Athletes Assemble! The Professional Fitness Athletes’ Association Is Born
A longtime rumored development in the sport of fitness has finally taken shape Thursday as the Professional Fitness Athletes’ Association (PFAA) has formed as a way for athletes within the sport of fitness to collectively organize and put forth a unified front for their voice and interests. The PFAA is officially incorporated as a Washington-based non-profit to serve the needs of the competitive fitness athlete community, and the formation comes at a time when the CrossFit community and the sport are in a massive state of flux. For the first time in history, CrossFit Inc. is going through an ownership change, and the sport is still working through the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic to try and salvage some of its season.
Membership for the PFAA currently includes all 60 qualified athletes for the 2020 CrossFit Games along with an additional collection of prominent hand-picked members of the CrossFit community who have historically played major roles in representing other areas of the sport such as masters, teenagers, teams, and national champions from around the world.
- Specific bylaws and the constitution of the PFAA are currently in development and will expand the scope of the association and its membership to additional groups such as masters, teens, teams, and recreational athletes as well.
- Eight interim executive committee members have already been elected and include Brent Fikowski, Tia-Clair Toomey, Chandler Smith, Steph Chung, Jenn Ryan, Patrick Vellner, Cole Sager, and Adam Neiffer.
The primary function of the PFAA lies in its collective bargaining power by unifying athletes to augment their voices and interests to give them a seat at the table when it comes to the future of the sport, which includes the decision-making process for any changes or improvements being made. A handful of immediate matters include:
- Athlete safety: Creating a set of best practices and standards for competitions and their many moving parts to ensure that athlete safety is the utmost priority. This also includes discussion about ways to improve the health and longevity of an athlete’s career when it comes to competition frequency and programming.
- Competition fairness: Not all competitions are created equal, and for all levels of the sport one this is another thing that should never come into question, whether it be in the form of egregious bias of the programming, quality of the test in accomplishing its intended purpose, a more robust appeals process with a third party judicial system, and a myriad of other below-board logistics that can affect outcomes and fairness on the competition floor.
- Future competition and season planning: Perhaps the most instrumental piece for the growth and development in the future is the athletes having a say in how the next season and any additional iterations are planned given that, you know, they’re the ones actually stepping into the arena.
A major step for athletes: Every major professional sport with the exception of MMA has a players union or association that provides representation and collective bargaining on the athletes’ behalf. They also provide a key element of checks and balances to ensure that players and athletes don’t get railroaded by corporations and organizations with only their interests in mind.
- Brent Fikowski, PFAA Executive Committee: “This has been a long time coming, it’s something I remember athletes talking about since I started the sport in 2012. It’s putting the pieces in place to turn this into a real professional sport with consistency and fairness. There’s a desire to have a stronger voice, and it’s cliche but without the athletes there is no sport. With the help of other athletes and invaluable guidance from (IF3 President) Gretchen Kittelberger, I incorporated the association on June 16. The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, and the second-best time is now, so we’re diving in and I’m confident we can work together to make some great changes.”
- Matt O’keefe, President of Loud & Live Sports: “This is an essential step for the maturation of the sport so that it can really grow. In ten years from now the integration of athletes to have a stronger voice will stand out as one of the monumental pieces in helping the sport reach new heights for the benefit of everyone involved at all levels. ”
- Steph Chung, PFAA Executive Committee: “I’m very excited and honored to be a part of building the PFAA alongside the other members of the interim Executive Board. Unifying the athletes and voicing our needs as a single organization is a huge step forward in professionalizing our sport. We all want to see the sport grow, expand, and improve, and it’s been very inspiring to collect our ideas and work towards enacting positive change! I’m very optimistic about the future of the sport and the opportunities that it will provide in the coming years.”
The PFAA is still in the early stages of development, and plenty of details are still needing to be hashed out, but the most crucial step in any moment of progress is the first. There is no question that the athletes are stronger together, and for the sport to evolve to reach its potential, unification will be a necessity.