CrossFit’s Statistics Mastermind (w/ Chad Schroeder)

Today I’m talking to my friend Chad Schroeder, the CrossFit Games Lead of Sport Statistics. Chad has been working on the stats side of fitness for nearly a decade, from unlikely beginnings as a volunteer to a driving force behind how top athletes in CrossFit are measured and compared from one year to the next (and even from one event to the next). Chad has helped CrossFit as a sport develop year in and year out, and his story is a fascinating look behind the sport’s growth from grassroots phenomenon to a staple of strength sports programming.

Chad Schroeder on the BarBend Podcast

On this episode of The BarBend Podcast, host David Thomas Tao talks to Chad Schroeder about:

  • Chad’s background in CrossFit (all the way back in 2009!) (02:20)
  • How Chad became “the stats guy” for CrossFit’s highest levels of competition (04:00)
  • How Chad’s role with CrossFit has evolved over the past decade, and how Chad works with CrossFit’s announcing team from the CrossFit Open and on (07:20)
  • Which elite CrossFit athletes are underrated? (15:20)
  • Standout CrossFit Games performances from the 2021 Games (20:00)
  • How would Rich Froning stack up in the individual field today? (23:00)

Relevant links and further reading:

Transcription

David TaoDavid Tao

Is there any athlete who has retired in recent years, who you really miss seeing compete, maybe from a personal level or the fact that they put up interesting stats?

Chad SchroederChad Schroeder

Oh, shoot.

David TaoDavid Tao

Matt Fraser is not a valid answer. I’m going to take that one off the table, by the way.

Chad SchroederChad Schroeder

An easy one, of course, I know he’s not fully retired, is Rich Froning. That’s always the obvious. What would’ve happened, individual, everyone’s drawn-out that debate.

David TaoDavid Tao

Welcome to the “BarBend Podcast,” where we talk to the smartest athletes, coaches, and minds from around the world of strength. I’m your host, David Thomas Tao. This podcast is presented by barbend.com.

 

Today I’m talking to my good friend, Chad Schroeder, the CrossFit Games’ lead of sports statistics. Chad has been working on the stat side of fitness for nearly a decade, from unlikely beginnings as a volunteer to a driving force behind how top athletes in CrossFit are measured and compared from one year to the next, and even from one event to the next, to be honest.

 

Chad has helped CrossFit grow as a sport year in and year out. His story is a fascinating look behind the scenes when it comes to growth from a grassroots phenomenon to a staple of strength sports programming.

 

Before we get into that, I want to give a quick shout-out to today’s episode sponsor, Athletic Greens. I first tried Athletic Greens back in 2012. It was already a massively popular daily supplement.

 

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Chad, it is a pleasure to be talking to you. It’s always a treat when I get to chat with you, whether it’s in person at the games or virtually, which is much more common these days.

 

For those who don’t know too much about you and your background, you’ve been in the CrossFit space for a long time. How did you first get into CrossFit? That’s the first thing I should ask.

Chad SchroederChad Schroeder

I started in 2009. Nicole Christensen, who is the owner of CrossFit Roots, she’s on the seminar staff. You’d probably see her in some videos and such. She’s also the original Dave Whisperer at the games.

 

We used to work together, and then she started her gym on the side and say, “Hey, do you want to work out with CrossFit?” I said, “Sure, I’ll give it a try.” That was 2009. I was CrossFitting then at the gym at CrossFit Roots when their original setups…

 

They’ve gone through different iterations. Now it’s one of the best CrossFit gyms out there, I would say. Then, I competed in such but casually tried out sectionals and such.

David TaoDavid Tao

Way back to the sectionals…

Chad SchroederChad Schroeder

Yeah, 2010. Yes, sectionals and then our regional team when he did a sign-up in 2010. He didn’t make it, but that’s fine. I knew where he stood. I like to compete, and I like the action. I was always a sports fan.

 

When I heard about the games, I was like, “Oh, what is this?” I didn’t know. Nicole talked about the games in 2009. I didn’t think anything of it. I was just starting CrossFit.

 

Then 2010 was the first time they put it on the Internet. I had watched it that weekend and I was mesmerized. I was hooked like, “Oh, this is pretty cool.” That’s fun to watch.

