Thursday, June 20, 2024

U.S. Olympian Farris bringing weightlifting camp to LSUS

by Russell Hedges
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By Matt Vines, Communications Specialist, LSUS Public Relations

 “Don’t worry about the weight, focus on the technique.”

Those were the words coming out of Kendrick Farris’ mouth on a Wednesday morning at a gym connected to the Swim School off of Youree Drive.

Six youth lifters, ranging from teenagers to children around nine years old were working out. But the lifters weren’t all competitors in typical sports like football and basketball – there was a dancer and a swimmer among the youth in Farris’ coaching session.

The three-time U.S. Olympic weightlifter will bring his knowledge back to where his career started – the USA Weightlifting Development Center at LSUS — for a three-week camp starting Monday.

The weightlifting camp operates every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10-11:30 a.m. for anybody 13 years or older. The camp costs $250 and includes coaching from Farris and others,  exposure to various speakers, and meals.

No previous experience in weightlifting is required to attend.

To register for the camp, contact Farris at [email protected] or by phone at (318) 840-6766.

As Farris discovered following his first Olympics in China in 2008, basic weightlifting technique and movements are used far beyond just his sport.

“Athletes in every sport have their own training regiment and ideas, but what’s so interesting is that a lot of athletes basically do the same movements,” Farris explained. “Talking to so many different people from different places, it started resonating with me that these Olympic-style lifts are a part of every athlete’s training.

“Take table tennis – I played ping pong growing up and knew that it was an Olympic sport from the Forrest Gump movie – but I honestly took table tennis as a joke. But then you talk to these athletes from all kinds of different sports, and they do strength training that uses a lot of the same basic movements. That’s when I started thinking about how I can potentially help athletes from any background.”

The coaching bug hit Farris even earlier, particularly after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 when LSUS served as a shelter for displaced New Orleanians.

These Louisianans, many of them children, let off steam in the weightlifting center, where a 19-year-old Farris and others were more than happy to teach and coach.

“It was a chance for them to come into the gym and forget about their circumstances for a little bit, and it was a really cool experience to have fun with them,” Farris said about his first real introduction into coaching. “I would always help my peers when we were lifting as a group, but the experience after Hurricane Katrina and then my first Olympics in Beijing really opened my eyes to the possibilities involved with coaching.”

Farris has a wealth of weightlifting knowledge to share with campers as one of the most accomplished weightlifters in U.S. history – he’s the only male to hold two different U.S. records in two different weight classes. Farris placed twice in the top 10 at the Olympics (2008 and 2012) in his weight class and 11th in 2016.

But building self-esteem and character, no matter how much weight is on the bar, will be even more valuable.

It’s something the Shreveport native who grew up in the Stoner Hill neighborhood has consistently done locally and throughout the world as a weightlifting ambassador.

“It was more than just the lifting in our gym,” said LSUS kinesiology professor and long-time weightlifting coach Dr. Kyle Pierce, who welcomed Farris and other local kids like future NFL running back Jacob Hester into the program’s weightroom near the beginning of its designation as a USA development training center. “We embraced the ideals of Olympism, which is in part about developing friendships and relationships with all kinds of different people.

“Not every kid is going to the Olympics or the World Championships, but you can always build your self-esteem and develop yourself. Kendrick certainly advances those ideals and promotes them when he coaches.”

Pierce, who was inducted into the International Weightlifting Hall of Fame in 2023,  would often refer to Kendrick as “Coach Farris” even when he was at the height of his athletics career.

It’s a relationship that started when an 11-year-old Farris walked into the LSUS center after his uncle Kevin Burns heard about the new program.

“It didn’t happen overnight for Kendrick – we had kids in our own gym who would beat him,” Pierce said. “But one thing that set him apart, he had the heart and the desire to win, and he despised losing.

“He was talented for sure, but sometimes he had to scrap and fight for everything on a lift. That would have to rank above his talent.”

Pierce’s many lessons helped shape Farris as an athlete and coach.

“Dr. Pierce has a passion for people, and his impact on me and so many others has been incredible,” Farris said. “He’s someone we consider to be local, but he’s an international person, a citizen of the Earth.

“That perspective he gave me is what you see today. To connect with people, distribute information and be an example wherever you are.”

Farris, a father of four sons, has a particular interest in connecting with youth.

He was selected as an international role model for the Youth Olympic Games in 2014 held in China in addition to his regular worldly travels to teach weightlifting techniques.

One lesson he preaches is to finish what you start, and Farris is putting those words to action.

Beginning his college academic career at LSUS in 2004, Farris re-enrolled this spring and is working toward a degree in general studies with a concentration in social sciences.

“I’ve been running around a lot, but the (COVID-19 pandemic) slowed down a lot of my travel, although it’s picking back up again,” Farris said. “But I’ve got to finish what I started.

“My kids are watching, and educating yourself is very important to us. Having a degree will open more doors – it’s like a prerequisite for certain opportunities. I don’t want anything to hinder me, and this will allow me to more easily pursue ideas or opportunities that I may have.”

Impacting local youth remains a passion, and Farris is starting a career as a juvenile detention officer in Caddo Parish.

“It’s a place where I’ve done some counseling and recreation with kids, and this is a great opportunity to work with these youth in a different way,” Farris said. “Correction is love, and if it’s not rooted in love, then it’s not correction.

“You can share with them what they need to know, and at the same time be a person that they hopefully can confide in. Sometimes people go through things, and they feel like nobody else is going through that. But this is an opportunity to present something different to them, to be an example that maybe they haven’t been exposed to.”

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