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Competitive Programs: An Investment, a Revenue Generator, or a Cost?

Posted by: Emily Beers

How do you handle elite CrossFit athletes at your box? Do you allow self-programming? Do your top athletes train together in a group during specific time slots? What do you charge them for a competitors program? Do you even charge them for a competitors program? What do you charge them for individual programming? Do you treat your elite athletes like heroes? Do you consider them an investment for your business? Do you make considerable revenue off their service, or do elite athletes cost you time and money?

The opinions on this topic are as diverse as the movements of CrossFit. In this series, I will look at different philosophies and ways different affiliates deal with competitive athletes, but I’m debuting this series with my perspective as both an competitive athlete and a coach. Here goes:

Part 1: Make Them Pay!

Being a competitive athlete can be challenging on your wallet. When all is said and done, when you consider a gym fee, a personal coach (sometimes two), the odd massage and Vitamin B treatment, competition entry fees and travel expenses, and other paraphernalia like fish oil and pre and post-workout beverages, I spend approximately $800 to $1,000 a month in training expenses (and this doesn’t include the food I eat).

Would it make my life easier if some altruistic person or business helped support me financially on my very personal, and arguably selfish, quest to become more fit? Of course it would be fabulous to have a sponsor cover my costs. Of course it would be amazing if I had time to be a full-time athlete. However, what I do not expect—nor would I even want—is for the affiliate where I train to subsidize my training, let alone for my coach to turn himself into a volunteer and offer me free programming and coaching.

I’m not an affiliate owner, but I know it’s not an easy endeavour to run a successful business. Not only is there a ton of risk involved in being a business owner, but I have noticed that affiliate owners are often the most generous people I know— sometimes to a fault. Because they’re so passionate about coaching and helping their athletes, they sometimes devalue their own services, strike deals with athletes, and even offer services like individualized programming and one-on-one coaching to their top athletes for free. Suddenly they find themselves working 10-12 hours a day.

I’ve gotten into multiple arguments with athletes from my gym who would like to see additional programming and our competitive athletes program to be included in their monthly membership fee. It makes me a little angry for a few reasons.

One: I believe this attitude divides the larger community. It’s almost like saying you’re worth more than the lifestyle athlete who shows up twice a week. I actually think the “Average Jo” is more valuable to the business. Usually this person is in the midst of a massive life change. Sports and fitness doesn’t come naturally to this person, and just showing up is an accomplishment to be rewarded. The “Average Jo" is a hell of a lot more courageous than the competitive athlete who has been doing high-level sports his whole life. In other words, the difference fitness will make in this person's life is far greater than taking a stud athlete from the 90th percentile to the 95th percentile. In my world, the "Average Jo" is equivalent to someone making me sing in front of a crowd of people every day. I’m not a courageous enough person to even attempt it once! So it seems counter productive to idolize the competitive athletes and charge them less money just because they happen to be more fit or are naturally gifted.

Second: Valuable things don’t come for free. As an athlete, expecting your affiliate owner to provide you with additional competitors classes, private training or programming for next to nothing, or even free of charge, is like suggesting what you do is more valuable than what your coach does, ultimately generating an entitled kind of attitude. I don't believe elite athletes are any more noble than a business trying to make a reasonable profit. In fact, an affiliate owner who helps dozens, sometime hundreds of people, become more fit so they can live more fulfilling lives, seems way more valuable to me than a competitive athlete pursuing a personal goal of qualifying to Regionals or the CrossFit Games. While I’m admittedly a competitive athlete, and have a lot of respect for athletes who work their asses off to achieve their goals, I simply do not support turning our affiliates’ coaches into volunteers, nor do I support turning my affiliate into a non-profit for the sake of someone's personal fitness dreams. It seems almost disrespectful. On top of this, while this is just a theory, it seems to me your coach will work a little harder, care a little more, and will take time to educate himself a little more if he's being appropriately compensated. The same is true of your own investment. If you're dropping $500 a month on training fees, you're probably going to be a little more invested.

Third: Competitors tend to be the most high maintenance athletes at the gym! They should pay accordingly. While I admit I might be more high maintenance than most athletes, generally speaking elite athletes require more attention. Simon Damborg of CrossFit Raincity agreed with me here, admitting that his competitive athletes text him way more, e-mail him way more—require his attention in general, way more. On my end, for example, this past weekend I had one bad training session and what followed was a 500-word email to my coach Chris Schaalo to deal with. Sorry Chris.

Now I’m not pretending to have the perfect solution in terms of how to run your competitors program. But in the upcoming blogs I’m going to survey different gyms in Canada to discover—when it comes to competitors—how and why they do things the way they do.



Posted by Emily Beers on

Emily Beers, hailing from Vancouver, crosses bridges by being not only a CrossFit athlete, but also a journalist. She has been a regular contributor to the CrossFit Journal since 2011. She qualified and competed at her first CrossFit Games as an individual athlete in 2014.

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Simon 'Thor' Damborg

January 29, 2015

Though it’s true I think they’re higher maintenance, I think it should also be mentioned that I love (as any good coach does) to give them that attention :) They’re higher maintenance because they’re passionate about it! Just like their Coach (hopefully).

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