UNITED STATES BLIND POWERLIFTING

Judy Koch Smith, MA, Head Coach, WSSB Lions Powerlifting Team, since 2007-08 at the Washington State School for the Blind in Vancouver USA.
Students who wish to join the WSSB powerlifting team need to express a desire to make the commitment to supporting the team by attending weekly practices and giving their best effort to learn proper form for each lift that he or she is capable of performing; these include the Bench Press, Dead Lift and Squats (power lifting) as sanctioned by the IBSA and USABA (U.S. Association of Blind Athletes).  Since 2008 our school teams have ranged in size from 11 to 22 lifters, ages 13 – 21 years of age.  All students who agreed to attend scheduled practices and work to improve their personal strength and fitness levels have been accepted onto the team, regardless of visual, physical or cognitive disabilities. 
WSSB Powerlifters learn from one another as well as from the 3 coaches and volunteers, and our more experienced lifters act as mentors to their novic teammates.  In 2008 two coaches and three WSSB lifters joined Team USA Powerlifters under the direction of USABA head coach Mark Sampson at the July IBSA competition in Miami, Florida:  Sunny A, Jacob H and Tyler S. 
In 2009 5 student lifters and Coach Koch-Smith attended the IBSA meet with other Team USA athletes:  Sunny A, Tyler S, Timothy ‘TJ’ B, Chris G and Sarah B.  In order to attend these meets our WSSB community including students throughout the school, helped with fund-raising projects, which helped support the funding provided by the coaches and lifters' families.  Several local Lions Clubs and the NWABA also contributed to our funding needs at this time. 
With the financial support of the Fort Vancouver Lions Club, NWABA, student/staff fund-raising efforts and a substantial grant from the WSSB Foundation, in July of 2012 Coaches Koch-Smith and Steve Lowry took 7 WSSB powerlifters to the IBSA meet in Orlando, Florida: TJ B, Justen C, Chris G, Nathan P, Kazia S, Alexann T and Brian S.  The Washington State School for the Blind has continued to train our powerlifters during the school's 10 week season (January through March of each school year) with Coach Koch-Smith and Assistant Coaches Steve Lowry and former world-class power-lifter Jannine "JJ" Isaacson.  Both assistant coaches are Teachers of the Blind and Visually Impaired with specialty subject areas in English and Math. Both of these dedicated coaches bring a wealth of coaching experience from Track and Field (Steve) and Weight Lifting/Powerlifting (JJ). 
Aside from the obvious "fitness" aspect of lifting weights and improving their strength and coordination, the primary purpose and Goal for our Lions Team is to provide a "team experience" to students who often do not have the opportunity to participate in sports on an even playing field with sighted folks, since one does not need to see to be able to lift weights with proper form.  Not only do they enjoy the experience and camaraderie of a team sport, they are having FUN learning to be more healthy, and learning a skill that can provide recreation beyond their years at the WSSB if they so choose.