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Beyond the Score: The benefits of weightlifting for youth athletes

Beyond the Score: The benefits of weightlifting for youth athletes
Posted at 3:04 PM, Jun 20, 2024

BELLEVUE — In previous Beyond the Score stories, doctors told NBC 26 they recommend avoiding single sport specialization. They say it’s not as if an athlete has to be resting while they take time off from their preferred sport.

Powerlifting or weightlifting in general has great benefits to athletes to help them improve physically and mentally.

“Whenever I do it, I feel like myself,” said Taylor Gunville, a sophomore powerlifter from Pulaski. “I don’t feel judged. I just feel free.”

“If I can get this bar up – you can do anything,” said Ava Krepline a sophomore at De Pere.

Gunville and Ava Krepline are two youth powerlifters that have had a lot of success. They’re getting ready for the 2024 USA powerlifting student world cup at the Resch Center on June 29th.

“It's definitely going to be an eye opener seeing a bunch of different girls lifting and they’re older than me and there’s not a weight class and I'm going to see a bunch of different girls that I haven't seen before,” said Krepline.

Both athletes were inspired by their fathers to begin throwing around the bar. Matt Gunville, Taylor's dad, who owns Crossfit 920 has been training youth powerlifters for almost 20 years.

Beyond the Score: The benefits of weightlifting for youth athletes
Beyond the Score: The benefits of weightlifting for youth athletes

“I always tell everybody, it never feels bad feeling strong and watching these young ones feel some strength building and feel some accomplishment when they are out on the platform definitely makes me feel happy,” Matt Gunville said.

Beyond the Score: The benefits of weightlifting for youth athletes
Matt and Taylor Gunville

Doctors say there are many benefits to weightlifting, such as mental health. Being able to clear your mind.

“It makes me happy,” said Taylor Gunville. “When I’m going through a tough time in my life, let's say breakup friendships – all the above. I’ll hit a pr and be like, ‘oh, it’s not that bad.”

Doctors also say it also benefits athletes who play other sports.

“My wrestling coaches have told me I'm so strong for just starting,” Taylor said. “All the new movements and everything makes everything so much easier to me.”

Quentin Krepline, Ava's father, has noticed her improved strength in softball and volleyball.

Beyond the Score: The benefits of weightlifting for youth athletes
AVA KREPLINE DEADLIFTING

“Sometimes the gyms aren’t big enough for her so we have to back her up a little bit and her serves can be tamed down a little bit,” he said of her volleyball talent.

They say that strength helps keep them healthy. 

“It's given me muscles that I can use that many people, especially girls, don't have,” Ava said. “I’m very like – not as injury prone because I have these muscles that help me with jumping and side to side movements and stuff like that.”

Weightlifting also gives an athlete a way to stay active when they’re taking a break from their preferred sport.

“I think it’s important for these youth athletes to have an offseason.,” Matt Gunville said. “We don’t see that often anymore. It's a little bit different than when I was younger. It seems as if you see it with sports year round and I think they’re missing out on a really big component. Strength training can help out tremendously, not only (from a performance standpoint) but also with injury prevention.”

The biggest benefit of powerlifting that Ava and Taylor brought up the most: The increase in their confidence.

“It's like when you’re scared to go do a presentation in front of the class, you gain that confidence. It's like gaining that confidence for me in my body and then like going out in public and doing something,” Taylor said.

Beyond the Score: The benefits of weightlifting for youth athletes
Beyond the Score: The benefits of weightlifting for youth athletes

It’s not a team sport, it’s one where it's just you, the platform and being able to lift the weight.

“I want to be there and I want to win, but I just want to work harder to get there,” Taylor said. “It doesn’t mean I'm going to win, but it’s something I can look up to, something to look forward to every day. Something I want.”

Trainers say it also teaches them how failure can lead to success.

“The confidence that she’s gotten from just becoming stronger knowing that if she does fail, knowing that she can come back and conquer that failure – has become the biggest goal,” Quentin said.

Because at the end of the day, it’s just you competing against yourself. 

“I always try to teach them that if you beat your old goals, you are winning,” Matt Gunville said.