History of the NPC
The real muscle in the realm of amateur bodybuilding and fitness in the United States is the National Physique Committee, and its influence is growing, for good reason. The sport's top amateur athletes realize the NPC is their route to the world's strongest bodybuilding organization - the International Federation of Bodybuilders (IFBB), and to professional success.
For amateur bodybuilding in the USA, the NPC is the big kahuna. If you want to make it as a pro and take advantage of all the publicity and money making opportunities, you must come up through the NPC.
Unless, of course, you're part of the other 10%, like Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates or Nassar El Sonbaty. "I'm telling you, this guy from England named Dorian and that European Nasser El Sonbaty are messing things up." say NPC President Jim Manion with a big laugh, referring to the nine of 10 successful bodybuilders who come from the NPC. "Just think what our records would be if they had lived here in the United States when they were amateurs."
A Passion for Bodybuilding
Many of us wonder what the future holds for the sport, but no one ponders it more passionately than Manion. For the Pennsylvania native, bodybuilding to the sport began more than 40 years ago.
We've all heard stories of those rare people who've dedicated their lives to a cause greater than themselves just for the sake of making things better for others. Manion had varied interests - he owned a gym, worked for a natural gas company and was a competitive bodybuilder who won 15 titles, including second place to Robby Robinson, but his true calling soon became making the sport better for amateur competitors.
He was already championing the sport when a changing of the guard occurred in the early '80s. "We formed the NPC back in 1982 after government legislation caused many sporting events - like track and field, and physique competitions - to break away from some of the other federations," says Manion. "We saw the void that was left and believed that if a new organization was formed, one strictly devoted to amateur physique competitions, then everyone would benefit."
Build a Federation and They will Come!
Manion and the other founders of the NPC were right on target. The organization started out with approximately 6,000 members and sanctioned only 100 - 200 competitions a year. Today, it has more than 20,000 members and 800 - 1000 competitions held annually. Manion explains the success.
"The NPC has always had the support and recognition of the IFBB, which oversees international competition and the professional side of the sport, and this has been crucial to our success. The IFBB recognizes only one amateur physique federation per country, and in the United States, the NPC is the amateur arm of the IFBB. All bodybuilders - must win a qualifying NPC show before they can become IFBB professionals."
Manion doesn't brag about the fact that the IFBB sees the NPC has the strongest amateur physique organization in the world. That's no small feat considering that more than 160 nations belong to the IFBB. Although he doesn't blow his own horn, Manion is quick to give his people credit for the NPC honor.
"Ours is a grass roots organization run by people who truly love the sport," says Manion. "They want to see the sport grow and create more opportunities for those men and women who want to make a good living from what they love to do, which, of course, is bodybuilding and fitness."
"Twenty five years ago, very few of us were able to make a living from the sport. Thanks to Joe and Ben Weider, that's all changed. Today, we have chairmen all over the United States and have worked very hard to bring opportunities to athletes and a high level of organization to every contest. In essence, we make the promotion of bodybuilding an easy thing to do."
"I'll give you an example. Let's say you want to promote an NPC bodybuilding show. All you would have to do is pay the sanction fee, secure the venue, take care of the trophies, publicity and ticket sales. The NPC comes in and does the mechanics of the show, from bringing in the judges and registering and weighing the contestants to filing the score sheets."
"We also furnish the promoter of the event with a $2 million liability insurance policy, pay for all rights and clearances to music licensing organizations, and provide insurance for the athletes competing in the contest. This even includes insuring each athlete to and from the competition. The NPC takes away the worries about putting on a successful bodybuilding event. Our goal is to see bodybuilding grow at the grass roots level, and this is one way we do it."
