn’t quit. This eventually won Richard over. One day he walked up to me and said, “I’m tired of watching you fall down. I’ll teach you how to lift so you don’t hurt yourself.” That day he taught me snatch balances and powersnatches with overhead squats. He explained the best he could the importance of technique first, then weights will come. I was elated. I went home and shouted to my parents , “I’m learning how to snatch! I have a coach now!” For the next 6 months or so Richard taught me the basics. He was very stern and direct. He wasn’t interested in hearing me say anything. He explained and demonstrated what to do then had me do it. It was a baptism by fire everyday. I was stripped down then built back up every training session. After the first 6 months passed Richard started to become seemingly impatient and would says things like, “You’re not listening. You’re not paying attention.” I would retort and say as emphatically as I could that I was paying attention and listening as best I could. In all seriousness I was, I just didn’t understand everything he said. I didn’t dare tell him that. Richard wasn’t old school he was ancient. He didn’t waste words or his time. He simply didn’t care how I felt about this process. One day he really laid into me. I don’t know if he had a bad day in the office or what but his language and tone took a sharp turn. “Your wasting my time! I’m wasting my time on you! Do it again! Your doing it wrong!” I didn’t like hearing that so I tried to defend myself but he was having none of it. My brain was rattled and my mistakes got worse. Then he let loose a barrage with words I won’t repeat. He stormed off and left for the day. As I sat there trying to process this I remember thinking I needed to quit. Richard hated me. I guess weightlifting wasn’t meant to be. Unbeknownst to me his son Bert had entered the gym and saw this. As I was in the midst and of my pity party Bert came and sat down next to me. “My dad was really hard on you today wasn’t he?” “Yes”, was all I could say. “That’s a good thing.” Bert said. “When he does that, that means he cares. When he stops pointing out your mistakes that means he has given up you. What he wants from you is to say yes sir. Just shut your mouth and say yes sir.” Ok but your dad hates me. “My dad loves you. He really does. He watched you try and do this on your own for awhile. He saw you wouldn’t quit. That’s why he coaches you. Toughen up, do what I said and things will change.” What I didn’t know at the time was Richard knew I needed to toughen up. Although I didn’t say it he saw how impatient and easily frustrated I got. I needed perspective and Bert helped me see that it wasn’t just physical training I needed help with. I had trouble controlling my emotions especially anger. Would this have worked if I knew ahead of time? No. Richard helped give me the training I needed to toughen up and give me perspective. He took a very quiet , hyper sensitive, autistic teen and helped me improve my self image. I can truly say I never felt good about myself until after that happened. He cared and gave me his time and attention and never charged me for it. Weightlifting isn’t easy. Life isn’t either. This valuable lesson helped me get through the most painful and trying times of my life. I shutter to think what would have become of me without this lesson. I thank God I never do.


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