The Open is changing and—surprise, surprise—there are critics already.
There’s a saying we use at my affiliate that goes like this: “Sometimes what’s good for business isn’t what’s good for fitness.” It mostly has to do with the vocal minority who is always pushing for “more grinders, more grinders” at the expense of other important aspects of fitness, like strength and skill work.
But in the case of the changes to the 2015 Open, I believe it’s the right call for both fitness and business. The critics will soon be quieted, the same way they were in 2011 when CrossFit eliminated Sectional competitions. People lost their shit. But just a short time later, they embraced the online Open competition.
Since 2011, selection to the CrossFit Games has largely remained the same. Until now: Combined regions.
The moment the post-CrossFit Invitational video was released, where Dave Castro gave some vague details about this year’s plan, people in my region got up in arms.
“We’re losing our Canadian-ism” was the general jist of the sentiment. Others made the argument that we are a large geographical region–that this should somehow protect our autonomy in terms of being our own region.
I understand and sympathize with the sentiment, and my first reaction, too, was “Nooooooooo.” But when I sat back and thought rationally about it, I came to conclusion that we don’t have a valid complaint. Canada West will be combined with the North West Region, and according to my (I like to think) careful calculations, we’re the two weakest regions in North America.
In 2014, I was second at the Canada West Regional. Considering there are four weeks between the first and last weekend of regionals, it’s not 100 percent accurate to compare scores; however, comparisons still expose who the strong and weaker regions are. And when I plugged my scores into every other region in the world, I was humbled. My results would have ranked me 10th in Southern California. 12th in Canada East. 14th in the Norheast. And as low as 17th in Europe.
Second in Canada West and 17th in Europe. Can you blame them for mixing things up this year?
The North West Region was the only other region in North America where, I believe, on a perfect day of competing, I could have stood a remote chance at qualification. I would have been 7th with my scores from the Canada West regional competitions, which was just one week before the event in Kent, Washington.
So with five berths on the line this year, I personally want to give Castro a giant hug for combining our region with the North West.
Jeremy Jones, owner of CrossFit Diablo and Alessandra Pichelli’s personal coach, also believes that what we know so far about the changes this year makes sense—on all accounts. It is the right move as a sport, as Jones believes it will balance out some of the regions. And, it makes sense from a business standpoint “because there will be less stress on the Games crew to put on as many events, saving money and allowing more resources for even better events,” Jones said.
Funny enough, financial savings is one of the reasons people are bitching on online forums. “They’re just doing this to save money. This is bullshit,” was one of the main themes on comment threads after the announcement.
I personally don’t think money was the driving force behind this decision, but even if saving money was an added bonus to push for change, so what? We’re not talking about the government cutting social welfare programs here. CrossFit is business operating in the free market. Saving money is one of the things a successful businesses is supposed to do. To be critical of that is absurd.
But more than financial savings, Jones reiterated his belief that the changes are also best for fitness—that they will get the best people to the Games.
“There always seemed to be a few regions that had someone make the Games because the programming was “perfect” for (that one person)…,” he said. “Combining the regions should help in those cases.”
The other cause for complaint and concern is the distinction between people who consider themselves “Open athletes” versus “Regionals athletes.” This argument has definitely crossed my mind on a personal level. I have always done better at Regionals than in the Open, especially when events like 7-minutes of burpees are programmed.
That being said, as has often been said, the best athletes will still prevail. Camille Leblanc-Bazinet and Sam Briggs are Open athletes. They’re also Regionals athletes. And, of course, they’re Games athletes. Jones agrees and takes it one step further.
“If programmed correctly, the Open has the ability to be programmed for the absolute beginner and the most advanced CrossFit athlete,” he said, adding that he doesn’t expect programming to be much different this year than in past years. That being said, he does expect a slightly higher level workout or two this year, especially considering the fact that there’s a scaled division.
Despite this fact, Jones is making sure his athletes are even more ready than usual to get through the Open.
“We are going to make sure that people who are Regional and Games-bound are a bit more prepares for the open. We want to make sure that those metabolic fires are stoked and red hot for the Open, as opposed to smouldering slowly to temper the other strengths and skills,” he said.
“There are a few Games-level athletes that I work with who still may be able to make the Open a bit of a side note to their general program. But for many of our athletes, the Open is going to require a deviation from the way we might have programmed in the past—a large detour for some, a small one for others,” he added.
The biggest change he expects we’ll see is even more athletes forgoing their individual aspirations to join a team. “The level of team competition may get a whole lot tougher,” he said.
But finances and competition aside, perhaps the hidden brilliance of this new selection process—and something I haven’t read much discussion about—is what the system will do for affiliate pride.
Since we’re still going to be competing against our smaller regions during the Open competition, we’ll maintain our smaller territorial regional identity. And I believe this regional pride will be strengthened under the new format.
When the regional competitions arrive, friendly rivalries will likely develop between the two combined regions, with fans on both sides cheering for what they see as “their” athletes. I can picture a sea of proud red and white Canada West gear at this year’s regionals supporting our athletes against our American competitor’s—a beautiful sight for the sport.