Spencer Arnold went to seminary to become a pastor and plant a church.
But, God had bigger plans. Heavier plans.
Nearly 7,000 miles from Hebron Christian Academy, USA Weightlifting is preparing to make history with the most dominant team ever assembled heading into the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
At the center of it all, HCA Director of Strength & Conditioning Spencer Arnold is coaching three athletes in pursuit of Olympic glory.
No other weightlifting coach has ever coached multiple athletes at the Olympics, but Arnold has three individuals vying for spots at the top of the podium.
So why do the best weightlifters in the world trust Arnold? His answer is simple.
“I’m a nerd.”
No stone is ever left unturned in Arnold’s weight room. While some coaches train off feel and see what works for different athletes, he is all about data and analytics.
“I don’t trust my intuition enough, so everything is data driven,” said Arnold. “I have a reputation with USA Weightlifting that I’m the nerd, I drive all the performance metrics. I get laughed at all the time because if someone needs an excel sheet for something, I’ve got it.”
So, while most coaches see their relationship with their athletes as transactional, Arnold sees it as transformational.
“I do a behavioral analysis on my athletes periodically to understand them better so I’m checking to see how they respond in different situations.”
Arnold meets with the same sports psychologist as his athletes on a weekly basis to make sure his trainings are backed by science.
But, there is one more factor and that does not fit into an excel formula. Trust.
That trust just might have come from a now familiar name at Hebron Christian Academy. How does second-year football coach Stan Luttrell fit into this story?
When Arnold walked into the weightlifting room as a high school freshman, Luttrell was not only his coach, but took him to his first competition and was a mentor to someone with aspirations of being an elite athlete.
“He was like a second dad to me and everything about weightlifting started with him,” said Arnold.
Fast forward 18 years and the two are reunited as Luttrell was named the head football coach for the Lions with Arnold running the weight room.
“He wasn’t always the biggest or strongest guy, but he was willing to work and commit to the process and I think you can see that in his coaching style,” said Luttrell. “Whether it’s here at Hebron or his professional athletes, he asks you to commit to a process, make a commitment and put in the work and every time we do that good things happen.”
Transforming student-athletes on the field is just a portion of what Arnold is doing at HCA.
“I want kids to be better on the field, but ultimately I want their lives changed by the Gospel,” said Arnold. “Christian education is getting the chance to open God’s word with kids and letting them see the value of God’s word. It’s just as easy to work scripture into the weight room as any other part of Christian education and that’s what I love about HCA.”
“Coach Arnold’s knowledge and implementation of weightlifting is evident in our local community, and now we are blessed to see it displayed on the world’s biggest stage,” said HCA Director of Athletics Taylor Davis.
With school three weeks away from starting, Hebron Christian Academy is gearing up for another year, but Arnold has some business to take care of in Tokyo before making his way back to Dacula.
“My hope is somehow the Lord will use this sport and my platform for people to know Jesus all over the world,” Arnold said. “When you talk about God’s sovereignty, he knew and was planning from the day I was born that I would be right here in Tokyo for the Olympics.”
While he had a hard time giving up his dream of becoming a pastor and planting a church, Arnold can rest easy knowing his ministry just looks a little bit different and might just carry more weight than the average seminary graduate.