No one runs a flawless competition. Accept that fact now, or step away. If you’re prepared for the 3 biggest competition challenges, you can minimize your stress during your planning process and on the big day.
Here’s a few tips for managing the 3 biggest competition challenges…
1. Judging quality
This is, hands down, the hardest thing to manage and also the most important of the biggest competition challenges. It will give you the most grief from your athletes and spectators. We see it all the way up to the CrossFit Games level. When you’re relying on volunteers, as is the case for most competitions, there is only so much you can do to control what happens on game day. We’re human, after all, and people make mistakes, even with the best intentions and preparations.
You can take the following steps to optimize your judging quality for your event:
- Make the event descriptions and rules clear. You can save yourself a lot of trouble from the get-go if you take a solid month on your event programming and run-through practices. Get as many trustworthy and unbiased eyes on your write-ups and videos before they are posted publicly. Think of the worst-case scenarios for misinterpretation (and, yes, cheating) so you preemptively address any concerns, questions, or confusions about the judging standards before they come up.
- Hold a formal judges meeting BEFORE the competition. If you have a large number of out-of-town judges coming to volunteer, this is best done the night before the competition begins. If the majority of your volunteers are nearby, have a judges meeting up to a week before your event, with a refresher the night before the competition. Bonus: requiring all judges to complete the CrossFit Judges Course can help establish credibility for your judging staff.
- Create a “judging and scoring dispute” policy. Include this in your waiver and consent form at registration so athletes must agree to it before participating. Reiterate it on your website and in your event descriptions and/or standards videos. Remind athletes before their heat begins in the event briefing.
2. Registration changes
No matter how early of registration deadline you set or how strict you make your policies, your participants will request changes and other registration accommodations precisely at the moment when your hands are full with other important aspects of the event. As a rule, the more athletes per registration (i.e., teams of 4 as opposed to individual athletes), the more complicated the registration process can be, so keep that in mind when planning what kind of competition you want to run.
Here are some tips to helping you manage last-minute registration changes and keep things running along smoothly leading up to your event:
- Make your policies clear and stick to them in most cases. There will always be people who don’t follow the rules (or, better yet, think the rules don’t apply to them). Keep your cool and remember that it’s not your job to make everyone happy. If you decide to make an exception for someone, make it clear that you appreciate their discretion.
- Have a dedicated person to manage registrations. It’s such a big task to keep dozens (or in some cases, hundreds!) of people’s registration information clear. One advantage to using the Throwdowns.com platform is that registration is seamlessly integrated with your scoring system, which save you a lot of time when you have to update, change, or substitute athlete’s information.
- Order extra t-shirts in various sizes so you can make last-minute exchanges. You can always sell the left-overs if you have more on hand, or give them away as door prizes for spectators (T-shirt gun, anyone?).
3. Sticking to schedule
No one wants a competition to run late. But with so many moving parts, one of the biggest competition challenges is to ensure that doesn’t happen. The most important thing you can do is to give yourself twice as much time as you think you need to get things set-up before the competition even begins. The more time you allot, the better. If all the pieces are in place, it makes it easier to keep your competition running according to schedule.
Use these tips to help your competition stay on time:
- Plan transition time and breaks into your heat schedules. You will need a minimum of 2 minutes between heats to keep things humming along. This can feel tight, but anything longer can feel like things are dragging on. Aim for 3-4 minutes between heats, with longer breaks (10-15 minutes) at least every 2 hours to give your judges and volunteers much-needed rest time.
- Use a master clock and set it to run on an interval timer. Have a dedicated computer or tablet (with it’s own reliable power source!) that. If you have the technological capacity to make this clock visible to the athletes and crowd, even better. Otherwise, don’t bother with running two clocks — the only one that matters is the master clock that your announcer will use to start and stop the heats.
- Have extra volunteers on hand. Often, events get behind schedule because someone important isn’t where they were supposed to be at the time they were supposed to be there. If you secure 3-5 extra volunteers as dedicated “floaters” who can fill in for unexpected gaps, you can prevent delays and hiccups on the schedule.
Preparation is key in planning a successful competition. Plan for these 3 biggest competition challenges ahead of time to run the best competition for your CrossFit community.
