Competition Programming: Part One – Guiding Rules

Competition Programming: Part One - Guiding Rules

 

The best thing about a functional fitness event is that the possibilities for your competition programming are nearly limitless. The most challenging thing about competition programming is… that your possibilities are nearly limitless. This post is the first of a 3-part series that will help you make good decisions about programming for your competition. With so many choices to consider, where do you even start? Here are 3 guiding rules to help you program for your next event.

 

1. Put safety first

Competition makes people fierce. Unfortunately, that means a lot of good judgement goes out the window in the heat of the moment. It’s your responsibility as an event planner to always keep that on the forefront of your mind when you’re designing a competition. As such, safety is your most important consideration. We strongly encourage you to think about worst case scenarios here and do everything in your power to minimize the risks involved. You’ll never be able to eliminate them entirely, of course, but you need to err on the side of caution when designing your workouts.

 

2. Play to the crowd

One of the most important questions you should ask yourself when programming your workouts is, “Will the crowd want to watch this?” (Hint: softball throws are not terribly exciting.) The most successful events are ones that are both athlete and spectator-friendly. This is something the Grid League has done exceptionally well with their fast-paced races and competition layout that allows the participants as well as the audience easily see who’s winning the event. You’ll have to spend some energy thinking about your venue here, as well, to make sure your programming complements the space you have to work with.

 

3. Remember your purpose

Every competition needs to have a specific focus. You need to stay true to your brand by committing to the purpose of your event. If you want to truly hold a fitness competition in the spirit of the sport of CrossFit, you’ll need to make sure that your workouts as a whole are an accurate assessment of the 10 domains of fitnessHowever, events like fundraisers may instead have a theme that’s biased towards particular domains (example: a lift-a-thon to raise money for a cause would focus on power- or weightlifting). It’s easy to get carried away when you those limitless possibilities, but narrowing your scope around your competition’s purpose will help your event be memorable and successful.


Keep an eye out for the next two posts in the Throwdowns.com complete series on competition programing.

You might also be interested in our post about How to Maximize Competition Scoring.

5K Races, Virtual Competitions, and More

5K Races, Virtual Competitions, and More

 

Our fully-integrated registration and scoring system has been optimized for running elite fitness competitions for CrossFit athletes, but that’s not all we can handle. You can just as easily use it to organize 5k races, virtual competitions like online qualifiers, and much more! Here are a few “outside the box” ideas for how you can use our registration and leaderboard software.

1. 5K races, fun runs, obstacle courses, etc.

Road races, as well as adventure and obstacles runs, can be easy to organize and produce and are a logical choice if you want to expand your competition scope. Our registration system provides all sorts of amazing bells and whistles that allow you to provide a streamlined and easily customizable registration experience, capture payments on mobile devices, offer coupon codes, and more. In terms of leaderboards, you just configure divisions as usual and plug in scores for each athlete that completes the race. It’s instant gratification for athletes and a trivial amount of work for organizers of the race.

2. Virtual competitions

Who says your participants have to be in the same place at the same time? With our capacity that allows athletes to submit their own score and link to a video of their workout, you can hold a virtual competition similar to the CrossFit Open. This gives you far more flexibility for programming, the ability for more athletes to register, and the opportunity to expand to a larger geographic area. A virtual event also serves as a method to hold a qualifier for your live competition, should you wish to cater to more higher-level athletes.

Keep in mind that you will still need to review and validate all those videos, to maintain a standard of quality for your event. Given the time-intensive nature of this task, we recommend planning to spread out the workouts over at least several days, if not weeks. Depending on the size of your competition, you might even want to consider having 2 deadlines for submitting scores. The first, early deadline gives participants the opportunity to re-submit their score if standards were not met. The second and final deadline, however, will not afford that benefit.

3. Wellness challenges

Many affiliates have some version of a nutrition or lifestyle challenge they host during the year that helps their members set goals and stay accountable to them. Throwdowns.com allows you to easily manage registration and a point system that takes the hassle out of running a challenge like this. It also gives your event a professional and polished look, which encourages your members to take their commitment seriously.