 

2011 came, I volunteered Work the Media at Southwest regionals that year. I was just tweeting on the sidelines, because we had a video coverage, but it was all taped delayed. It was post-production recaps.

 

The only way to get live results out besides the leaderboard we would tweet. I was helping tweet results few winners and such. That was fun. I signed up to do it again in 2012 at regionals.

 

After doing it in ’11, I figured it’d be nice to have some context to give to these athletes. Some background like, “How great this performance was,” or “This is a superstar,” etc. Built-up some stats and such on the Southwest regional athletes and knocked out a park. It was fun tweeting that year.

 

That was the year that Chris Spealler had his epic comeback. The hashtag Spealler was turned in and stuff. That was fun.

 

Then the regional media director recommended me to HQ, say, “Hey, this guy would do really good. You should bring him out to the games.” Rory Mckernan called me up said, “Hey, would you like to come out?” I said, “Sure, that’d be great.”

 

I said, “I’ll bring all my stats, and I’ll merge them with everyone else’s regional stats and help out.” He said, “We don’t have other regional stats.” [laughs] A light bulb went off in my head like, “Oh, I could do this.”

 

I had a month or so to get ready for the games that year, in 2012. I got as much as I could on athletes that qualified, and then went out there and worked. It was in the TV production tracks and it was just amazing. It was a rush. It was so eye-opening to me.

 

In the following year, they had me come back at the beginning of the season in the open, regionals, and I just started building the stat databases and building upon what I’d done. I’ve been there ever since. This is my 10th year doing all the stat research for CrossFit.

David TaoDavid Tao

Would you consider yourself the foremost authority on official CrossFit Games statistics at this point?

Chad SchroederChad Schroeder

I would say so. After an official historian or on my title as the CrossFit lead of sports statistics. Yeah, you can probably call me that. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

Question. Have you watched the movie “Moneyball” because I can’t think of that movie without thinking of Chad at this point?

Chad SchroederChad Schroeder

No, I have not. Actually, I think maybe in our previous discussion you brought it up and I probably didn’t… I remember that was with the Oakland A’s and the stat or the general manager of stats.

David TaoDavid Tao

Yes, “Favorite Nutrition,” which is a little different. It was originally a book. I’m referencing the movie, I should probably reference the book.

 

There are stats folks in that movie, and getting to know you over the last year, I’ve been like, “Oh, well, he’s created this revolution for CrossFitters. He’s the first one to actually make this a thing in CrossFit.”

 

What is your role like these days? We met in person for the first time at the games this year in Madison, but your work is throughout the CrossFit Games season. Take us through that and what you’re actually doing for CrossFit these days.

Chad SchroederChad Schroeder

Sure. It’s pretty much what I started back in 2012, ’13. I just continued to build on the stat databases on my start in January, about a month or so before the open start, getting information together.

 

When the open comes, I help gather stats for the open announcement competitors, so the announcers have talking points and such and comparisons. I track the weekly results. Help the updates show, or how they haven’t…Like game central, it’s called now, help them with trends. “Oh, look at this person, this is a surprise,” so and so, and do that.

 

This season was new with the quarterfinals. I helped coverage with that, and then building stats and people to watch notable performances. Then into the semifinals, I helped put a research package together for all the media teams on site so they had talking points on the athletes, background stats. I did it for all the semifinals.

 

I used to do it for all the regionals in the past so help accumulate that media. Then the TV production graphics people are working off the same information. Then, come games time, I do the same. I just do it more in-depth. I do it for all the age divisions, the individual teams, age divisions, and then adaptive this year.

 

Obviously, individuals, I’ll get more in-depth with bios and past results. I’ve been doing that for the teams and the age divisions. Throughout the year, I’ll put all this information together for all the media sources, either the announcers, the floor reporters, the MCs on the field, Gainsight media, our social media, writers, and such.

 

I’ve written a couple articles as well throughout the year more of stats-driven on results and diving into the weeds on other interesting statistics. It’s a quick overview [laughs] of everything I do. It’s a lot, but yeah, it’s pretty rewarding and fun.

