It must have been fate that CrossFit HQ did not grant Olly Goddard the name ‘CrossFit Ipswich’ when he opened his Box in 2009, in his England home of Ipswich.
Three years later, he would move CrossFit Fenrir, his second choice of name, across the ocean and to Lakeland, Florida.
When he opened in 2009, Goddard was 19-years-old and operated in a racquetball court. His Box was the town’s first introduction to CrossFit. “I think I was the tenth Affiliate in England. People didn’t know what it was. The issue with getting people into CrossFit at the time … you had to kind of explain what it was and why it was so different to anything,” Goddard said. But he enjoyed the challenge. He said once you got people in, it was beautiful to see it click.
Not only did he have to explain what the sport was, but he also was the first to introduce some members to a barbell or how to squat without falling.
And now that he is operating in America, he said the culture is much different. People are more open to try new things. Plus, Americans are also more familiar with a barbell, Goddard noted.
He moved CrossFit Fenrir after he met his now-wife, proposed to her the next day, then moved his Box to Lakeland two years after they were married. And he said CrossFit HQ was just as confused as he was when he started the process of moving countries.
“I think they were pretty excited about it. I had a couple of conversations with people at headquarters about it and I think their biggest concern was that I wasn’t selling the Affiliate name, because it seemed unlikely that I was moving so far,” said Goddard. They sent him an email any American Affiliate receives when they first open, and Goddard opened CrossFit Fenrir in America just three months after shutting down in Ipswich.
The name turned out to be the least of his worries. According to Goddard, a Box does not have to have insurance in England. But a Box is required to have insurance in America. Also, he had to figure out how to get his equipment from there to Lakeland.
“I got to mess up in every possible way, being an idiot 19-year-old, not knowing what I was doing. Then come back as a 22-year-old and fix my mistakes with new people and a fresh start. It was fantastic,” said Goddard.
Looking back, he wishes he would have done more for his members at Ipswich before leaving. Being one of the first Boxes in England, he said he could have better helped them know where to work out next. And a few of his members considered leaving with him. “A couple of them were really devastated. I didn’t realize how … people don’t act like you’re really important to them,” said Goddard. “It’s the same thing with coaching. I didn’t realize how much of an impact I had, especially with kids. I just really kind of dropped the ball on finding a new place to train. And thank goodness, now it’s caught up.”
While he is thankful to have the opportunity to essentially start over, Goddard recommends any potential Affiliate to shadow an existing owner before officially opening a Box. He recommends learning the systems they use to run the gym, and to write an operations manual, which he credited as his “saving grace” when he opened Fenrir in America. Finally, Goddard said don’t rely on a “whim of a prayer” the Box will succeed.