by Julia Ryan
I can remember precisely when I first learned about John Coffee and his gym in Marietta, Georgia. I was still just learning how to lift, and I was at that stage when I became really fascinated with technique and wanted to learn as much as I could in about the movements so that I could improve my lifting (I had a coach, but I am a curious and independent kind of person). As I traipsed around the internet looking for information, I came across a video of John Coffee teaching someone to snatch in less than 30 minutes. This John Coffee guy really seemed to know what he was doing! I learned in that video and from Mr. Google afterwards that John Coffee is kind of a big deal.
A little while after this I started my own Instagram account in hopes of connecting with other weightlifters around the world. Soon enough, I ended up connecting with some of John Coffee’s lifters! I was a squat jerker at the time and found a girl, Mary, who also used the squat jerk through the squatjerk hashtag. I recognized the gym she trained at from that video I saw of John Coffee teaching the snatch. Around the same time, I came across this bakernator guy who was liking my videos and posting videos of himself putting up huge numbers. It turns out this was Edward Baker, one of John Coffee’s top athletes and also his coach prodigee. Edward and I began chatting about weightlifting topics and we eventually became internet friends (you all know you have internet friends, too, don’t deny it!) One day, Edward suggested that I come to Marietta to visit the gym and lift with everyone, and so I did.
I planned the trip for a time that would make the most sense with my school schedule, and it turned out to come at a time when I needed it most. My own training had been feeling a little off. I was struggling with my training mentality and my motivation. I had just come off a not so great meet. I had also recently changed back to the split jerk and had some persistent problems that I needed help with. When the time came for my to fly down to Georgia, I was so excited to get a chance of environment and to meet new people.
Edward graciously hosted me in his home and we spent my whole trip training and eating, as weightlifters like to do! While I was in Marietta, Edward treated me like one of his own athletes. He brought me with him to train with some of the girls he coaches, he introduced me to everyone, and most importantly, he watched my lifting very closely. Edward designed my workouts that week, picked my drills and weights, and gave me cues. He picked up on all of the things I had been trying to work on but was getting stuck with. Like any good coach, he also motivated me and made me feel good about myself.
I did not get to meet John Coffee during my visit because he was still in recovery from a stroke. However, I feel like I learned a lot from John Coffee and about John Coffee while I was there. I was still visiting his gym, lifting with his lifters, learning from the coach he has trained. John Coffee is the reason I got the have the experience that I did. And it was one of the best lifting experiences I could have asked for.