David TaoDavid Tao

We’ll get back to the conversation in just a moment. But first, a quick shout out to our episode’s sponsor, Athletic Greens. Athletic Greens is the daily all-in-one supplement with vitamins, minerals, probiotics, adaptogens, and more to help your body perform at the highest level.

 

It makes as easily, tastes delicious, and it is a personal favorite way for me to start the day. Yes, I actually am a repeat customer. Visit athleticgreens.com/barbend today to check it out. Now let’s get back to the conversation.

 

I think that a lot of people don’t necessarily realize and when I first got the strength sports coverage I didn’t necessarily realize this color commentators, announcers, people on the floor, we take for granted as audience members.

 

We think that a lot of this knowledge they just have stored in their head or they might just be coming up with a spontaneously. “Oh, this is actually this person’s seventh ever event when the CrossFit Games dating back to 2014,” blah, blah, blah. That stuff doesn’t always come off the dome.

 

Now sometimes it does. Sometimes you’ll have someone who will just know something, but it’s all researched and prepared ahead of time. In the CrossFit world, a lot of that research leads back to you, Chad. What do you try and keep in mind when you’re building or pulling stats, or interesting factoids for broadcast or you’re looking for particular categories of statistics, achievements or trends?

Chad SchroederChad Schroeder

I try to get everything because you never know what’s going to actually happen during the coverage.

 

Obviously, event wins is always the big thing and always have that tally ready to go. Because you’re always going to have an event winner and such, but I just try to get it all together and be prepared for whatever comes up, because you never really know how the games are going to unfold.

 

It comes into play really well near the end of the games when records are starting to be set, podiums and such, youngest person, oldest person, longest streaks. I always like to attract a streaks that’s always really significant give context to the performances we’re watching out there.

 

I got to give credit that our announcers are really good. They’ve been around a long time and a lot of them is as long as I have. A lot of them do have it on the top of their heads, but some of the more detailed miniscule ones are stuff that I’m helping to pull out and try to…get it to…

 

We tell them as events happening, event win so and so or they just moved into second place all the time and so and so category.

 

It’s just be prepared for whatever potentially could come up because when you’re broadcasting, you only have a finite moment to really get that information in there to be relevant because you can’t push-pause on the event.

 

I got to dig this up. OK, this is really cool to say, let’s say this because it moves on, the story goes. You have to have a ready at the moment otherwise it’s lost so…

David TaoDavid Tao

I’m going to ask you a series of just opinion questions as someone who’s been exposed to sport for a long time and seen a lot of it. What in your mind is the most impressive or one of the most impressive streaks in CrossFit Games history?

Chad SchroederChad Schroeder

That’s interesting. Most obvious ones right now, what’s on the forefront of most people’s mind are Matt and Tia with their five-win championship streaks. It’s just incredible how they’ve done it and it’s fortunate I think we’re going to see Tia go break Matt’s record for the most all time next year.

 

We pinned her down on it this year. “Hey, are you coming back?” and she said, “Absolutely.” We said, “That was good to hear. That’s an amazing streak.”

 

Also, I like following all the other streaks, like in Masters. People that follow Masters, know about Lynne Knapman out of Australia, has been to every Masters’ competition, so loving this year. That’s insane because the next closest is Ron Ortiz who’s been nine. [laughs] I think I got that right, nine.

 

Then after that, there’s a few that, I think a couple had eight and then seven, but that’s really hard for Masters because as we get older, we break down and we get injured and a lot of Masters will take a season off to heal up, or they wait till they aged up to the next age group when they have an advantage.

 

Those Masters streaks are some of the most impressive to sign. Lynne Knapman, I like to call her the Iron Woman of the Masters.

David TaoDavid Tao

That’s certainly and especially because every Masters qualification has changed. It’s had a lot of different iterations. To be consistent on that level for that long is certainly noteworthy. OK, another question.

 

This is just your personal opinion. Who do you think are some of the more underrated CrossFit athletes we’ve seen in the last few years?

Chad SchroederChad Schroeder

Oh, underrated. Shoot. Oh, man. It’s going to stop me here. Shoot, that’s hard to say. Yeah, I’m not going to come up with some great names, but I like the athletes that are able to keep making it back maybe overperform from their talents and such. This is embarrassing. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

No, it’s a tough question. It’s like saying I didn’t give you much more direction. I was in this wide field of thousands of athletes. Who do you think is a little bit underrated?

