The CrossFit Open: Bringing Out the Best (and Worst)

The CrossFit Open is designed to be open and accessible to the world. With the ability to perform workouts at an affiliate or do them on your own and record them, it’s an incredible opportunity to compete with someone thousands of miles away. At the end of the day though, the goal of the Open is to find the best CrossFitters in each region, and this can lead to bringing out the best and worst in people.


If you do CrossFit, you have something in common with hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Have you ever been at a party and met someone who does CrossFit? You instantly have a bond and start asking, “What WOD did you do today?” and “What’s your post-workout snack?” all while people around you start backing away. Even those who don’t do CrossFit have heard of it and suddenly you’re asked if you were on ESPN2. (you DO say “yes” to that question, right?) It’s a cool thing to be able to compare yourself and even discuss workouts with someone literally halfway around the world via social media. Videos of Jenny Labaw working out with a broken leg can be inspiring; others like Jacqui Pierce simply make you realize you have no excuses. Unfortunately, the Open can also be a time for people to show their worst. 


If you’re competing in the Open, chances are you’ve heard of Josh Golden. He is currently the most infamous CrossFitter who performed 13.3 at his affiliate, but someone recorded the performance and posted it to Youtube. The problem came when people caught wind of the video and commented that his range of motion was not to the standards of 13.3. Social media exploded and people from around the world started criticizing him. And not just criticizing him, but also the other people in the video, the affiliate, and using words against Golden that you would only use against your worst enemy. I saw the video and guess what: there are a TON of people I’ve seen in person and on video who use that range of motion for workouts! Golden obviously has great capacity and I honestly don’t think he intentionally cheated because why would he submit the video? There’s just something about social media and people hiding behind their keyboards that empowers them to say things they would never to a person’s face.  You can read more on Golden’s reaction to the situation in an interview here. He’s clearly hurt by the CF community.  Let me be clear, I’m not saying that his score should have counted (if a video pops up like that, it shouldn’t count, but it also should have been caught in the moment by a judge), but I wonder how many people would shut up if their workouts were recorded. I would guess thousands. It’s the reason that having a coach is important: they can see what you can’t feel. If I had a nickel for every time someone thought they were below parallel on a squat but weren’t, I would be able to retire at the ripe age of 29. 


Unfortunately, this can be found on local levels as well. If you belong to an affiliate, you probably have a day or two of doing the Open workouts and see various ranges of motion at both novice and competitive levels. Sometimes the competition can get the better of people and suddenly you have members turning on each other and accusing each other of cheating or judges not holding them to the same standards as others. It’s ugly, but it happens. But wait, if a better score means qualifying the affiliate to go to Regionals, then why wouldn’t you want everyone to do well? I guess the only answer is that you’re selfish and want to be the big fish in a little pond. 


Of course, great things can happen at the local level too! Namely, people discovering they are capable of more than they ever would have dreamed. Even though you may perform the Open workout at your normal affiliate with a normal class, the electricity running through the air is nothing but normal. Intensity ratchets up, people lift more weight than they thought possible, and everyone is creating sweat angels at the end of the workout. High fives and pounds are given out for an effort well done, people are proud of what they accomplished, and then they’re cheering on the next heat because they want to return the favor. This is the CrossFit community I know, and this is the CrossFit community I love.


The nature of competition is that someone is going to be better than you. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but it’s the truth (unless you’re Rich Froning or Annie Thorisdottir). So here are my tips for bringing out the BEST in you and keeping the WORST from showing its ugly face. 

1. Be specific and objective – There’s a difference between critiquing and criticizing. Saying someone isn’t opening their hips is different than saying they’re an awful person. If you wouldn’t say it to their face, don’t type it. 

2. Let the judges do their jobs – Have you ever judged a CrossFit athlete? I once judged Graham Holmberg at Regionals who later went on to win the CrossFit Games. At the same Regionals, Ditty judged Julie Foucher (yeah, THAT Julie Foucher) who later went on to CrossFit stardom.  We both agree that being a judge is a tough role that requires a lot of concentration and quick decision making. The last thing they want is someone in the crowd yelling at them. If you see a problem, find a head judge and let them know. They can make the final decision.

3. Be positive – Cheer others on. Applaud the effort, if not the outcome. Maya Angelou said that “People won’t remember what you said or what you did. But they’ll remember how you made them feel.” Make them feel good because when you’re 80 years old, you won’t remember how many burpees and snatches you did in 13.1.

4. WWSD? – What Would Spealler Do? Admittedly he is still my favorite CF athlete, but this is a hypothetical that you can put any classic CF personality into. What would Boz do? What would Sakamoto do? I fell into CrossFit partly because of the incredibly humble and cool athletes that were around in the beginning. In what other sport would we see competitors cheering each other on? Chris Spealler and Annie Sakamoto won the Spirit of the Games awards, so in a touchy situation, just ask what they would do? Would they pause they’re own workout to call someone else out? Would they berate someone online? Absolutely not. They would cheer on the competition, try their hardest, and let the chips fall as they may. Because at the end of the day, it’s not about who comes in first or second, or who is big fish in the little pond. No, it’s about how people feel coming out of this. Did they try their best? Did they do something they’ve never done before? Did they have a community of people supporting them the whole way? That’s what the CrossFit community is all about and that’s what makes this sport great.  


One thought on “The CrossFit Open: Bringing Out the Best (and Worst)

  1. Pingback: Observations and Predictions for the 2014 CrossFit Open (and more) | Constantly Varied

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