New owner and CEO of CrossFit Eric Roza and Director of Training Nicole Carroll took to YouTube today to hold the first official CrossFit community town hall. Similar town halls are set to take place each quarter to serve as an opportunity to discuss CrossFit’s future plans and take questions from the community. This first town hall covered a wide array of topics that touched on both the practical and aspirational side of the business as well as the challenges they expect to face moving forward.
The topics discussed were:
- The internationalization of CrossFit
- CrossFit’s overarching vision
- Schedule for the CrossFit Open
- Best practices for affiliates’ handling of COVID-19 and their corresponding restrictions
- Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)
- Potential future changes to the affiliate model
- Professional opportunities for CrossFit athletes
You can watch the entire town hall via the CrossFit® YouTube channel below:
Note: it starts at 3:50.
The CrossFit Community
Carroll asked the first question to the soon to be 53-year-old Roza about what was the most surprising thing to learn about the CrossFit community. Roza expressed his understanding that many different people get different things from CrossFit.
We really want to be thoughtful about what CrossFit can be because I believe we can serve this big tent of passionate people.
The first community question was from an affiliate owner from England who wanted to know how Roza planned to address “the feeling that there is the USA and then the rest of the world”.
Roza began by sharing that he is a dual citizen of both the USA and France — after spending 4 years of his upbringing there — and has traveled to over 55 countries.
I try to think in global prospective. You’re going to see a big internationalization of CrossFit.
Efforts are being put in place to cement a larger focus on affiliates abroad. An initial sign of this was the effort to apply closed captioning in seven different languages of this town hall.
We want to meet people where they are culturally. If we are successful…five or ten years from now, 80-90% of CrossFit gyms are going to be outside the US.
A General Manager of International has already been hired, whose job is to focus on countries outside the US. Roza reiterated multiple times during this town hall that he is building a team that can help keep him accountable for the pressing issues that CrossFit affiliates and the community at-large expect to see significant changes on.
Roza has touched on his vision for CrossFit in a previous interview moderated by Dave Castro via Zoom before the acquisition of the company was official. Since then, it was apparent that Roza had a more refined mission statement:
The world’s leading platform for health, happiness, and performance.
Their focus is on reinforcing the commitment to affiliates outside the US. Roza further explained why he chose the words he did for the mission statement:
- “Health” was defined as being free of pain with better longevity.
- “Performance” means being able to do the things that are important for an individual and getting better at it over time.
He was considering the word “force” over “platform”, but chose the latter because “people build shit on top of CrossFit.” Companies from different industries such as food, apparel, software, event operations, and more have an investment in CrossFit’s success. Roza made clear that that is reciprocal.
We at CrossFit are invested in your success. We see ourselves as a platform business.
Roza announced the Open will be in February and March and will lead cohesively to The CrossFit Games. Dates for the 2021 CrossFit Games were not announced, but Roza did say they will be later in the year. The reason being that the later the date, the better they can maximize the opportunities for athletes to qualify.
The new CEO did state a participatory goal for 2021 of half a million CrossFitters worldwide.
Regionals vs. Sanctionals
Unlike the overwhelming majority of feedback Roza received about the community wanting the Open to be in February, the desire for Regionals or Sanctionals “was split”. Roza said that CrossFit is in favor of doing a grab bag of sanctioned events with partners as it is “more in the spirit of CrossFit.”
Roza said there is a lot in the works, but that CrossFit will lean more on the model of sanctioned events.
Roza highlighted the “big distinction” between small group instructor led fitness classes versus a big box gym. He feels that there is a way to hold these kinds of classes with minimal to no sharing of equipment and well ventilated rooms. Roza was not shy about discussing the upcoming challenges they will face over the next year, at least, regarding how to handle COVID-19, and has already reflected his seriousness of that issue in the hiring process:
We’re working with an incredible infectious disease expert. We’ve also hired CrossFit’s first Chief Analytics and Research Officer.
CrossFit will be working with affiliates to gather data about how infectious CrossFit gyms are and to respond accordingly. Roza went on to discuss an article in The Atlantic that covered Harvard epidemiologist Michael Mina’s beliefs that the US could (and should have) had the population self-administer daily COVID-19 tests that show results in 15 minutes at the cost of $1 per test.
Roza said that the downside was that the test only has a 50% accuracy rate, but when done daily the accuracy would go up. Roza admits it is controversial, but believes it to be better than the current alternative of taking a test and waiting for several days to get a result.
