|“Business is the art and science of creating uniquely valuable opportunities for other people,” CrossFit founder and chairman Greg Glassman has often said. Coach Glassman’s philosophy of business is the bedrock upon which CrossFit’s 15,000-strong (and growing) global affiliate network is built. That’s something that can’t be emphasized enough in talking about recent changes to the CrossFit Games season.
The CrossFit affiliate proposition is simple: delivering increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains has extraordinary value for other people because it is uniquely effective in producing fitness and health. CrossFit’s decentralized affiliate model supports but does not usurp that value by refraining from taking those things for itself that are best managed, delivered, and owned by fiercely independent CrossFit boxes. The value is inherent in CrossFit’s physiology, but the economic opportunity resides in the 15,000 affiliates, not CrossFit, Inc.
This same logic informs CrossFit’s sanctioning of competitive events. We’ve long recognized the efforts of CrossFit affiliates, coaches, volunteers, and athletes in building grassroots competitions around the globe. These competitive events wonderfully illustrate the community’s role as co-developer in the sport of fitness. The energy, excitement, and opportunity that animates the CrossFit Games season springs from the affiliate community and its members, not CrossFit, Inc.
This understanding, coupled with the explosive worldwide growth of the sport, demands that CrossFit, Inc. reduce its share of the competitive CrossFit season. The best athletes, sponsors, and media entrepreneurs in the sport of fitness have recognized that the new Sanctionals model doesn’t diminish their opportunities—it expands them. There are more athletes competing in more CrossFit competitions in more places around the globe than ever. CrossFit, Inc. hasn’t abandoned the sport of fitness, it’s stewarding its longevity.
2019 is already shaping up to be a phenomenal Games season, even in this transitional year. From Dubai to Miami to Australia, the Sanctionals to-date have been outstanding. Two weeks ago the competitive CrossFit season expanded into Cape Town, South Africa. And the competition will soon migrate to London. That’s the CrossFit affiliate community creating something valuable that no amount of money or central planning at CrossFit, Inc. could have pulled off in an authentic way. The Sanctionals season will continue to develop and reflect the extraordinary diversity and worldwide growth of the CrossFit affiliate community.
We are bringing this same approach to CrossFit Games media coverage. CrossFit, Inc. has no plans for creating another Games documentary or producing original Games media. But others have the opportunity to create that content. CrossFit, Inc. will not itself produce or broadcast the Games, but we’re inviting others to bring the event to the community. The 2019 Reebok CrossFit Games will be broadcast, but not by CrossFit, Inc.
No competitive endeavor will ever achieve the status of an actual sport if its primary media coverage is sourced and funded solely by its parent company. That’s the stuff of late-night infomercials. At some point, CrossFit, Inc. had to stand down and let the media and news marketplace assess its accomplishments on their terms. How long can you be the hero of your own story?
We’ve observed the good media that is already being created since CrossFit, Inc. curtailed its media efforts. Others are making documentaries, podcasts, blogs, websites, and social media about the Games, individual athletes, former Games athletes, would-be Games athletes, etc. We encourage these media entrepreneurs. The unfolding narrative of the sport of fitness is no longer solely CrossFit’s to tell.
The 2019 CrossFit Open reflects the growth of the international CrossFit community. National champions will be crowned through the Open and will qualify to compete in Madison. In the first few weeks of Open registrations, athletes from nearly 12,000 CrossFit affiliates worldwide have already signed up, the majority of which reside outside of the United States.
The Open is the single largest participatory test of fitness on the planet. And it all begins at your local box. What’s special about the Open is that it pushes all of us to dig deeper and to do better than we ever thought we could. It’s an empirical test against a standard applied to hundreds of thousands of people throughout the world. That’s an invaluable challenge for each of us as athletes and as human beings. For those who don’t see the inherent and unambiguous value in such an examination of self and community, no amount of convincing will suffice. If you’re not in the Open, you’re missing out.
It’s been difficult for some people to get their minds around the changes to the competitive CrossFit season. Many are passionate about CrossFit and the sport of fitness. And that’s a good thing. So are we. But we’ve been here before.
Many foretold the demise of the CrossFit Games in 2011 when the Open replaced Sectionals. The changes to the Games season today, like the move from Sectionals to the Open in the past, accommodate a sport in ascension, not decline. The changes steward resources in a responsible way to ensure that the annual quest to find The Fittest on Earth is not a flash-in-the-pan, but an enduring tradition anchored in the global CrossFit affiliate community. The 2019 Reebok CrossFit Games in Madison, Wisconsin, will be the greatest worldwide test of broad, general, and inclusive fitness yet.
CrossFit and the CrossFit community will continue to develop, change, and flourish. The best in CrossFit will see the opportunity and rise to the challenge. What will you do?
This op-ed by Jeffrey Cain, CEO of CrossFit, Inc., was originally published in the Morning Chalk Up.