If you’re looking to take an established event to the next level, you need to do more than run a great competition. You need to think about building a brand. One tool that you can use to help build your competition brand is social media.
An important rule: social media is not an end unto itself. At best, it’s one metric that you can use to gauge the success of your brand as a whole. The true purpose of social media is to drive people to action. For a fitness competition, this means a few main things: getting athletes to register; encouraging their friends and family to come support them; and recruiting sponsors who want to reach all of those people in one place.
Here are 3 guidelines for a successful social media strategy that you can use to build your competition brand:
1. Be clear and concise
Social media is built for short attention spans. You have to make your point obvious immediately. Posts need to have a single, focused message that catches your eye as you scroll. “Less is more” should be your mantra. Think about the Twitter platform and its 140 character limit — there’s no room for excess.
2. Tell a story
People care about people. They relate to stories because they like to see themselves in them. The stories you tell in your social media posts should inspire people to be apart of what your competition stands for. By connecting with your audience through stories, they will want to connect with you.
3. Engage first
Once people want to connect with your brand, you must give them the opportunity. It needs to be simple for them to take action. The best way to engage people online is with links. Every post you make needs to have a “next step” link that will engage your audience further. This doesn’t have a be a “sale” — think of it as continuing a conversation by offering something else to your athletes.
No brainer: the revenue you generate from athlete registrations must cover all the costs of hosting your competition. The best way to arrive at this fee is to work backwards. This process will help you build an organizational framework you can use to plan your next fitness competition. Read on to learn more about this basic budgeting checklist and template.
Here’s a basic list to get you started on estimating your expenses for your competition. These are all items to consider, but by no means are they all necessary. Every competition will be different, so use this list as a starting point.
- Venue – rental fees, licenses, permits, shade structures, tables, chairs
- Equipment & supplies – stopwatches, clipboards, photocopies, pens, extension cords
- Insurance – coverage specific to your competition
- Safety – emergency medical services, first aid supplies
- Sanitation – portable toilets, trash cans
- Software – registration system and digital scoring/leaderboard
- Personnel – security, paid staff, professional MC/DJ
- Marketing – website maintenance, advertising, videography/photography
- T-shirts – for athletes and volunteers, extra shirts for spectator purchase
- Prizes & swag – cash purse, swag bags, trophies
Next, you have to determine the size of your competition by estimating how many participants you will have. There are two factors that affect this: how many athletes you can expect to register and how many athletes your venue can reasonably accommodate. Start with some market research to see what other local competitions have done to get a starting point. You want to have an idea of both a lower limit (the least amount of people you need) and an upper limit (a registration cap).
Finally, math: take your total expenses and divide by the number of athletes to get your registration price per person. Consider this value a minimum. It’s best to include some cushion in case you have extra expenses.
As an example: your estimated expenses total $3000 and the average in your area is about 50 athletes per weekend competition. Take $3000 and divide by 50 to arrive at $60 per person to register. If you raise that price to $70 per person (as long as that is also in line with the local average), then you have an extra $500 that can help cover additional costs.
From this basic budgeting framework, you now know many of the factors you need to consider when planning a successful competition. You have estimated your major expenses, you have an idea of the size of your competitive field, and you have a projection for your gross revenue. You can adjust these variables depending on your goals.
The top priority for any event in the CrossFit community needs to be competition safety. No matter what your goals for your competition are, having someone get hurt is the absolutely last thing anyone wants to deal with. The best defense here is offense: the more prepared you are for the worst-case scenario, the safer your event will be.
Here are 5 considerations to maximize your competition safety:
1. Emergency medical services
Hosting a competition is different than your day-to-day classes and training at your box. In some sense, you have to look at the competition itself as a separate business entirely. As such, there are different standards for a competition. While your emergency plan for your box is to call 911 in the event of a serious situation, the additional variables of a competition necessitate more direct access to critical care. Yes, this can be a very expensive factor in your budget and yes, it’s completely necessary. There’s no price you wouldn’t pay if it means saving a life.
