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Old 04-21-2009, 03:47 PM   #1
Matt Callahan
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CrossFit Games Qualifier Observations

As an avid CrossFitter and spectator at the 2009 CrossFit Games Southern California Regional Qualifiers I would like to share my thoughts on the event in order to promote constructive dialogue.

First off, I would like to thank the many individuals that helped to put on the event: the organizers, the volunteers, the event hosts, the other spectators, and the sponsors. Everyone did an amazing job at promoting the sport and lifestyle of CrossFit.

The athletes did an amazing job the entire weekend and served as great examples of the truly "fit".



I feel that all of us who choose CrossFit as a lifestyle would like to see the community grow. Part of the evolution includes the development of the CrossFit Games as a premier event. Building on the ethos of the brand, the Games serve to legitimize the competitive spirit that is present in every workout. To do this effectively, strict standards must be maintained that serve to promote safety and sportsmanship. Over the course of the last weekend I saw many things that were done very well at the qualifiers, some things that could be improved, and sadly some things that should not have happened.

Let's start with some of the really great things that happened...

1. Venue: I think that the venue served the group very well in many ways. The presence of non-portable bathrooms made life much more pleasant for everyone in attendance. Indoor showers served a crucial role of cooling athletes down. The location was convenient thanks to nearby major freeways, hotels and food.

2. The People: The CrossFit community is one of a kind and bringing so many of us together is a great thing.

3. The vendors: I thought the booths were great. Having macronutrient-conscious food selections was helpful for many, and you can't go wrong with Lululemon for the ladies. The tacos on Sunday were awesome - most people agree they are a keeper! Adding sales of CrossFit branded merchandise would help in the future.



Some things that could be improved...

1. The Heat: Obviously the weather can't be controlled, but its effects can be managed. One problem was the temperature differential between heats. This swing induces environmental bias that makes comparing times much less meaningful. Potential solutions include overlapping heats, competing within heats, or doing certain workouts in controlled environments. Additional cooling support could come in the form of man-made shade or misters. It would behoove the organizers to make the plan for rain clear to the competitors as well, so that they know how to prepare.

2. The Music (Sunday): I don't have a problem with music being played; in fact I enjoyed it while sitting around, however placing the system so close to people and at such a loud level can cause hearing loss. A simple re-evaluation of the speaker placement and gain would help for the future.

3. The Timing: I think the timing of heats and corresponding cutoffs were not well thought out. The qualifier event should provide an opportunity for people to explore their limits in a variety of time and modal domains. With so many strong competitors DNF'ing it is apparent there was a problem with the cutoff limits. People will always DNF in a competition so difficult, but the event can still find the best competitors AND allow others to post a time. Certainly care must be taken to tradeoff between allowing as many competitors as possible and giving ample time.

More drastic problems that should be addressed:

The Standards and the Judging:

I'll start by saying that on average the judges did a great job helping the event move along and motivating the athletes. There were very nice people judging who had great intentions, but were placed in a system not setup to promote safety and equity.

The requirement for being a judge was stated that people must have a level 1 certification. This was not enforced. Is this good or bad? I would argue that a level 1 certification in no way ensures visual perspicuity, which is ultimately the absolute requirement for a judge at these events. There are many people who are introduced to CrossFit at a level 1 cert. Do you want them to then go judge top athletes where it matters most? If level 2 certifications are the CrossFit standard for proper technique coaching, then why even pretend to use the "pay-to-play", introductory level 1 standard for this event? What's more, the very detailed requirements for judging this event were presented in person to the judges the night before the event - without in-depth testing, standardization assurance, safety training, etc. In the future, judges should be held to a standard that is far greater than the athletes. If a judge is well trained at the movements and tested on his or her perceptive skills then a semblance of equity can be achieved at the event. After noting multiple judges perceiving full depth squats differently during movement explanation, one judge suggested that a "butt check" ball could help reduce the judging variability. While I prefer full depth squats to be sans-ball, the thought process was valid after witnessing such judging discrepancies. The head judge's response to this suggestion was effectively "if he needed a ball to properly judge whether a squat was deep enough, then he was the wrong person to be judging". Apparently this leader doesn't understand that he is responsible for considering the judging equity, as he obviously failed to notice such problems.

