Darren Coughlan is the owner of CrossFit Newcastle, Australia’s first CrossFit affiliate. Over the last six years, he has coached multiple athletes to the highest levels of the sport, including two individuals in 2016. This article was written after his experiences as a coach and spectator at the 2016 Reebok CrossFit Games.
Catching up with some people working at the CrossFit Games in the warm-up area, we got talking about the capacity of the athletes there. The main takeaway: For each and every one of the athletes, their ability to survive and thrive at various physical challenges as presented is very impressive indeed.
Basically nowhere else you could see this level and breadth of preparedness. No other sport places such broad demands on their athletes. It’s a big kudos to CrossFit that the Games feature the right athletes to get picked and represent their fitness on an international stage.
What do I mean by that? Well, CrossFit has developed a completely objective sport: the fastest person will win, simple. This is unlike some Olympic sports where subjectivity comes into the scoring. Growing up, I remember the running joke with Diving or Gymnastics was “so and so gets 10s, 10s, 10s and the Chinese judge gives 2” — I may be paraphrasing, but it’s impacted my perception of those sports, most certainly.
Not only does some scoring “variance” come into play at times, but also the athlete’s own country may take a political approach in its selection of athletes to send to the Olympics, or who runs in the sprint relay team, etc.
You will never see someone that doesn’t deserve to be at the Games out on the competition floor; the Open and Regionals do a great job of getting the right athletes — fittest as tested by CrossFit’s demands — at the Games.
A little side note: Ever notice people that don’t qualify for Regionals or the Games then commit themselves to “getting stronger” or a “lifting cycle?” I ask, “Why”? strength isn’t the reason they missed qualifying for the next step.
CrossFit also do a good job of addressing the needs of the athletes without going overboard. I believe that while this hasn’t always been the case, as time goes on, they are getting better.
Having sent athletes to the Games since 2011, this year was a definite improvement on my first experience as a coach. I get it, I’m a professional coach with athletes at the games, but me and other professional coaches get lumped in with the tag along partners, friends, and bag carriers that in the past made coaching at the Games difficult by their behaviour; today, I’m thankful there’s more limited access to athlete areas. That’s not to say all partners make themselves a problem, but it is a workplace, not a holiday, and everyone behind the scenes back there has a job to do.
The one area Olympic and other sports do a better job of, in my opinion, is the coach accreditation and access to athletes and facilities. Again: I get it, and over the years I’ve witnessed a few examples of less-than-stellar behaviour by some, and it makes all coaches seem like tag-alongs. Maybe HQ could and will introduce a more robust accreditation system in the future.
If you look at this most recent Olympics, Rio, reports of facilities and just about every other logistical factor are proving to not be up to “Olympic Standard”. I love the fact that the USA men’s and women’s basketball team are staying in a cruise ship and not the athlete’s village at Rio; brilliant thinking, and not the first time they’ve made that move. Here is an area where I think CrossFit do a great job by not trying to do it, and I truly believe letting the athletes cover their own accommodation, meals, etc. is a smart move. Obviously some financial help for logistics would be great, but all sports crave that.
To be completely objective in sport, the CrossFit Games are close as you can get. Just like track events, the winners are performing for everyone to see. Yes, there are some poor judging calls and inconsistent standards at times (this year’s ring handstand pushups comes to mind — actually anything on the rings proves a problem for judging in my opinion).
But that is sport, and that’s why CrossFit for me is the transition sport, or gateway sport between “Ball Sports” and track and field events.
Track and field have a physical task, like, sprint 100 meters or throw a javelin for distance; there is a field to perform that task in and a unit of measure, either a distance or a time. Extremely similar are CrossFit workouts/events. Then add in the “ball sport” factor of an on-field official, and you have the CrossFit Games.
Sometimes you get a great referee, sometimes a bad one. But how many times do you see that referee or judge cost a football team the game? There’s a saying in Australian Sports: “Take it out of the referee’s hands,” meaning if you aren’t adapting to what the referee wants, you don’t deserve to win the game.
Looking back at this year’s CrossFit Games, of course there was some questionable judging, but after being behind the scenes and watching all the events, the top 3 men and women for this year’s Games were definitely standing on the podium come Sunday afternoon.
Ultimately, CrossFit is an objective sport, and the best will win. For me, that’s what makes it better and fairer than most Olympic sports: The best get to compete.
Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.