2. First aid
For non-emergency situations, you will need to have first aid supplies for common injuries like ripped hands and banged-up shins. Depending on the laws in your area, you may only be able to provide your athletes access to these supplies and will not be allowed to “administer” care. Make sure to include other items like water and sunscreen that can be helpful for athletes, spectators, and volunteers. If possible, you can staff a medical professional at your first aid area who can determine if more serious medical care should be given and then refer out.
Think about that one guy in your box who is outrageously hyper-competitive with absolutely terrible form who doesn’t ever listen to his coaches. Now imagine 100 of those guys and they’re all at your competition. When you’re programming your events, plan to manage this possibility. Use your best judgement when it comes to choosing the movements and loads for the workouts, knowing that certain movements (overhead lifts, heavy pulls from the ground, etc.) are higher risk for athletes with poor mobility and body control.
4. Logistical design
Not only is stubborn-competitive-sloppy guy a danger to himself, but he can be a danger to other people as well. You need to plan out a buffer zone around athletes to ensure they and their equipment don’t interfere with the next lane over. Spectators need to maintain a safe distance as well. It’s a good idea to have a designated volunteer whose sole job is to make sure that no one is in harm’s way.
Crowds can be unpredictable. You need to be able to manage traffic flow at your competition. If you are inside, there should be clear paths and signs towards the emergency exits. For outdoor events, your biggest concern is traffic where you don’t want it. Invest in flags, rope, or barricades and make it clear to your crowd with large signs where they are and are not permitted to be.
There are multiple types of competitions for CrossFit athletes. It may be tempting to want to “do it all” and include a little something for everyone, but we encourage you to consider otherwise. Creating a more specialized event gives you the opportunity to focus on quality over quantity. It makes your event more memorable and stand out from the sea of other competitions.
You’ll need to answer these questions to help you decide how you want to design your competition: who, how, and why? First, how many people are competing together? Next, what skill levels (and age categories) do you want to include? Finally, what’s the main focus of your event?
From a logistical point of view, you can have following the types of competitions for different athlete groups:
- Individual competition: Athletes go head-to-head with each other. This is perhaps the easiest type of set-up to manage from an organization point of view. However, it is not as profitable as having more athletes compete in the same number of spots.
- Partner competition: Teams of 2 athletes is one way to get more people involved in competing that takes the pressure off of each person and can allow them to have more fun.
- Same sex: It’s easier from a programming and equipment point of view to have same sex partner teams. It also addresses the gender disparity inherent to competitive athletics.
- Co-ed: While a little more difficult to manage operationally, coed teams give the opportunity for opposite sex couples, family members, and friends to compete together, which can be a crowd-pleaser.
- Team competition: Here’s where you can get really creative! There are lots of possibilities for teammate combinations. Just remember, the more people who compete under the same team, the greater the likelihood of last-minute registration changes.
Skill levels, also commonly referred to as “divisions”, can also be a factor when designing your event:
- Firebreather/Beastmode: This is the smallest division, but also the one with the most complexity. These athletes are more inclined towards higher level competition, but there are two kinds of semi-elite athletes. There are the ones who will compete at every given opportunity, and then there are the ones who instead are very selective about the events they sign up for.
- Rx: This is your bread and butter for most competitions. These athletes are looking to see how they stack up against others and/or are seriously looking to win. This is where most of your creative energy should go. Design a worthy competition that will leave these athletes feeling tested, satisfied, and eager to come back again.
- Scaled: There are a greater number of athletes looking to have fun. We encourage you to think of a scaled division like a 5K race. The majority of people who run are either looking to set a goal and meet it by finishing, or who want to do improve on their past performance. As such, the emphasis should not be on being competitive with the rest of the field.
Competitions also can include separate categories for different age groups. It’s easy to get carried away with youth and masters groups. We suggest either having very broad categories if you wish to include these athletes in a general competition. Alternatively, you can plan youth-only or masters-only events, which can allow you to have more narrowly defined age groups.
Finally, before you get too caught up in the details of “who” and “how”, consider “why”. Decide on one thing you want to focus on for your competition. This will help you to create not just an event, but a brand. This brand can stand alone, or it can help boost the existing brand of your box. What do you want your competition to stand for? How do you want your event to fit within your CrossFit community? Why will your athletes remember your competition? Answering these questions will give you clarity and focus that can take your event to the next level.