The Top 3 Things That Can Save the CrossFit Games
This is an article that I wrote in August of 2015 after attending the games with one of our Masters Athletes. Having attended the games multiple times before, this was my first time being 'behind the scenes' and I was upset with my experience.
I wrote this article in hopes of helping to improve the games, and though some of these issues have been addressed since, many of them still remain.
Stay tuned for more posts on my opinion of the future of this 'Sport' and where it's headed.
I need to start by saying I love CrossFit. I’ve heavily drunk the Kool-Aid and I love this shit; I love what it does for people, I love the communities it builds, and I love what it’s done for me [bio], so I say this out of love of this sport & community, and out of fear of it not maximizing its potential to help more people and be even more incredible than it already is.
I think there are a TON of great articles (which I link to in here) out there discussing different issues & different opinions; from the infamous peg board, Murph, programming being too hard, too easy, etc. Though I think these are great topics of conversation, I don’t think they cover the underlying issues that are going to cause long term harm to our beloved Games.
I think the CrossFit Games are at risk of rapidly diminishing if we (as a community) don’t help fix some basic requirements.
Many of these topics merely need to ignite conversation with some awareness (who knows what the answer is), but some are also pretty major & obvious issues that I need to be addressed so that we can continue to watch this incredible sport & event continue to grow [How Fast are the CrossFit Games Growing] and flourish.
Side note: I’m going to mention ‘The Grid / NPGL’ a lot – I remain a bit skeptical of The Grid as a sport, but it’s growing on me. I do love what it could potentially do for our beloved Games which I think is a great reason to support it. Everything thrives with a little competition.
The Games need…
Paid & Professional Judges
Proper Focus on Athlete Safety
1. PAID & PROFESSIONAL JUDGES / REFEREES
Volunteers drive this community, and it’s INCREDIBLE. We all love to be a part of the big picture & help out – but I think we’re close to crossing a line where volunteers and the community are being taken advantage of.
We all know (or are) volunteers, some of them have a hell of a time and loved it – they worked hard with setup and takedown, and were rewarded with behind the scenes views, awesome seats and/or free tickets – they got their value. Others (usually higher on the volunteer food chain) have left their jobs for extended periods of time (likely without pay as they probably own or work at an affiliate) – they have got to be getting paid (some do, many don’t).Putting aside what people ‘deserve’, there’s 1 very real reason we need professional (paid & trained) Judges:
People are giving up legitimate paid opportunities or putting their business’ on hold to pursue something that might ultimately come down to a split second decision made by a volunteer – that’s a little scary.
Again, Volunteers are incredible people, which is why you can’t (and shouldn’t) yell at them. If they make a mistake it’s totally understandable as it is NOT their job. It doesn’t bring any bread home, as a matter of fact we pay to volunteer. They’ve learned what they could in the time they had, which is likely the open and then hopefully a couple of Regionals. Even with sub par training they are still kicking ass most of the time and are doing an incredible job.
The problem is this is no longer a handful of people getting together at a ranch to throw-down for a couple hundred bucks. You now have (essentially) pro & semi pro athletes, as well as people that are leaving different legitimate paid opportunities [Matt Fraser Gives up grid to focus on his dream of winning the CrossFit Games] and putting their businesses on hold to train & to pursue something that ultimately might come down to a split second decision made by a volunteer – and that’s a little scary.
If the Games want to be considered professional, shown on live TV, and brag the title of ‘Fittest on Earth’ – these calls need to be made by fully trained & paid professionals.
Remember what happened last time a professional league took a step backwards (to semi-pro and experienced refs) and how it went? [2012 NFL Referee Lockout]. I think there will be a time (hopefully soon) where we’re going to look back and laugh at the fact that we survived as long as we did without trained, professional, and even full time referees/judges.
In the West regional this year, Fikowski of the #trashtalktrio missed out on going to the games (would have been 4th place I believe) by .5 of a second on a speed clean ladder (an ‘original’ event… that was taken from the grid – but that’s another convo).
One wrong call can very quickly mean an athlete isn’t standing on the podium, especially with the new scoring system [Your Guide to Scoring].
Once again, I don’t love The Grid (I think it has potential, but more importantly I think we need the competition) but watch a grid match. The judges are artwork! They all look the same, signal the same, count the same, they’re in full uniform, and most importantly – they’re held accountable to their calls [challenge flags in the grid].
I think there will be a time (soon) where we’re going to look back and laugh at the fact that we survived as long as we did without trained, professional, and even full time referees/judges.
Personally, I don’t believe the title of ‘Fittest on Earth’ to necessarily be true if calls are being made by volunteers, and that begins at a regional level [Volunteer Judges, Regionals, and the CrossFit Games].
Once again, THANK YOU to the volunteers that have gotten our community and the Games this far, but I think we can all agree it’s time that professionals are trained (and paid) at a level that matches the athletes that they’re judging.