Roza’s excitement for daily tests as a potential solution to help contain the spread of the virus was enough that he would subsidize others ability to use them.
What I would do with CrossFit, is pre-commit to seven figures in spend of these things.
Affilates who would want to participate would then have a potential means to speed up the process of reopening their gyms. Roza is prepared to obtain the help of lobbyists to ease government restrictions on gym closures.
How will CrossFit help affiliates negatively affected by COVID?
Roza tackled this question by discussing how CrossFit plans to help on two fronts: funding and sharing of best practices.
The board of directors is currently working on establishing a COVID-19 RX fund with the goal of helping gyms who have had to deal with closures due to the pandemic. Although “still working through the contours”, Roza said that that fund would likely be set up and able to help gyms within the next two months.
Independent of funding, Roza announced that CrossFit will be holding a webinar at the end of September that will include an interview with their infectious disease expert Nadia (no last name given yet) to discuss best practices for how gyms can safely reopen. CrossFit will also publish those best practices for affiliates.
We have to assume from a public health standpoint that it is highly likely COVID will be a part of our lives 12 months from now. I urge everyone…don’t succumb to magical thinking. Get informed and…figure out how you’re going to get a win out of this.
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Racism and sexism are absolutely abhorrent…and there’s zero place for them in CrossFit.
Roza addressed that he plans for CrossFit to affirmatively reach out and do everything they can for the benefit of DEI. Part of that involves challenging unconscious biases. Again, Roza has reflected the seriousness of this issue in the hiring process. Trish Gerlitz will serve as the Head of Culture and Inclusion in CrossFit and will report directly to Roza so that he can be held accountable.
In addition, CrossFit is forming a council on DEI and how to make sure that it is baked into their decision making. Roza also recognized that DEI needs to be intrinsic to the workforce at HQ. Surrounding himself with women and persons of color is top of mind for Roza in the hiring process so that individuals who would take up CrossFit can see role models in leadership.
Carroll then shared an email that CrossFit has set up that anyone can email to offer feedback about DEI — firstname.lastname@example.org
Roza cited that the three main reasons underserved communities have not been able to take advantage of CrossFit are:
- Availability of gyms
- Accessibility for athletes who aren’t already fit
- Cost of doing CrossFit
In terms of accessibility, Roza stated that part of that is in the way CrossFit coaches are educated to teach. Better preparing coaches on how to properly handle various co-morbidities in beginner CrossFit athletes can hopefully help alleviate that issue.
While discussing the other two reasons, Roza expanded on the The CrossFit Foundation — a nonprofit within CrossFit — that will have a starting endowment of $7 million. It will focus on public health and underserved communities with the goal of building boxes in those communities that are sustainable over time. A search for an Executive Director of the foundation will begin soon.
First things first, Roza said that they will continue to honor affiliates individuality and entrepreneurial spirit as that was a big draw for him when he opened CrossFit Sanitas 8 years ago. Roza plans for CrossFit to build software that can help affiliates implement best practices to expand membership and retain those members.
What if we helped you be a better leader within CrossFit?
What about gyms that de-affiliated?
Roza wants to learn from those who de-affiliated so that he can find paths to provide more value to them, earn back their trust, and help them come back if they’d like to. They are always accepting of informal input but they will also be sending surveys to affiliates for formal feedback.
We are going to adjust affiliate fees based on a country’s economy.
Roza committed to announcing what this adjustment will look by their next town hall saying that they are “very far down the road on this.” The main feature he discussed was the idea of “how many members does it cost to pay an affiliate fee?” Roza said to expect action on this in the near future.
There aren’t enough athletes who can make a living in CrossFit right now.
Roza’s 10 year plan for competitive CrossFit is to have the sport achieve a billion viewers worldwide as a way to expand the avenues by which athletes could monetize being a professional in CrossFit. He specifically mentioned sponsorships, prize money, licensing deals, and leveraging celebrity.
CrossFit can be one of the most highly viewed sports and one of the most participatory sports on the planet.
CrossFit has formed the first ever athlete advisory council consisting of 4 former CrossFit Games athletes to help plan the future of the sport. Roza chose not mention who those members are yet but will announce them “in days”.
Roza and Carroll dove quite deep in this town hall to cover a lot of ground on issues that were of high concern for the community. Expect similar deep dives like these in the future as these town halls will occur on a quarterly basis.
Feature image from CrossFit’s YouTube channel.