Building a University Powerlifting Club – From the Ground Up

With the success of the inaugural World University Cup in Belarus, more and more University Powerlifting Clubs from around the globe are looking to get on-board with this new annual event. Now in its 4th year, the Teesside University Barbarians Powerlifting Club in North West England is growing from strength to strength in membership and achievements. Andrew Richardson shares his experience of starting this University Powerlifting Club combining “brains and brawn” to create a club that’s going places.

Why start a University Powerlifting Club?

It's important to understand why you want to start a club. There were six main reasons I wanted to start our club:

 I wanted to train with a group of people regardless of experience and ability.

 I wanted to promote the sport of Powerlifting, as it is an unreal sport!

I wanted to be a better coach with hands-on experience helping others. I want to be a strength and conditioning coach, so the best way to do this is by practicing these skills.

I wanted an opportunity to apply what I learn from my Sports Science Degree to real life scenarios.

I wanted to be a better lifter.

Most importantly, I wanted to have fun with likeminded individuals and be able to train hard and eat un-godly amounts of food without judgement.

Planning for the Club

I was excited and nervous at the same time. Fortunately, I had a lot of good friends around me to give me support and bring ideas to the table.

We have a development plan which we use each year and update it on a regular basis. It is a go-to guide and what the key individuals in the club should be following. Goals and aims should be set out at the start of each year with all members present so everyone can agree on what they want to do.

Things You'll Need

 A committee made up of Chairperson, Treasurer and Secretary. All three positions help each other in club matters.

You will need Head Coach and Assistant Coaches. They coach all the members, provide them with training programmes, lead the sessions, warm-ups/cool-downs, nutrition plans etc.

You will need someone who understands how to run a business or has experience being part of a business.  They will have a better understanding on how to market the club and be able to make a profitable return so the club can invest in better equipment for example.

You will need a Graphics Designer for your club logo and equipment. If you have a friend who is into drawing or product design, ask them to help design a club logo for the gym, on a banner, clothing etc.

You will need access to a Physiotherapist and/or Sport’s Therapist. What I would say is get a link with a local physio/sports therapist and have your club members only go to him/her. The physio/therapist could offer discounted rates due to increase in clients and help advertise your club.

You will need a Public Relations Officer or simply someone to admin social media. You will need someone to do all the posts, answer Facebook questions, direct people to towards the right information, post about any club developments and engage the community. 

Monthly meetings to monitor how the club is developing are essential. You need to get everyone together each month in the same room to make sure targets are being hit. This will also help members stay social with one another and discuss how to better reach your goals.

A yearly strategic development plan made up of short, medium and long term goals is a smart way to proceed. This allows you to plan what needs to be done in the immediate future and what your club hopes to accomplish in the next year.

You will need to establish the club’s aim and ethos.  What does it represent and stand for? Does it have an identity? For a business, this would be the brand that customers become familiar with.

You need to identify you target audience. Are you just targeting powerlifting? All sports? Beginner, intermediate, elite lifters?

Try to develop local support. Get support from friends, family, local press and council to promote your club and make it clear that you want to put something back into the community. The more familiar the community is with your club, the more support you will receive.

Make connections with members who are regional/national referees. Sticking with the sport of powerlifting, if you want all your members to be clued up on the rules, have some of them complete the referee training course and become national refs. This will not only help the members who become refs, but will also benefit your entire club.

Try to link in a member to your regional/national federation. This allows your club to have a say in events that will affect it on a regional and national scale. This will increase your visibility and garner more support.

Source a good training facility (ideally your own place if possible). This means you can train how you want to train not how a gym owner wants you to train. Having your own place means you can design it your own way and have equipment you really need.

 If you are a university student, have the support of your Student’s Union. A student’s union backs students and will support them.

Be prepared to do fundraisers. Do car washes, bag packing, charity events (deadlift for reps), anything, to help raise awareness for a local charity to promote your club and raise a bit of money for the club.

Engage in continuous education. All coaches and members should be continuously striving to be better. This means always learning new ways to maximize performance.


What I have accomplished from doing all of this?

I am a better coach and lifter and I have a wider friends circle. I am Student Development Officer for all of YNEPF (Yorkshire North East Powerlifting Federation) and now Assistant Coach for the IPF (Irish Powerlifting Federation) Team. More importantly, I just enjoy what I do — helping others, making people stronger, seeing friends empowering themselves to be better at life, fitness, education, and work.  I hope you find this helpful in setting up your own club.

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