Of course, just as we mentioned previously, you won’t be limited by geography for your wellness challenges. Friends and family members from all over the world can join in with your affiliate members during a challenge. This is a fantastic opportunity for community-building on a big scale. You can easily share your challenge leaderboard online to have real-time accountability for everyone involved, no matter where they are. 

4. Retention programs

Thinking of new and innovative ways to engage and retain your box members? You can use our software to run a rewards program that’s fun and different than what people are used to seeing. For example, let’s say you want to boost attendance at your affiliate during a slow month. You can reward members with “points” for attendance during a designated time frame, then award prizes at the end to anyone who came above a certain threshold goal that you designate. Our method of data entry is intuitive, simple, and easy to use, so you have a lot of flexibility in deciding how to set up something like a rewards program. This is truly a chance to be creative — the possibilities are endless!

How to Maximize Competition Scoring

How to Maximize Competition Scoring

 

You want to give your competitors the best opportunity to prove their abilities, but there’s only so much time in a day (or weekend). In order to truly test fitness, you’ll need a variety of time domains and tasks to deliver an experience that’s worthy of your athletes. One secret for giving your participants more bang for their competition buck is to dually score your workouts. The more scores you can use to rank your athletes, the more value you can provide for their experience at your event.

 

There are 3 ways you can do maximize your competition scoring:

 

1. Each event has 2 back-to-back components.

This saves you time in planning the flow of the schedule. Every time you can eliminate transitions or extra heats, you’re optimizing the experience not only for your athletes, but for your spectators as well. It’s an added test to have to switch tasks with different elements, which makes it more exciting. We’ve seen this strategy a lot at the CrossFit Regionals and Games levels for good reason. It’s both an athletic challenge and a crowd-pleaser.

Example: 1 mile run for time immediately into AMRAP of 3-6-9-12-etc. reps of power cleans and over-the-bar burpees to a 12 min time-cap, scored 2 ways: mile time and total reps completed for the AMRAP.

 

2. Combine an AMRAP with a portion “for time.”

Most athletes think “pacing” when they’re faced with an AMRAP. They decide what their goal is for total rounds, then they determine how that breaks down to time per round and try to keep that pace. By making a portion of the workout “for time,” you force athletes out of that pacing comfort zone because they have to push to get the fastest time possible first, then try to hang on for the rest of the workout. It’s brutal, but can be a game-changer for your competition.

Example: 10 min AMRAP “Cindy Plus”: 5 muscle-ups, 10 handstand push-ups, 15 front squats, scored 2 ways: time to complete the first 2 rounds and total reps completed for entire AMRAP.

 

3. Use bodyweight as a scoring factor.

This is a hot button issue for some CrossFit athletes, so be prepared to defend this decision should you go with it. Adding a bodyweight component to your competition pays homage to the strength sports that CrossFit includes within its scope, such as Olympic weightlifting. Of course, this does require weigh-ins, which can be performed at heat check-ins.

Example: 1-rep max snatch, scored 2 ways: total weight lifted and total percentage of bodyweight lifted.

 

Bonus!

Read some classic Glassman to get more ideas for how to creatively design and score your next competition’s events.

The 3 Biggest Competition Challenges

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.

Social Media for Fitness Competitions

Social Media For Fitness Competitions: 3 Guidelines for Success

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.

Social Media for Fitness Competitions Graphic

Basic Budgeting for Fitness Competitions

Basic Budgeting for Fitness Competitions

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.

Expenses checklist

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.

  1. Venue – rental fees, licenses, permits, shade structures, tables, chairs
  2. Equipment & supplies – stopwatches, clipboards, photocopies, pens, extension cords
  3. Insurance – coverage specific to your competition
  4. Safety – emergency medical services, first aid supplies
  5. Sanitation – portable toilets, trash cans
  6. Software – registration system and digital scoring/leaderboard
  7. Personnel – security, paid staff, professional MC/DJ
  8. Marketing – website maintenance, advertising, videography/photography
  9. T-shirts – for athletes and volunteers, extra shirts for spectator purchase
  10. Prizes & swag – cash purse, swag bags, trophies

Participant estimation

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).

Basic budgeting

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.

Budget template

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.

 

Basic Budgeting for Fitness Competitions