A separate matter from the judging is the standards for movement that were setup for this event. I say this is a separate matter because judging issues should always be considered, regardless of the standards defined. The issue of movement standards is the most important issue to come out of this weekend. I feel that way because it affects the safety of the athletes greatly. There are other concerns about the movement standards including whether they represent the spirit of each event (like box step ups versus box jumps), which I feel aren't as critical. Doing CrossFit means you will do a large variety of movements, picking some that aren't common is to be expected.

What are my safety concerns then?

1. Judges Placement: I realize this is outside the realm of standards for the athletes themselves, but this a major safety concern. Judges were standing or squatting within inches of weighted barbells throughout the events. It is a miracle that no judge was injured from a dropped or bounced barbell. Additionally, athletes were often running overly close to people with weighted barbells over their head. Not properly instructing judges on positioning themselves is bordering on negligence considering the events that were taking place.

2. Overhead Weights: Returning overhead weights to the ground by tossing or throwing is ridiculous. Dropping a barbell due to a failed lift is unavoidable, but having a dozen people get together with weighted bars and letting them toss them around is unsafe. As a reference, I defer to the IWF technical rules which state:
2.3.3 After the referees signal to lower the barbell, the lifter must lower it in front of the body and not let it drop either deliberately or accidentally. The grip on the barbell may be released when it has passed the level of the waist.
This is one way to avoid the conditions of this past weekend. Of course this isn't an Olympic Weightlifting meet, but something must be done to instruct athletes on safe technique.

3. Hip Positioning: Another egregious mistake in movement standards was the hip positioning at the top of the overhead squat. This same problem carries over to the air squat and jerk, but I saw the biggest problem during the overhead squat competition.

Let's go back to basic barbell training for this one... drive out of the squat with the hips while maintaining the proper lordotic curve and back angle. Now - a finished overhead position (IWF again)...
2.1.1 ...final motionless position, arms and legs extended...
So you've got athletes who complete the overhead drive with arms and legs extended after squatting. This brings us to the problem of what I like to call "standing butt wink" after watching judges this weekend coach their athletes on an unnatural and unsafe movement. In order to meet the strictest standards at this weekend's event the athletes had to drive their pelvis forward while standing with weight overhead past the stable legs and arms extended, balanced and motionless position. If the athlete didn't accentuate the final unsafe spinal curve disruption, he often was faulted a rep, or coached to accentuate the next rep further. Anyone who teaches people how to work with a barbell should be appalled at the terrible influence on the athletes this weekend.

3. Competition: Now that the Southern California and Great Basin results are in there is a major problem with the competitive nature of these events. The events are setup to keep competitors in the dark about the workouts until the week of the competition. That is the way we all thought it was anyway. We find though, that on the top of the leader boards in two regions are people involved in the planning of the event. I am amazed at the fitness levels of all the athletes who competed, so I will say that it is completely possible for these people to have been kept in the dark about the events just as everyone else. The important aspect though is not my faith in the ethics of others, but the appearance of impropriety. In order for this sport to be legitimate we must avoid these blatant conflicts of interest. A solution could be telling all competitors the events at the same time as the event coordinators and doing the same events in all regions.

I appreciate you reading this and hope that the organizers will consider these comments, along with all others when planning for the future.

