It’s that time of year again and the annual Reebok CrossFit® Games are set to kick off August 1 in Madison, Wisconsin. Veteran CrossFitters like myself have watched the unbelievable evolution of the Games since 2007.
My wife and I opened our Affiliate in 2006, when the concept of large-scale competitions just wasn’t really a thing yet. So, when only one year later the inaugural CrossFit Games officially kicked off on Dave Castro’s parents’ ranch in Aromas, California, it fundamentally changed the course of CrossFit forever – for better or worse.
Before we knew it there were Sectionals, Regionals and the Games were now streaming online. No longer was it an exercise festival at the ranch, but a professionally produced event at a legit arena, the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles.
My initial thoughts when seeing them for the first time on television was, “Man, this is amazing free advertising!” In reality what it turned out to be was a powerful community building event.
In 2010 we rented out a local bar, brought our laptop and watched the Games on the big screen. The sound was crappy; you had to wait long, seemingly random amounts of time between heats and events, but it was a ton of fun.
It was new and exciting, and the whole gym was super into it.
To make it even more exciting, we had a betting pool; each person randomly selected the names of two male athletes and two female athletes out of a hat. I don’t remember what the prize was, but our whole community was glued to the Games that weekend.
The Games also opened our eyes to what was possible, and at the same time was a cold splash of reality to how bad you’d get smoked if you were on the same floor with the competitors.
When I chat with owners and members today, for the most part, they have the same opinion in regards to the Games – it’s something fun, something for members to talk about for a few days, but has no impact on their business.
In 12 years of owning our Affiliate, I can name on one hand how many members joined because they saw the Games and were inspired to sign up.
So, overall has the Games helped our businesses to get new members in the door?
But it was never supposed to.
The Games were never created with the intention to help your business. It was created to find out who the fittest man and woman in the world are.
What it did do was bring our group closer together. It’s just an event for all of us mortals to enjoy and marvel at what these athletes could push themselves to do. It’s up to the Affiliate owner to understand that and get that message across to his or her community.
I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to speculate that in a few years the Games might become its own completely separate event, without the CrossFit name attached. Rebranded as the Rogue or FitAid Games is not a stretch of the imagination. At the end of the day, even if the name changes to something else, it will always be synonymous with CrossFit.
So, to all of the veteran Affiliate owners, members and Coaches as we head into the 2019 Reebok CrossFit Games, try to remember how you felt the first time you experienced it.
Remember how fun and exciting it was. Remember discovering your favorite CrossFit athlete, and how you were inspired to train harder the next time you were in the gym. I’m not alone in saying that Mikko Salo is still my favorite all-time competitor, and without the Games none of us would have ever got to know him.
Be amazed at the athletes. Be inspired. Marvel at what they can do.
Just enjoy it and remember that after all, it’s just a game.