The Sport's Best Got their Start Right Here
Like a doting father, Manion is especially proud of his NPC family. "Our first Nationals champion was Lee Haney," he says. "Then you have guys like Kevin Levrone, Shawn Ray, Flex Wheeler, Mike Quinn, Gary Strydom, Mike Christian, Bob Paris, Chris Cormier, Paul DeMayo and so many others. Women like Lenda Murray, Cory Everson, Laura Creavalle and Kim Chezevsky, to name a few, all came from the NPC."
The Game Plan to go Pro
The one question up and coming amateur bodybuilders frequently ask is, what's the best strategy to go from novice to pro?
"I always tell athletes to first enter a novice show or city contest," says Manion. "Some people feel that they can jump right into a state show or a national qualifier. Lee Haney is a perfect example. Lee entered and won the Jr. Nationals and the Nationals in the same year. Now that is rare, yet it can happen. However, for most, the progression would be to enter a city contest, state contest, regional contest / national qualifier, Junior USA show, the USA show, the Jr. Nationals, then the Nationals."
For the athlete who has everything but patience, the time it takes to go from first show to becoming a pro is of major concern. "It's all so individual. Some people have great genetics and can do it quicker, but for most, it's about a three year process to get to the level of top national competitor."
The Place for Fitness
Hardcore bodybuilding isn't the NPC's only interest. The organization is directly involved in the popular new women's fitness events. The match is a natural one, with the NPC working to elevate this exciting competition to never before achieved levels by creating more fitness shows - local, state, regional and national events - than all other fitness organizations combined.
The same protocol that male and female NPC bodybuilders must follow, namely winning qualifying shows before moving to the next level and eventually earning eligibility for IFBB events, will apply for all women interested in competing in NPC amateur fitness events. Talk about a step in the right direction.
It's the Right Thing to Do
"In the past three years'" say Manion, "the NPC has produced steroid tested shows, and this year, we'll promote nearly 150 of them. The winners of these shows are eligible to compete in the Team Universe Championships in August. From this show, teams are chosen to compete internationally in the men's and women's IFBB World Amateur Championships, which of course, is also steroid tested."
"All of this has allowed us to run more state, regional and national qualifiers and has given the athletes a terrific goal to shoot for - winning the prestigious IFBB World Amateur Championships." You might be curious as to how our amateur athletes from the United States fare against the world. "We've dominated the field over the last four years," Manion says with a smile.
A Man with Belief can Change the World
Two subjects very sensitive to Jim Manion are the health of his athletes and the future of the sport he so dearly loves. "We all want drugs to be eliminated from sports, and that means all sports," he says with a hopeful sigh. "Yet we have to be honest and understand that it's quite a daunting task to think that we can control anything and everything an athlete puts inside his body. That's impossible.
"What we can do, and what we are planning to implement, is widespread diuretic testing. From there, other forms of more advanced testing will be implemented. For athletes in all sports, the need to win and the lack of self control can wreck havoc in their lives. In a sense, because some of them won't protect themselves, we have to be protectors of their health and protectors of the sports we love."
Loving What You Do
Take away the protective father's robe, the well tailored suits that have traveled the world and the gym clothes that have soaked up countless hours of in your face workouts and what is left? A man who loves what he does.
"I've met so many great people from all over the world. I'm a people person and I always get great enjoyment by being able to give something back to the sport I love. I always try to make time for anyone who wants to talk to me."
"The sport and the organization are nothing without the people who are in it, and I never want to forget that. I owe a great deal of gratitude to these people, especially my son, J.M., and my wife, Debbie, who helps me so much so I can travel and do all the things I need to do to help our organization grow."
"One of the best feelings I get is when I receive letters from people. Just the other day I heard from some contestants who entered the NPC Wheelchair National Championships. They told me how much it meant that someone really cared about them, and I must say that really touched my heart."
"As president of the NPC, I do a lot of traveling and my wife smiles every time I tell her I'm exhausted from all the traveling. She tells me that no matter where we go or how tired I am, since I walk into that bodybuilding venue and see the athletes and the people, my face lights up and the adrenalin takes over. I guess that says it all."
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