By Jim Manion - NPC President

Most if not all bodybuilders who start competing have a dream of one day becoming an IFBB pro like Ronnie Coleman or Kim Chizevsky and reaping the benefits of the years of hard training and attention to diet. In the United States, there is only one road that leads to this goal and that is through NPC sanctioned contests - no other amateur bodybuilding or fitness organization is affiliated/recognized by the IFBB.

We felt now was a good time to review the qualification process. You don't become an NPC national winner with the rights to turn IFBB pro by walking off the street and entering a national contest!

According to NPC National Registrar's Sandy Ranalli and Peter Potter, it seems as if they always have a certain number of athletes who, months in advance, secure their airline tickets and hotel accommodations, start their rigorous twelve week diet and accelerate their training and yet give little or no thought to sending in their entry and getting approval to compete. This is the classic case of putting the cart before the horse. Rather than the last item to be done, competitors should consider it their first priority.

We fully understand that when we have to reject a late or incomplete entry, the full impact this has physically, emotionally and financially for the bodybuilder. Getting refunds from the airline and hotels is a major hassle, not to mention the diet and training efforts. It is with the hope to eliminate these cases that we prepared this article.

The time is right now for athletes who intend on competing in NPC national events to review the list of contests in FLEX and NPC News. Make an early commitment and then contact the promoter of record requesting the entry form and related packet. If you can't locate the promoter, call you NPC State/District Chairperson or the NPC National Office. Be advised that national contests have a deadline thirty days or more prior to the contest.

You would be surprised and probably somewhat amused at some of the excuses Sandy and Peter have heard over the years for not getting entries in on time. A few true examples are:

1.The promoter didn't send me an entry. (Promoters have strong motivation to get you their entry, but you first have to contact them.)
2.My gym owner was supposed to pay the entry fee and send it in.
3.My personal trainer takes care of all these things.
4.I'm going through a divorce and my husband/wife threw the entry in the wastebasket.
5.I've been traveling and didn't have the time.
6.My dog ate the entry form.
7.I wasn't sure until a week before if I wanted to compete.
8.I thought I could enter on the day of the contest.
9.The entry must have gotten lost in the post office.
10.My district chairman will take care of the entry form and fee.
11.My partner forgot to mail the form.
12.My corporate sponsor lost the form.

None of the above excuses are valid. The sole person responsible for the entry, as signified by their signature on the form, is the competitor. While others might volunteer to help or pay, the competitor's future is on the line and they alone are the one's who should personally send in the packet.

The basic requirements that apply to all national events are two in number:

A.)You must by a Unites States citizen - either born or naturalized. There is no flexibility or exception to this requirement. Since the winners of national contests often represent the United States overseas in IFBB international competition, we must insure that they are indeed U.S. citizens. Whether you have lived in the Unites States ten, twenty or thirty years, have a green card or are engaged to a U.S. citizen, if you do not have your citizenship papers as of the date of the contest, you are not eligible to compete. You will be asked to prove your citizenship by birth certificate, passport, voter's registration or military discharge form. Your driver's license or social security card is not proof as they are issued in many states to non-citizens.

B.)You must be a member in good standing of the NPC. Unlike at local or state contests where you can purchase an NPC card the day of the contest, national contests dictate that you obtain your card thirty days in advance as no cards are sold at the competition. The current NPC card cost is $50.00 and you can find an application form on the back cover of the NPC News, here on this web site, or you can call the NPC National Office. Cards are for the calendar year, so joining early makes sense. What that means is if you decide to join in September of the current calendar year, your NPC membership will still expire on December 31, of that same year. So it makes sense to sign up early in the year to be done with it, or to sign up in December of the current year to make sure you continue to receive your 6 issues of the NPC News in the mail uninterrupted. (If you joined in September, you would only receive 1 issue of the NPC News after that - the November/December issue.) Your NPC News subscription is based on your membership card and also runs for a calendar year only.

Now, assuming you are a U.S. citizen and have your current NPC card, your next step before submitting your entry is to qualify for the particular contest you want to enter. Each of the ten national contests has different qualifications so it is imperative that you study the entry form. Most of the contests in this category are referred to as "national qualifiers." For some, you must have mainly competed in an NPC contest the last two years while for others you must place first or second in your weight class.

Separate additional requirements exist for the following; in the NPC Teenage National Bodybuilding Championships, you must provide proof of age between 13 and 19 as of the day of the contest; the Master's Men National Championships is 40 or over, 50 or over, 60 or over the day of the contest; the Master's Women National Championships is 35 or over the day of the contest; the Collegiate National Championships need proof of full time college status and in the U.S. Armed Forces National Bodybuilding Championships, proof of being in one of the branches of the services or a dependent. You must also have competed in at least one NPC contest prior to entering any of these specific national contests.

An associated point is once earned, your qualifications are good for two years. In actual implementation, you get two years plus the balance of the year the qualification is earned. For example, if you qualify for a contest on August 21, 2000, your qualifications to compete are good in any national contest until December 31, 2002.

Having thus qualified, the time is right to immediately send in your entry fee and supporting material. We recommend you use either the U.S. Postal Service's registered return receipts, UPS, Airborne Express or any of the express services which require a signature acknowledging receipt. We do not recommend the regular postal service as there is no way to trace the packet if it gets lost or to even prove it was sent.

What happens to an athlete who wants or has to compete in a qualifier a week or two before the national contest but after the deadline date? The competitor must submit their entry and fee prior to the deadline like all the other contestants. If they then qualify, their entry is processed and approved; if they do not qualify, the entry fee check is returned. We don't believe at this point that we need to belabor the point that last minute, late entries are not accepted at national contests.

While it is not axiomatic, we have observed that many of the national winners are the very same ones who send in their entries early. They've learned the wisdom of taking care of this administrative matter first and then being able to devote 100% of their energies to training and final contest preparation.

Why not make your road to becoming a national champion and IFBB pro an easy one for you and the NPC. File early just like the I.R.S. tells us to do!