Thanks,
Matt
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Old 04-21-2009, 07:06 PM   #2
Joe Cavazos
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Re: CrossFit Games Qualifier Observations

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Originally Posted by Matt Callahan View Post
3. Competition: We find though, that on the top of the leader boards in two regions are people involved in the planning of the event.
Whoa now, THIS is a serious accusation and a serious problem if it's true. Can you provide a source or some evidence to back this up?
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Old 04-21-2009, 07:44 PM   #3
Matt Callahan
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Re: CrossFit Games Qualifier Observations

I want to reiterate that I'm concerned with the appearance of impropriety to the community and am not saying that the top athletes wouldn't win at any CrossFit competition (which having seen and read about their performance I know they are among the fittest people on the planet!).

Something obvious was the Great Basin region's website:

"5. Who's organizing this? The wise folks at CrossFit HQ have appointed Chris Spealler from CrossFit Park City, Damon Stewart from Wasatch CrossFit, Alisha Kowalewski from CrossFit Phoenix, and Lisa Ray from CrossFit Flagstaff to put this on"

As I mentioned in the post, I fully believe it is possible for the event to have been planned without giving an advantage to any competitor - but I wouldn't expect someone who wins all the events to be listed as the coordinator.

The Southern California region involves more the use of certain competitors as subjects to plan events for the competition. When the process involves creation of the workouts by the coordinators, inevitably a consideration of direct experience will be a factor. This could in turn be a good or bad result for the people closest to the coordinators. Either way the problem is easily avoided by having the workout planners not be involved with the competitors.
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Old 04-21-2009, 08:01 PM   #4
Tom Seryak
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Re: CrossFit Games Qualifier Observations

it makes more sense to me to have crossfit HQ determine the events for all of the regionals...everyone finds out at the same time including the host trainers, athletes, etc. on the flip side, personally I wouldn't train specifically towards an event even if I knew what it was b/c it kind of defeats the purpose of Crossfit imo. I want to see constant improvements in my GPP, so if I have to lose a competition to attain that, so be it. side note, at least in speal's case...i don't think it matters much as he has proven dominant in just about any WOD.
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Old 04-21-2009, 10:00 PM   #5
Joe Cavazos
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Re: CrossFit Games Qualifier Observations

I'll be honest, I don't like the *****footing in this thread regarding the merits of the winners that were involved in the planning of the events. Are they fit? Yes. Should they have won? I don't think we can answer that with certainty now, even in Speal's case.
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Old 04-21-2009, 10:04 PM   #6
Júlíus Magnússon
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Re: CrossFit Games Qualifier Observations

Alot of competitors are holding the qualifiers in their area. Of course they're not going to get to decide on which workouts come up. There was an interview with Speal somewhere... where he was waiting to hear about the workouts at the qualifiers at just the same time as everyone else. He provides the location, the equipment, probably gets "counters" for the event et cetera but I he does not get to decide on the movements in the workouts.

Besides... Look at the events for a minute. Do 135lb snatches for reps sound like something a guy who weighs 139lbs would pick out? How about the 155lb hang squat cleans or 275lb deadlifts?
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Old 04-21-2009, 10:52 PM   #7
Joe Cavazos
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Re: CrossFit Games Qualifier Observations

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Originally Posted by Júlíus Magnússon View Post
Besides... Look at the events for a minute. Do 135lb snatches for reps sound like something a guy who weighs 139lbs would pick out? How about the 155lb hang squat cleans or 275lb deadlifts?
He doesn't have to design the workouts. Just knowing what the workouts will be ahead of everyone else is already a significant advantage.
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Old 04-22-2009, 01:22 AM   #8
Tom Woodward
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Re: CrossFit Games Qualifier Observations

This is a joke, right? First of all, this is hardly the place to air this out if you think there's a problem. Take this to HQ rather than making an accusation on a public message board with absolutely no proof. As far as Speal is concerned, the guy is bona fide elite, an ambassador for CrossFit, and seems like a very stand up guy. This community is built in no small part on honor and I may be naive in saying this, but I'll take him at his word that he didn't know the workouts ahead of time. You're talking about a guy who just crushed the competition by snatching bodyweight, DL'ing 2xBW and cleaning BW+20lbs repeatedly within met cons over 2 days.
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Old 04-22-2009, 01:46 AM   #9
Chris Kemp
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Re: CrossFit Games Qualifier Observations

So calling people out and accusing them of negligence and strongly hinting at dishonesty or impropriety is gonna promote open dialogue? Matt, if you are straight up then I believe these issues would have been better raised with the organisers themselves or HQ and the Games director. This severely smacks of **** stirring.

