John Crofton, of Shreveport, Louisiana, received the 2015 AAU Strength Sports Brother Bennett Award during the AAU Strength Sports Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony September 25 in Las Vegas.
The Brother Bennett Award recognizes extraordinary, selfless service to AAU Strength Sports. The award is named for a Catholic priest who introduced powerlifting to youth and teens in Mississippi in the mid-1970s, and who is credited with introducing drug-free competition in the United States.
Crofton is the founder and head coach of the Jets National Barbell Club in Shreveport, a powerhouse youth weightlifting, powerlifting and strength sports team that has won team titles at the AAU Junior Olympic Games and World Championships since 2009. The Jets’ roster boasts more than 50 athletes, aged five to 25, who train regularly in Shreveport, and a dozen more top youth and teen male and female lifters from around the country.
Crofton’s team trains several times a week at the Louisiana State University – Shreveport high-performance center for Olympic Weightlifting, and Crofton and his coaches have routinely hosted international lifters who come to Shreveport to train. His family has hosted the Japanese Women’s Weightlifting team for three straight years.
Crofton is also a Vice Chairman for AAU Strength Sports who has helped rejuvenate AAU Weightlifting over the past three years. He developed the judging curriculum, currently in use, and served as meet director for weightlifting at the last three JO Games competitions.
Earlier this year, Crofton, 48, who also owns a runs an automotive restoration company in Shreveport, was stricken with a heart attack and stroke, and was in intensive care for several weeks. During this time, he assigned parents and coaches to assist his athletes at the Louisiana State Games, wrote and distributed workouts for all of his athletes, and brought in additional coaches to assist the Jets athletes in their preparation for the AAU Junior Olympics. He continued to focus on his athletes during weeks of rehabilitation, including a relapse that took him back to intensive care.
“There is no one more deserving of this recognition than John Crofton,” said Martin Drake, Chairman of AAU Strength Sports. “The Brother Bennett Award is not given every year, and when it is given, it is only to someone who clearly goes above and beyond in their dedication to sport. Our Executive Committee was in unanimous, resounding agreement that John Crofton epitomizes those character traits this award stands for.”
“I am proud to call John Crofton a friend, and even more proud that he lets me coach next to him,” said Jason Peterman, a Jets Barbell parent. “John is a selfless man who has given to his athletes and the community.”
Even during weeks while he was undergoing intensive physical therapy, Crofton went to the gym every morning with his sons, Max, age 11, and Noah, age 15, and helped guide them and the rest of the Jets team through their workouts. His athletes seemed to work even harder, because they didn’t want to disappoint their coach, who had come back from near death circumstances.
By mid-summer, the Jets team was training nearly every day, and ready to put their athletic skills to the test at the JO Games in Hampton Roads. Parents, coaches and nearly 40 Jets athletes make the trek from Shreveport to Norfolk, Virginia; in the end, they captured team titles in powerlifting, weightlifting, combine and Feasts of Strength, and jets athletes set dozens of national and world records in all four strength sports disciplines.
Crofton also trained and prepared a 15-athlete team to compete in powerlifting, weightlifting, Feats of Strength and MAS wrestling at the most recent three-day AAU world strength sports championships in Las Vegas, where they also took home team titles.
“John has coached his athletes, guided them and encouraged them to participate in weightlifting and powerlifting competitions, and showing them how to improve individually and strive for success,” said Lisa Beuscher, another Jets parent. “John has never asked anything in return, other than his team to enjoy the sport and always have fun.”
“John Crofton is not only a coach to his team, he is family,” said Chris Miller, an assistant Jets coach and parent of Avery “The Weightlifting Machine” Miller, who broke records in both weightlifting and powerlifting during the AAU Strength Sports World Championships weekend in Vegas. “John is so very humble, and one of the funniest men you could ever meet… He goes above and beyond not just for friends, but for everyone. He is a great man, and very deserving of this honor.”
While announcing the Brother Bennett Award during the AAU Strength Sports Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, Strength Sports Executive Committee member Hal Pittman stated, “Even while he was flat on his back in critical condition, John Crofton modeled hope, care for his athletes, an indomitable spirt, service above self, and the intent to ensure his kids and his team didn’t miss a beat. An amazing effort by an amazing man.”
As the Brother Bennett Award was being presented by Chairman Drake, Mr. Farid Sediqi, head of the Afghanistan Powerlifting Federation, and his son Walid, approached the podium, and adorned Crofton in the traditional vest and headgear of Afghan tribal leaders, thanking him for his coaching support to the Afghan team at the world championships.
“It is truly appreciated and humbling to receive the Brother Bennett Award, and this incredible recognition,” Crofton said. “I was surprised. It was emotional, and I was thankful to receive it with my wife and athletes there.”
The AAU Strength Sports Brother Bennett award is given annually to one individual who goes above and beyond the norm in supporting athletes, coaches, meet directors and the strength sports in general. Coach John Crofton, of Shreveport, Louisiana, is this year’s AAU Strength Sports Brother Bennett recipient.
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