Who is deciding the definition of ‘Fitness?’
“Increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains.”
Who is really making all the calls?
There are a lot of very large companies heavily invested in the Games and it’s athletes and I don’t think its fair for one man to have to deal with that kind of pressure. We know there’s a small team, but I think it’s fair the community, and those dedicating their lives to train for it, be involved or at least made aware of the thought process.
A larger team of organizers would also help ensure the minor details are taken care of;
- like keeping bars cooler
- or getting timing devices that work
- and even making sure open event rules don’t need to be changed at the last second
and so much more… but more on that later
Talayna Fortunato is adamant that these events are not written for one athlete – which I hope (and believe) is true, but I think a little more transparency in the development process could help ensure we can all be confident in that.
Especially in the middle of this petty (though sometimes entertaining) brand war that directly affects many Games competitors. This war isn’t just about shoes either – look who’s here, and is now no longer here.
If these answers are out there and I just can’t find them, please share them with me and I will happily update this post. If these answers aren’t out there then I think it’s about time they were.
Here’s a coupe basics I’d like to know, but I’m sure the community has more:
- Who comes up with the events? Based on what qualifications?
- When are these events finalized or decided?
- When are the TBA events actually decided?
- Who decides to bring in a Watt Bike? Or an Airdyne? or a Trueform?
- Are these companies paying for this in some way?
And last up, really?… This is the only explanation we get?
NOTE - UNABLE TO FIND PHOTO (was in regards to a scoring adjustment made during the sprint event that miraculously led to Ben Smith being on top of Matt Fraser - or close to)
3. A Proper Focus on Athlete Safety
I think this has already been very well vocalized via a number of blog posts so I won’t get into it much. The fact of the matter is I don’t want to see the athletes I’ve grown to love drop dead in front of me. On top of that, as a Coach, do I want to push my athletes so far that when they are finally on the brink of their dream at the Games they legitimately have to consider a life or death choice?
All sports have their risks, and some have higher injury rates than the Games, but something as simple as burning your hands on a bar is just careless.
It not only doesn’t relate to a test of fitness, but makes for a significantly worse show – especially on live TV. I think it’s time for a larger professional team to help eliminate these issues.
The real issue isn’t the workouts being ‘too hard’ [The CrossFit Games Aren’t Too hard] but the small details missed that are straight-up dangerous and not assisting in the test of fitness in any way.
There are plenty of dangerous sports out there, but even they have basic minimum requirements to ensure their athletes safety (helmets & equipment requirements, hitting standards, field standards, etc). The lack of attention to these minor details could lead to the fall of our sport, or maybe an athletes union? – which may or may not be a good thing [Lockouts, Strikes, and and Labor Politics in Pro Sports].
A couple of my favourite articles related to the topic of safety:
Here’s what you need to know…
- The CrossFit Games are an awesome spectacle, but HQ needs to do more to protect the health of the athletes.
- CrossFit’s popularity has outpaced its maturity according to Dr. Schulte.
- Dedicated medical personnel, if properly utilized by HQ, could advise the gamemakers and help prevent many issues.
- CrossFit Games fans need to speak up and demand that athletes are treated better. CrossFit HQ should additionally apologize to competitors.
We can always trust Patrick McCarty to be first to point out issues with the Games & HQ, but he can bring up some real valid points.
Doesn’t need an opinion, but an interesting list to view.
Yes, he shouldn’t be sending athletes out that are fearing for their life, but they probably shouldn’t have to have that fear in the first place.
I love the Games. I want to see them continue to grow, and flourish, and be awesome.
The Games do an incredible job of testing our athletes and pushing their limits. As Rudy says, failure is part of the test and you should learn your history but I think it’s time we hold them to the same standard they’ve been holding our athletes to.
I think it’s time we forced the Games up against their own peg board to challenge them and help ensure they become the best they can be.
Just A couple random additions that in my opinion could also dramatically improve the Games…..
LIVE SCORE KEEPING
PROPER TIMING TECH
Though the Sprints and hurdles were one of my favourite events – the scoring was all over the map and let’s be serious, ankle chip timers? There are an infinite number of more accurate ways to do that.
Grid is introducing some pretty epic technology for our sport [like pullup bars with built in counters] that would help eliminate all kinds of issues.
Don’t get me wrong Froning is incredible. He’s been the perfect face of this sport during it’s growth – and I’m sure he’s made a lot of people (including himself – which is totally legit he’s earned it) a lot of money, but you know who else is awesome? ‘[…]Froning and Rich Fronings Teammate!’, or any/every other athlete that’s competing at the same time he is.
At the very least, throw up a couple selfie drones [Meet Lily], and let me choose which of their feeds to watch!
NOTE: All Photos link back to their original source.