 

The thing is at the game’s level, all the athletes are really good. They’ve all won some accolades. Right? Who’s underrated of all these championship level folks? That’s a rough question I’m asking.

Chad SchroederChad Schroeder

Yeah. I jumped back. Yeah, because I did. We did cover them at the end here. [laughs] Unfortunately, at the end of their careers, I’m Scott Panchik and Kristin Holte, who obviously they just both retired this year. Scott was more of a public retirement and such.

 

I wouldn’t say he was underrated because he was always there, but he was just on the cusp. I definitely described him as the best CrossFit athlete to a number of podium, individual podium for sure.

 

There’s some others that did very close to that category, like Dan Bailey and such. There’s a couple others that were really close but yeah, Scott was just amazing. He did get a lot of attention, but not necessarily underrated, but close.

 

Kristin Holte was amazing athlete. She did podium 2019, but she was always just overshadowed by lot of the European women, Icelanders, and Australians for good reason. They were amazing, but she was just right behind them often. Those are probably two, I’d say, are the good ones right there.

David TaoDavid Tao

Someone who wants like it and I can’t take credit for this. They call Scott Panchik the Charles Barkley of CrossFit and that he was always the name like a perennial All Star but never won the championship, in this case championship being like a podium finish.

 

I haven’t run that by Scott. I’m not sure if he’d like the Charles Barkley comparison or not. That’s sometimes a divisive figure. You’re right. He got a few for…I forget what, two or three fourth-place finishes in a row or three or…

Chad SchroederChad Schroeder

Three, total. All of these finishes, except two, we’re in the top six. Then, he was 11th this year, and 11th and 17th, I think it was, or 18. The reason he was 11th this year is because he had that knee injury. That if it had not been that injury, I was leaning heavily for him the podium if not winning because I thought we had…

 

It was just a Greek tragedy [laughs] how he…He had the best opening ever had and second, he won the quarterfinals if you do the scores worldwide, he won that. Came in second at the MAC.

 

Then he just had that knee injury, and it’s like, “Oh,” because then he went to events on a hobble knee. It’s like, “What?” It’s funny. I was playing around with the numbers, and I think he could have the podium this year. I don’t know if he could have [inaudible 18:24] , but he would have been in the mix had it not been the injuries.

David TaoDavid Tao

Have you ever thought about starting like a Fantasy CrossFit League or something like that?

Chad SchroederChad Schroeder

There are people that are doing that. I’ve Fantasy Fitnessing, I think they’re called. They’ve got, at least an IG account, so I’d jumped on there. They’ve got different ways, but there’s so many ways to do it.

 

It’s funny you bring that up because yesterday is the first week of the NFL, and I was monitoring my football team, fantasy team, [laughs] and stuff. I was just thinking about how fun it would be to do for CrossFit and there’s so many different ways to do it.

 

It’s going to get maybe there in the future. I know other people are doing it informally, or they do have a rough system set up. It would be fun to dive into it, how the NFL has it set up.

David TaoDavid Tao

That anyone at the games surprise you this year, because going into the games, you have access to more data, than any one and you’re spending a lot of time with it.

 

You know how people have historically performed, whether they have long careers, or whether they’re relatively new, to anyone at the end of the week and Madison just stand out to you as someone who performed much better, than you might have been made, than you might have expected.

Chad SchroederChad Schroeder

 I would say, with Medeiros, I was surprised with that. I thought he would win or be right there in the mix with Vellner and such, but I wasn’t sure. I thought Vellner could maybe get him, but then again, I knew he’d be right there. The one who probably stood out the most was Annie.

 

I mean that, and I knew she was getting better through the seasons burger. That was just an amazing story coming from having given birth 10 months prior, not even a year, which isn’t an amazing feat to get back.

 

It seems like each level of competition she was just getting by or doing well but not at any level, but she was getting better in quarter-finals and then semi-finals.

 

I was like, “OK. That’s great.” When she gets to the games against all these top athletes she’ll…I was thinking maybe top 10, top 15 but to get there, that was a great moment. I was really impressed. That was probably the biggest surprise for me.

