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You’ve been there: a local CrossFit affiliate’s first competition. Complete with late and confusing heat schedules, glaring judging inconsistencies, and general logistical chaos. You never want to have to endure such a nightmare again. You know that this is not the way competitions should be run. You know you could do better. Congratulations — you’ve got the competition planning bug. And if you’re reading this, you’re way ahead of the game when it comes to hosting your own event. Get started on the right foot with these best practices for producing a professional competition that will leave your athletes happy.

Here are a few best practices for planning your competition…

1. Schedule a considerate date.

People are busy. Check with other local CrossFit affiliates to make sure that any competitions they might have in the wing will not conflict with your event’s planned date. This includes not only functional fitness competitions, but things like weightlifting or powerlifting meets, Strongman competitions. Also ask about CrossFit Level 1 or specialty seminars, charity fundraisers, and in-house challenges. Think regionally and nationally, also — many of your athletes will want to plan their annual “season” around the CrossFit Open and possibly Regionals and the Games, also. Your competition planning has to fit within the bigger picture.

2. Plan ahead. Way ahead.

You need to give yourself, at minimum, 3 months to plan a high-quality event. We advise 6 months lead-time. The more time you give yourself to prepare, the better chances you have at securing a date that won’t conflict with other events (see number 1). Getting the word out early allows your athletes to prioritize your competition and be able to train properly for it. Of course, planning ahead also gives you the advantage spending more time on the small details that make a big difference. One of the most important factors of taking your competition planning to the next level is sponsors. They need as much time as possible to prepare for donating prizes, being a vendor, or supporting your competition in other ways. Many companies receive a high number of requests for sponsorship. Give yourself an edge by contacting sponsors with as much advanced notice as possible.

3. Put safety first.

As the sport of fitness becomes more popular and a greater number of CrossFitters decide to test themselves in competition, we’re seeing a broader demographic of athletes compete. That means athletes who are both older and younger than the middle of the bell curve. As we age, there’s a higher incidence of health risks and an increased chance of those risks becoming serious and, yes, potentially fatal. Younger athletes, on the other hand, may not be old enough to have been diagnosed with medical conditions that could appear for the first time in the middle of your event number 3. We are also seeing an increase in adaptive and other special populations athletes compete. These athletes who require a higher level of medical care than a standard First Aid certification can equip you with. Make it a priority in your competition planning budget to pay for EMS. A mistake here could be life-changing.

4. Think of the spectators. (Bonus: and vendors!)

One of the best aspects of competition is how it brings the CrossFit community together to support and encourage each other. There’s something about the roar of the crowd that amps up your adrenaline and gives you the push you need to achieve a competition PR. As an event planner, you want to maximize that effect by designing your competition with the spectators in mind. An example: the CrossFit Games has evolved beautifully over the years. They’ve smartly designed the WODs to progress down the field of competition so it’s easy to see who’s ahead. Your spectators should be your first priority when picking a venue and programming your events during the competition planning process.

Bonus: Vendors want in on the action, too! They want to be where the crowd is focusing their attention. This means very close to the competition field or arena, or alternatively, next to the athlete village. The more exposure you give your vendors, the more likely they will be to support your even in the future, which makes for a better experience for everyone involved.

5. Set your competition apart.

What is going to make your competition memorable? It’s a mistake here to think this must mean “unique,” although it certainly can. CrossFitters like novelty, that’s for certain — being the first of any particular type of event is one way to spark interest. But we challenge you to think beyond that. If you truly want to take your competition to the next level, spend a lot of energy on this aspect. You want more than a competition; you want a brand. The most successful brands stand for something. They represent a concept, they imprint their audience with a lasting impression. You can reverse-engineer here. Decide what it is that you want your athletes to think of when your competition is mentioned, then work backwards to design a competition around that experience.

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