More change is coming to the CrossFit world, and this time it’s hitting the training department. CrossFit Inc. announced sweeping changes to the Specialty Course system today, in what is the biggest change on the training side of the house in 2019.

Starting July 1st, CrossFit, Inc. will be handing specialty courses over to Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) as CrossFit Preferred Courses. Specialty courses like CrossFit Gymnastics, CrossFit Weightlifting, and CrossFit Jump Rope will no longer retain the CrossFit-branded moniker, and the execution (i.e. writing course material, staffing, and logistics) will now rest in the hands of the SMEs.

“As CrossFit has grown into a worldwide fitness and health community with millions of adherents, CrossFit, Inc. now looks to broadly expand the scope and reach of CrossFit-endorsed professional development courses. To this end, CrossFit will begin offering CrossFit Preferred Courses,” the CrossFit Training Team wrote in an email.

The move away from CrossFit, Inc. managing every aspect of specialty courses also allows more subject matter experts to become licensed instructors in their field.

Rather than be official CrossFit Specialty courses, they will have the chance to opt in to becoming a CrossFit Preferred course which, once attained, the status would be licensed through an annual fee of $5,000.

How it could affect you?

The change has the potential to affect the courses, and (soon to be former) SME’s significantly, which would trickle down to the consumer. Here’s what we know:

  • Any seminar taking place prior to July 1st, will still be honored and take place as normal. Seminars after July 1st will be cancelled, and refunds processed for all participants.
  • Financially it’s an improvement with a $5,000 per year fee, compared to a 70/30 revenue split (30% for CrossFit) that was previously part of the specialty course contract.
  • Any course meeting the criteria, can apply to be a CrossFit Preferred course, meaning there could be multiple preferred courses on a given subject.
  • The SMEs will be given freedom to adjust their course as needed which potentially means things like new course material, adjusted course length, and broader staffing options
  • All additional logistics such as registration, course location, pricing, dates, etc. will be handled by the course owners and operators and not by CrossFit Inc. as it previously was.
  • Current specialty courses will be rebranded and repackaged before relaunch, and will now don a “CrossFit Preferred Course,” badge on their branding, so be on the lookout once the change over happens. Some courses have already made the change.
  • The preferred courses will continue to provide continuing education units (CEU’s) for professional development requirements

One thing that’s not changing: The Level 1 – 4 Seminars will continue to be ran and operated by CrossFit staff.

The announcement marks a significant shift in CrossFit Inc.’s approach to education and course material outside the scope of the central CrossFit methodology and from a business standpoint moves more inline with the current affiliate model.

In a mass email sent out to all trainers, the CrossFit Training Team explained how this shift fits into their vision for the future, “For CrossFit athletes and enthusiasts, our hope is that as the cadre of CrossFit Preferred Courses grows, they will see more opportunities to learn a new skill or shore up an existing skill set.The CrossFit Preferred Course Program is consistent with the long-term intention of CrossFit, Inc. to continually provide more opportunities for the CrossFit community. Each course offers participants a wonderful chance to improve their competency in the pursuit of unrivaled efficacy.”

What SMEs are saying: While the change certainly presents some initial logistical obstacles upfront, the overall attitude gathered was generally positive despite little to no warning about the impending change.

  • Jeff Tucker, Gymnastics: ”For some people this is gonna be a gut punch, I think for some they’ll see it as an opportunity to rise above. As an independent contractor, if I just look at this and put my business hat on, I’m actually quite excited about it because it opens up a myriad of possibilities that did not exist for me under the original contract I had with HQ. So I see it frankly as an opportunity. This also allows me to step outside the community. In the past we always had to teach this at a CrossFit box, and I’ve been asked to speak at the Gymnastic Congress, and at Universities about movement, which are communities outside of CrossFit so we frankly have a much larger market.”
  • Chris Rawlins, Jump Rope: “Our biggest challenge in the community is that we own the one skill (jump rope) that has been messed up since day one, and never got corrected. There’s roughly four million CrossFitters that think the only skill you can use the jump rope for is a double under, and probably seventy percent of those people can’t do that skill or do it well. The truth is that there are at minimum twelve skills between a single and a double under, so most people haven’t scratched the surface of what’s possible. The changes give us more freedom to fix that and with twenty to thirty percent of our course attendees as non-crossfitters, this also opens the door for us to expand upon that and reach more people outside of CrossFit and market to a wider audience.”
  • Alec Zirkenbach, Adaptive Training: “It’s going to be tough for us initially because we don’t have our own brand, our own company, our own infrastructure because we rely on the training department for that. It’s different for us because we’re technically under CrossFit Training and not the specialty course. We’re not teaching different training methodology than what’s taught at the level one, we’re essentially teaching how to do and how to train that methodology, just to a special population, just like kids and masters. The positives still outweigh the initial negatives because we won’t be so narrowly focused on just CrossFit trainers, and previously if we wanted to change or update course content or add things to the course it had to be ok’d by HQ and it was difficult to make changes. As a single day course the feedback has always been that people wished we had a second day to discuss content, go over programming, or other impairments. Now we’re really free to develop and make changes how we want and do some pretty awesome stuff.”
  • Mike Burgener, Weightlifting: “We’re ready to move forward and the good thing about this is that we’re in control of our own destiny. We get an automatic 30% raise and that allows us to go to boxes and affiliates and offer incentives, to be able to host a course. I don’t think anything is going to change for us, we’re still focused on teaching athletes the fundamentals of olympic weightlifting and how to do it in a safe and effective manner, and teaching coaches how to teach their athletes as well. I’m very excited about the possibility of the Burgener name continuing to carry on the legacy of teaching the skills, drills, and fundamentals of weightlifting, and if people buy into that then I think we can have a lot of fun.”
  • Severin Romanov, Running: “I think some of this deregulation is definitely beneficial and will allow us to have more control over how we present our courses and management, but the loss of a more strict oversight could potentially lead to a logjam of options in certain specialty areas. In our case not much changes with respect to how we do courses or where we do them. We’re eager to see how the community will embrace these new protocols.”

In conclusion: These changes open up the possibility of more course offerings in different subject matters, which means opportunities for members of the community to learn from a wider variety of options.

Instead of a singular subject matter course covering the entire world, there could be multiple courses within the Preferred Course Program based all around the world and better suited to serve their particular market. All while the same specialty courses you know and love from before continue to serve the community.


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