 

I liked seeing Horvath get back there, too. I really like her. I know her Achilles heel’s always been hands and push-ups but when she got there…I did have her a pie so I wasn’t quite surprised. I liked her come back for the season, for sure. I think those two were probably the biggest, or Annie probably the one with the biggest surprise, I would say.

David TaoDavid Tao

Is there any athlete who has retired in recent years who you miss seeing compete? Maybe from a personal level or the fact that they put up really interesting stats?

Chad SchroederChad Schroeder

Oh, shoot.

David TaoDavid Tao

 Matt Fraser is not a valid answer here. I’m going to take that one off the table, by the way.

Chad SchroederChad Schroeder

An easy one, of course, I know he’s not fully retired, is Rich Froning. That’s always the obvious. What would’ve happened, individual, everyone’s drawn-out that debate.

 

Oh, gosh. Shoot, I’m getting stumped again. I’d have to think of it. Probably it’ll come back to me, but there was some that…Val Voboril. I liked her a lot.

 

She was one of my favorites because of her story, and a full-time teacher, mom. Besides Annie who got on there, there was two women who were at the podium in 2009 that were moms. Val is the last one to do it. That was in ’13 when the competition started ramping up.

 

She came back fifth place after that. It’s really impressive. I always like seeing her compete because not a flashy athlete but consistent and nice person. The storyline too. I like storylines with people who got backgrounds and narratives.

David TaoDavid Tao

Fans are nothing if there aren’t stories behind that.

Chad SchroederChad Schroeder

Exactly.

David TaoDavid Tao

Let’s talk about you. You brought up Rich Froning so I got to ask. You’re the world’s foremost authority on CrossFit statistics. I like watching. Like, it was the last “Rocky” movie where he was inspired to fight again because they put him in a simulation against the current world champion to see who would win.

 

People are always doing this in sports and boxing especially. It’s like to put them in simulations against historic fighters.

 

Rich Froning, how would he do today as an individual? In his current age, he is in his mid-thirties now, how do you think he would stack up if he competed today, but in his prime?

Chad SchroederChad Schroeder

f he’d continue to train as he did as an individual and still at this age and was competing…His fitness is insane. Obviously, how he was in the open this year, fourth or something. Even at not competing in individual, he could be, I would say, in the podium next…

 

This year he would’ve given Vellner and Medeiros a run. That’s assuming he was never let up training as an individual because I’ve been so impressed with his longevity.

 

Speaking of that longevity with Lynne Knapman because her first games since 2010. Rich’s first games is 2010. He’s never missed. He’s always been…except 2020 which [laughs] COVID took that away from him.

 

He’s had his injuries through the years. A little nagging ones, but nothing to take him out. He’s fought through a lot of injuries. I’m thinking some knee issues and such. Maybe some minor surgeries.

 

He’s so impressive with this. How he’s been able to maintain that level of fitness for this long. As I went on about Lynne and how impressive that was just for Rich to do it. He’s this high level. He’s improved too in his weaknesses. Swimming, distance running and such where he didn’t have…

 

On team, swimming is important but it’s not as critical as individuals. He still made it an effort to go out there and be the best swimmer out there which is saying something that’s very impressive.

 

David TaoDavid Tao

 His weaknesses don’t stay weaknesses for long. Correct me if I’m wrong here, Rich Froning has made the podium every time he’s been to the CrossFit Games.

Chad SchroederChad Schroeder

Correct.

David TaoDavid Tao

Period. Right?

Chad SchroederChad Schroeder

It’s two seconds and the rest are all firsts. Four individuals, five team, an individual second, and a team second.

David TaoDavid Tao

That is remarkable. Besides 2020, when there was no team competition. That is such a remarkable streak. I hadn’t thought about his podium streak like that. It continued on from individual to team.

Chad SchroederChad Schroeder

Every team there was at least one different member each year. Every team…Maybe their second and third year. Each team was a little different. He had a different lineup. That’s another thing. Just shows how impressive that was.

David TaoDavid Tao

I’ve heard some stories of training with Rich as a team member, and having to get to his level is tougher for some people competing as team members than they ever had to train individually. At least as far as the mental components. Certainly someone who demands greatness and gets it from his teams. The proof is in the championships.

