Written by Ryan Brown
First off, I want to make the disclaimer that my “reflections on the CrossFit Open” are as a coach and not as an athlete. I didn’t even do the workouts. I didn’t train for it and know damn good and well that I couldn’t have competed with the people that I would have expected myself to compete with.
I should also make the disclaimer that I have been hugely against the whole “online” competition thing since the first year that they decided to scrap the sectionals for The CrossFit Open. The Sectional at the Arnold was my second CrossFit competition and it was an awesome experience. The next year they went to the online “open” and I didn’t even do it cause of how bad I hated it. It was also before Reebok, ESPN, and the worldwide phenomenon that it has turned into.
I will start with what I hated most about the open this year. I don’t know what the exact number was, but last I saw floating around on the Facebook machine was that there were somewhere in the neighborhood of 140k to 150k people registered for the open. If there were actually 140k to 150k people who had any business at all competing in CrossFit then I would have no problem whatsoever with that. My biggest issue is with the “everyone sign up and compete” attitude that CrossFit and some affiliates push.
Most people don’t have any business competing in a CrossFit competition. I understand CrossFit HQ’s motivation behind getting everyone to sign up. 150k people at $20 a pop is a nice little bonus instead of the probably 15-20k that should be signed up. I do not, however, understand the motivation of the affiliates to convince people who have a #200 max Clean and Jerk (or less) that they need to pay $20 to complete a workout in their own gym. I had all kinds of people try out the workouts, or scaled versions or the workouts, in my gym without being registered. Hell, if they really want to give $20 away, they can just give it to me. I love money.
The problem is that in order to get all these people to sign up, they keep the weights pretty light in comparison with what you will see at the regional and at the games. In my eyes, this turns the Open into more of a money making endeavor than a screening process for the athletes to go to the regionals. Last year, they did the same thing, then when we got to the regional there were a ton of girls who couldn’t complete workouts because they were totally different (heavier) than what they were asked to do in the open. The other thing that these really light workouts do is trick some of the mid level athletes into thinking that they are better than they are. Light weights don’t force you to actually be good and efficient at movements to post a relatively high score. Coaches who aren’t that good at movements themselves stand behind them and just yell “go faster” instead of correcting their movements, but these weights are light enough that it doesn’t matter, because with light weights you can do shitty movements and move fast. Then, you never bother learning to do them correctly, because you can convince yourself that you “just needed to go a little faster”, and are doomed to mediocrity. When the weights get heavier, the guys/girls with the technique have a massive advantage.
This is where I screwed up. With all that being said, I am not against people who don’t have a real shot at making the regional competing in the open. I expect that they should be focusing on improving their movement quality and doing things correctly, but I understand the desire to compete. I take weightlifters and powerlifters who aren’t breaking any records to competitions all the time. CrossFit is no different. If you can do the movements safely and correctly, then by all means, sign up and compete. Competition is fun. That being said. These people need to treat the open differently than the people who are going to the regional.
With Patrick and Joellyn, we pretty much know for a fact (barring some crazy incident.. Patrick does like to speed around on his crotch rocket) that they are going to make the regional. For those people, it is important to keep training straight through the open and treat those workouts just like any other workout. The regional is their competition, not the open.
However, where I made the mistake this year was for the rest of our competitors was in not treating the open as “competition season”. Our average guys and girls were still training hard straight through the open just the same way as the ones who we know were going to the regional. I am sure that this hurt their performance in the open workouts and is a big take away for me going into next year.
Online judging. This one was a hot topic this year due to the high profile disqualifications. The first thing that I would like to say is that I place the responsibility for those disqualifications on the coaches/judges, not the athletes. The athletes should have been cued to correct their movements. The people who were disqualified were great athletes and could have made the corrections had they been cued to do so. My other thought on this is that some of you people need to get off your fucking high horse. I have been to a shit load of these local competitions and know for a fact that several of the same people I see on facebook talking shit about doing the movements correctly don’t have the mobility to actually do the movements correctly either. Their is a neat little thing called a Thomas Test that tells us hip flexor length and the ability for an athlete to achieve full hip extension. After doing a bunch of these, I feel comfortable estimating that at least half of those 150k that did the open aren’t capable of full hip extension and substitute extension of the lumbar spine, and for that reason, if we really wanted to get super technical… you probably should have been no repped on just about every single rep that you did.
Jesus once said “before you remove the splinter from your neighbors eye, first remove the plank from your own”. I actually have no clue if that was Jesus, or someone else, but it is good advice nonetheless.
This has been one of the biggest reasons that I have hated the online competition from the get go. Let’s take a look at everyone’s videos, I have seen all kinds of bullshit reps counted in local competitions and would put my money on the fact that it is going on with tons of people in the open as well.
I don’t want people to think that this is a bash CrossFit article. I love it. I love the opportunities that it has created for me and I love the ways that it has been able to change peoples lives. I also love the sport of CrossFit. If you have never been to a CrossFit comp I would encourage you to go and check it out. I have been to powerlifting, weightlifting, strongman, and CrossFit comps and can tell you that the atmosphere at the CrossFit competition trumps all.
Play on playa, see you guys up at the Central East Regional!!! Make sure and say high to the Juggernaut Crew!!