Experiencing the CrossFit Open as a Coach for the First Time

2023 was my third year competing in the CrossFit Open, but my first year coaching in the Open. My first CrossFit Open was in 2021 where I did the limited equipment version during COVID. At the time I was still playing college lacrosse, but wanted to participate in the Open somehow.

During 21.1 I remember doing wall walks and line hops in my garage. For 21.2, I did PVC squat snatches and burpee broad jumps in the kitchen of my college apartment…which I received a noise complaint later that day.

In 2022 I dropped into the gym that I now am coaching at to do the Open workouts after I kicked up to do a wall walk during 22.1 in my college weight room and my strength and conditioning coach told me, “You have to cut that CrossFit shit out.” At the moment I was really upset, but ultimately, I’m extremely grateful because it led me to the gym where I now get to coach and train at.

And now in 2023, I have been able to experience the Open from a coach’s perspective. I was to see our members PR their 1RM thruster, complete their first Open workout RX and qualify for quarterfinals for the first time. As a coach it made me so happy and proud to see all of my athletes accomplish something for the first time. The effort that they put into their training every day was displayed during the Open.

When you accomplish something for the first time it feels amazing, but what it also brings  is the opportunity and desire to do more. That athlete starts thinking, “Maybe I can lift one more pound, maybe I can do one more ring muscle up, or maybe I can qualify for Semifinals. That, “maybe I can” is what I believe keeps people coming back to the gym.

What I take away from that as a coach is I need to constantly be pushing my athletes to strive for improvement rather than maintenance. We as coaches cannot become complacent allowing our athletes to stay at their current fitness levels. Instead, we need to push them to learn new skills, lift heavier weights and improve their times on benchmark workouts. In CrossFit we define fitness as work capacity across broad times and modal domains. The only way we can improve our athletes’ fitness is by increasing their work capacity. The best way for us as coaches to improve our athletes’ fitness levels is to help them strive for new firsts.

But above everything else, what I am most proud of this year is that it was mom’s first year doing the CrossFit Open. Last year she had only been doing CrossFit for about a month and was too scared to sign up for the Open. She didn’t understand what it was and was intimidated by the Friday Night Lights aspect of it. Despite me encouraging her to do it she said, “It’s just not for me.”

This year, however, she signed up, did every workout and was able to experience the power of Friday Night Lights at our gym. Every Friday night I would get a call from her recapping her performance, telling me how much fun she had doing it and who was cheering her on. I’m extremely grateful to her coaches at CrossFit Minnetonka for pushing her to participate in the Open for the first time.

The CrossFit Open is a test of fitness that we, as a community, get to do once a year. We all do the same workouts, with the same standards (maybe…maybe not) at the same time of the year. People will always have opinions about whether the programming was boring, bad, or biased. However, what you can’t deny is that the Open highlights the most important aspect of CrossFit. That being the community.

On Fridays during the Open you will see members staying late to cheer others on, arriving early to help set up and coming together to celebrate fitness. I don’t know what you’ll accomplish for the first time in next year’s Open, but I’ll leave you with a piece of advice. When you hear ‘3,2,1…Go’ for the first time I encourage you to take a look around to appreciate the community supporting you to accomplish your goals.

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