Why should the affiliates responsible for running the event (at HQ's request!) be precluded from competing for a slot at the Games? And the notion of HQ providing WOD's days before the qualifier - that's gonna work. Believe it or not, not every venue is gonna have sufficient kit on hand to just make WOD's happen for 15 people at a time on a moments notice. And we're still gonna get monday morning quarter backs ****ing and moaning about the weather, cracks in the pavement or anything else. Generally speaking though the athletes would get on with it and let their performance speak for them.

Maybe I need to thicken my skin but this nit picking is really ****ing me off.

Cheers, kempie
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Old 04-22-2009, 03:13 AM   #10
Joe Cavazos
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Re: CrossFit Games Qualifier Observations

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Originally Posted by Tom Woodward View Post
This is a joke, right? First of all, this is hardly the place to air this out if you think there's a problem. Take this to HQ rather than making an accusation on a public message board with absolutely no proof.
Going straight to HQ has its problems. It could be easily swept under the rug and no one would know about it. If it spreads among the lower folks first, then HQ would have to deal with it.

Quote:
As far as Speal is concerned, the guy is bona fide elite, an ambassador for CrossFit, and seems like a very stand up guy.
I fail to see how Speal being a bona fide elite automatically means he qualifies. Yes, he blew everyone away, but that doesn't mean he should be allowed to know the events before everyone else.

Quote:
You're talking about a guy who just crushed the competition by snatching bodyweight, DL'ing 2xBW and cleaning BW+20lbs repeatedly within met cons over 2 days.
See above.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Kemp View Post
Matt, if you are straight up then I believe these issues would have been better raised with the organisers themselves or HQ and the Games director.
See above above.

Quote:
Why should the affiliates responsible for running the event (at HQ's request!) be precluded from competing for a slot at the Games?
Because the people running the event know what the events are going to be well before anyone else knows. The reason they keep it under wraps is specifically so people don't train for the event. Knowing the event before it's revealed and competing in that event would be cheating, whether or not Speal or the others did. It's like using extra-game means to know what play an opposing football team is going to run next.

Quote:
And the notion of HQ providing WOD's days before the qualifier - that's gonna work. Believe it or not, not every venue is gonna have sufficient kit on hand to just make WOD's happen for 15 people at a time on a moments notice.
Uh.

Step 1) Contact some (probably large) affiliates and let them know they're going to host the qualifier

Step 2) Give them an equipment check list with more equipment than will be used. For example:
- X 20 kg barbells
- Y 1.5 pd KBs
- Z 2 pd KBs
- N 45-lb bumper plates
- P 25-lb bumper plates
- C 10-lb bumper plates
- Enough Pull-up bar for T people
- D rowers
- measured 400-meter distance beginning and ending at workout area
- Q 20-lb Wall Balls
- F 14-lb Wall Balls
- U Jump Ropes
- K 24" Boxes
- W 20" Boxes
...and so on. HQ can even regulate the sizes of heats by imposing a registration limit for each region. On the off-chance that one of these big affiliates doesn't have the necessary equipment (highly unlikely), they can either purchase it, HQ can donate some, or nearby affiliates can help out.

Step 3) One or two days before the competition, HQ lets the affiliates know how it's all going down.

I'm sorry, but the argument that the logistics are impossible is not a very convincing one.

Quote:
Generally speaking though the athletes would get on with it and let their performance speak for them.
Yeah, and imagine how much better their performances would speak for themselves if they knew what the workouts were ahead of time so they could practice...

Quote:
Maybe I need to thicken my skin
Yep.
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