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Simon Damborg: Catering to the “Everybody Else” Crowd

Posted by: Emily Beers

If you’ve been to a local throw down in the last few years, you’ve seen Simon Damborg, owner of Raincity Athletics. And if you watched the Superbowl, you definitely saw Damborg doing a muscle-up on a Reebok commercial. 

Damborg is a mainstay in the CrossFit community—his obvious passion unmatched by few. So it was no surprise when Damborg announced he was opening his own gym. Knowing how drastically CrossFit had improved his own life, Damborg’s passion has always been to help the “Average Jo” get fit. 

“When we started, my goal was to appeal to everyone else—not just to competitors,” he explained. “I tailor to the ‘everybody else’ crowd,” he laughed.

But as soon his everyday athletes saw Damborg compete, they started to feel the fire to get involved themselves. These athletes were looking for a little more—a little tougher training and more volume—and Damborg didn’t hesitate to cater to their wishes.

So he opened a competitor’s time slot on Thursday nights, started doing extra programming for these athletes, sometimes double days. And he did it free of cost. The only stipulation for the athletes was they had to show him they had registered for a competition—so he knew they were serious about competing.

“I didn’t charge because I wasn’t sure where I was going with it,” Damborg said. “I wanted to make sure people knew exactly what they were getting for their dollar before I started charging.”

He’s happy to give the competitors a little more; however, he’s mindful of his greater community and how it might affect them.

“I don’t ming giving the competitors a bit more, but I don’t want to make others (who are not competitors) feel like shit about themselves in the process,” he said. “I think you have to be careful not to idolize your top athletes,” he added. This is a priority for him.

Since he started his competitors program, it has consistently grown. With this growth means it now takes up quite a bit of Damborg’s time. And he has found himself as a crossroads. If he doesn’t start to charge a fee, he’ll become a volunteer in his own business. 

“This is my upper limit of what I’m willing to do for free,” he said.

So he’s about the implement a fee: $30 a month on top of the regular membership. This small fee gives competitors access to additional programming, as well as to the Thursday night time slot for them to train together.

The tricky part is starting to charge for something that essentially used to be free. Damborg has been speaking to his athletes one-by-one, warming them up to the idea of an additional $30. So far, he said, everyone seems to understand why the charge is going to be implemented and they’re ok with it. That said, Damborg knows a theoretical fee is different than actually seeing a charge on your credit card.

“Ask me again in a month how it went,” Damborg laughed.

Damborg’s plan is to use the additional revenue from the competitors program predominantly to buy new equipment for his affiliate. This way, the competitors will also benefit from paying a little more.

“You pay a little more, you get a little more. But it’s important to find that balance so people know they’re not more special than anyone else,” he said. To reiterate this point, Damborg encourages his competitors to also give something in return. 

“They’re there to lead by example. Clean up after yourself and help out with other people,” he said. “They’re kind of like a step below the coaches.”

Despite how big his competitors program might grow, Damborg will never base its success on how well people do at competitions. He wants the regular day-to-day CrossFit athlete to put himself out there and compete. 

“That’s more cool than a person stepping out there and winning,” he said, adding that he has more respect for the athlete who might find himself at the bottom of the pack at a competition than the top of the podium.

And on his end, Damborg gets so much joy from watching his athletes put themselves out there. He can’t place a monetary value on what it does for his business, and for himself, to watch his athletes compete and succeed.

“When we show up at a competition with a whole bunch of athletes. It’s hard to put a value on that,” he said.

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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