4 Lessons I Learned at the Northeast Regional CrossFit Affiliate Owner Summit, Spring 2023
Coach Angie and I attended the Northeast Regional CrossFit Affiliate Owners Summit yesterday at CrossFit Glen Burnie. I always leave those events inspired by the greater CF community, while also feeling somehow more deeply connected to our own Heirloom mission and vision.
I am so grateful to be an affiliate owner in this era, where there is obvious, tangible energy and resources being put toward supporting the affiliate community. Thank you to everyone involved with putting the event together, the No Bull CrossFit sweatshirts were an unexpected delight. Thank you!
After enjoying a wonderful spread of coffee, fruits and nuts, the day officially started with a CrossFit rep shaming all of us that “only” have an L1 and have been coaching for more than 6 months. By shaming, I mean having us stand among the group of 150+ CrossFit affiliate owners, managers and coaches, and saying “do better”.
I leaned over to Angie and whispered, “don’t let them bully you about the L1.”
And then every presenter for the rest of the day proceeded to recognize that the substance of content in the L1, the Kernel of the CF methodology, is more than anyone needs to be a good coach. And that coaching experience is the key to improvement.
One of my all time favorites and ultimate original gansta of the CrossFit revolution, gave the opening State of CrossFit address and reminded us all that Crossfit revolutionized the fitness industry. I mean, we all have committed part, if not all of our lives to CF, so we knew that. But hearing it out loud was powerful.
Lesson #1: Don’t be afraid to say the thing out loud
At some point during the Q&A I whispered barely out loud, leaning toward Angie, “do I dare to speak?”, Angie whispered back “do it!”, and I found myself standing and saying that I am consistently asking myself, “Do we even CrossFit?”, because I want to uphold the integrity of the brand while also being entirely focused on allowing our community to make their Heirloom Athletics experience exactly what they need for their own pursuit of their personal ideal life vision.
I gave examples from BarnFit, like not only allowing, but encouraging dancing as a legitimate cardio option and not requiring people to use a barbell for any workout. I know I wasn’t entirely clear and didn’t want to speak so much to go into more detail, and I think more context would have been useful.
But the result honestly, was not an entirely favorable response. The final answer, directed at me, after a little bit of back-and-forth among others who chimed in was something like, “It’s great that your demographic seems to love it, but it sounds like a coaching issue to me.” I said thank you, sat down, and felt more confident than ever that I am capable of being misunderstood until more of the CF community sees what we see.
I agree that it’s a coaching issue, for every gym who doesn’t have coaches with the capacity to see and meet people where they are on any given day.
It is a coaching issue if they believe that every single person needs to learn a squat snatch over needing to know that they will be allowed to show up and make their own decisions (with our educated guidance) about what the right workout movements are for them.
It is a coaching issue that the majority of CrossFit coaches do not take it upon themselves to ensure that every person who walks through the gym’s door is greeted with their name, is addressed in class with individual recommendations for them and not just generic scaling options provided with a program they purchased.
It is a coaching issue if, after every class we coach we don’t do our best to not let people slip out the door without an individual good bye and thank you for coming.
And it got me thinking, why don’t we have those issues? And Angie’s answer was because it has been reinforced as important by me in team meetings and modeled by me in real time.
I repeatedly said the things out loud.
Lesson #2: All coaching issues are the affiliate owners responsibility
After our team workout and delicious lunch, we learned during our individual breakout sessions that multiple participants in both mine and Angie’s groups identified their hardest struggles as:
- Lack of consistency among their coaching staff. (A coaching issue, please refer to Lesson #2 fore more detail.)
- Owners not feeling confident to be away from their gyms. (A coaching issue, see Lesson #2 about coaching issues.)
My response was to send a thank you email to everyone involved with Heirloom in any administrative and coaching capacity, to thank them. Because those 2 concerns are nowhere on my list of struggles. I committed to giving them all the support needed to ensure that our standards continue to be met as I look to build our team of coaches. And I emphasized my desire to ensure that their participation in the Heirloom community continues to be a rewarding and fulfilling endeavor for them.
I understand that everything that happens within my affiliate is my sole responsibility. My challenge is not to do all of the things perfectly. The real test is how well I can empower our team of extraordinary ambassadors to see value in living up to my expectations.
Lesson #3: Language always matters
At Heirloom Athletics, we are leaning deeply into a very person centered approach to group fitness. We do not program prescribed weights. We refer to our barbells by the color of tape we have put on the collars (white = 15#, blue = 35# and black = 45#). We have Everyone bathrooms, and are currently secretly planning Dorchester County’s 1st Ever PRIDE parade on June 10th at 10.30am.
One HQ rep declared that arguing over language is a waste of energy on CrossFit’s journey to right the ship. Then another explained how their affiliate uses names and pronouns with introductions.
Why would normalizing pronoun discussions be important if language didn’t matter?
Why was it wrong what Greg Glassman tweeted in 2020 after the murder of George Floyd, if language didn’t matter?
Ask a trauma survivor if they want to be considered a trauma victim?
Ask manicurist Alice, from Cambodia, living in small town America and currently studying English, if it’s important that she understand the subtle difference between “I did that” and “I will do that”.
Language is an indicator of education and if you lack the ability to communicate with clarity, you will inevitably one day learn how important language really is.
Lesson #4: We are definitely CrossFit
The answer I am now giving myself is the same one I gave my husband when he told me he was worried about being lazy with all of his new found free time, after leaving his career of 30 years.
The fact that you are worried about it is indicator enough that you will not be endlessly lazy. Will he need to learn a new definition of lazy? Maybe. Will he feel challenged in new and different ways, that he may not understand? I think so. But we don’t always need to understand to accept.
My current take on the State of CrossFit is that they are going to crush it and continue to work tirelessly to invite as many people into the community and empower people to save their own lives through fitness, accountability and nutrition coaching. And that even though they might not currently understand what that means and how to precisely articulate that, I don’t need to completely understand it to accept it.
Angie and I enjoyed a lot of thoughtful discussion about the day on our ride home. I asked her if faith was an appropriate business strategy? And she talked about always being open to the next opportunity in front of her.
That’s how I know for sure that we are CrossFit. Because I don’t completely understand their strategy for significant growth over the next decade. But I also don’t completely understand my strategy for the sustainable success of Heirloom. So we’re just gonna stay guided by faith in our ability and stay open to meeting the next opportunity to serve our community with the sole purpose of empowering individuals to save their own lives. And in my opinion, that is CrossFit, and we couldn’t be prouder to be a part of it.
If you want to learn more about Heirloom Athletics please peruse around the website and don’t hesitate to email: firstname.lastname@example.org or text: 443.205.3385. Those both come directly to me.
See you in class,