Chad SchroederChad Schroeder

Exactly. I’ve heard some of the stories. I’ve never been to Cookville, Mayhem Freedom the gym, or CrossFit Mayhem. It definitely breeds champions there. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

I have the distinction of having gone…The last time I was in Cookville was before Rich Froning could ever heard of CrossFit. I think the last time I was in Cookville, Tennessee was probably 2006.

Chad SchroederChad Schroeder

That’s right. You’re not too far away in Kentucky.

David TaoDavid Tao

I was in boarding school in Chattanooga, actually. We would compete in distance. Not in fitness. Not in football. Compete in Science Bowl.

Chad SchroederChad Schroeder

There you go.

David TaoDavid Tao

Just to outline what I was doing in high school for a lot of my time. Science Bowl competition. Little different then what they’re known for now.

Chad SchroederChad Schroeder

I was on the Trivia Bowl, or whatever it was called. The “Jeopardy” team. I understand. I was like that as well. [laughs]

David TaoDavid Tao

This podcast, scary number of times revolves on the conversations about weird scientific concepts. Like in this podcast last week, the last 10 minutes we just talked about dinosaurs. People are used to it.

Chad SchroederChad Schroeder

OK. Great.

David TaoDavid Tao

Chad, what are you most looking forward to in the upcoming season of the CrossFit Games?

Chad SchroederChad Schroeder

[laughs] Upcoming season? I’m glad to see Tia coming back. I guess it was mentioned earlier. That was great to see that she still wants to come back and compete. So that was thrilled. I’m happy to see that.

 

I’d like to see the evolution of the men’s field. See if Medeiros could come back and defend. How those Canadian guys are going to hang with them. They’re both good. I’ve heard Fikowski and Vellner, they’re all there. It’ll be interesting if they can make ground or Justin starts taking on the Fraser model.

 

I know he is getting mentored now by Fraser, so he’s given him all the tricks of the trades. Does Justin become the next one or…It’s going to be interesting to see because it’s always…Being the first one is always big but then coming back and defending in any sport. Be able to come back and defend. That’s going to be a bit fun to watch.

 

On the women’s side, Tia obviously, she comes back and competes. It’s foregone conclusion she’s going to win unless she’s injured or some freak thing happened. It’s insane, her level of athleticism.

 

It would be interesting to see if she makes the Australian bobsleigh team for the Olympics this year. I think that’s her goal because she was training last year, practicing for them.

 

I was telling a lot of people, I think that she’s now in conversation, one of the best female athletes ever of any sport, like Ed Dickerson or some of this other, Jackie Joyneer-Kersey, some of these other decathletes and such because it’s how she’s…

 

Is she comes in six straight CrossFit Games championships, two different Olympics in different sports — summer and winter — that would be amazing. I’m looking forward the off season to see how she does at that. Then if she comes back at the CrossFit.

 

Also maybe on the women’s side too, the youngsters. Mal O’Brien, obviously was amazing but overshadowed a bit by… [inaudible 30:27] had a great year too. I think it was 16th, 17th as a 17-year-old as well. Those two were phenomenal, just seeing what they come back next year and do.

 

There’ll probably be another… [laughs] Teenagers that I know were great this year too that maybe knocking on the door to get in. Those are probably the big things.

David TaoDavid Tao

 

It’s an exciting time, there’s changing of the guards but also the old guards still old guards.

 Chad, where’s the best place for people to follow on with you especially heading on next season?

Chad SchroederChad Schroeder

Sure. Probably the best place is my Instagram account, just cschroeder111, and Schroeder is S-C-H-R-O-E-D-E-R. I don’t post often. I usually post whenever I have a new article coming up with CrossFit, but that’s probably the best. It’s the account I checked the most on.

 

My articles will be on the game site as well occasionally so people can catch me there as well.

David TaoDavid Tao

Awesome. Chad, thanks so much for joining us. It’s a real pleasure getting to chat with you under any circumstance and just a treat to get to record with you. I appreciate it.

Chad SchroederChad Schroeder

 I appreciate David. It’s been a joy. Thanks very much.