CrossFit Games

“Good Things Are Coming:” Steph Chung Talks The PFAA And The Future Of The Sport

July 16, 2020 by
Photo Credit: Steph Chung/CrossFit Games (https://www.instagram.com/stephchung2/)
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Wednesday afternoon, 2018 CrossFit Games individual athlete and Professional Fitness Athletes Association (PFAA) executive committee member Steph Chung joined the Talking Elite Fitness podcast to discuss some of the current goals on the PFAA’s agenda as well as the subject of Chung’s recent meeting with incoming CrossFit owner and CEO Eric Roza.

Chung was calling in from Boulder, Colorado where she, along with fellow PFAA executive committee Chandler Smith, were part of a collection of members of the CrossFit community taking part in the Future of CrossFit Summit we reported on Wednesday. Below are a couple key takeaways from Chung’s interview.

The PFAA is keeping their focus small: Practicing what many in the community preach in terms of scaling inside the gym, the initial focus of the PFAA revolves around two primary goals despite Chung admitting that there were plenty of other issues on the docket.

  • Safety: An obvious topic that will forever be (or at least should be) a central focus of the athletes is ensuring that their safety will always be a driver in the rapidly evolving environment of the sport as tests become more and more advanced. This primarily deals with programming across various events, and one needs to look no further than the now defunct O.C. Throwdown as to why — both from the unfortunate injury of Kevin Ogar and the programming of a hurdle jump the following year.
  • Fairness: A little less obvious or concrete is the issue of fairness in a competition because it deals particularly with protocol and decision making that often goes on behind the curtain at events or on the fly even as things are unfolding. An example of this would be when equipment malfunctions or movement standards are adjusted and fine-tuned as a result of unforeseen issues. Most of the time the fans or public aren’t even aware of the issue or the things that have taken place, and sometimes individual athletes themselves are to blame, but in the end the remaining athletes are the ones left footing the bill. For example, at the 2018 East Regional, a collection of Air Runners for the first heat of Event 1 did not turn on, and as a result those athletes were held to a different standard than the rest of the field.
  • Instances like 2018 haven’t been so prevalent that it’s hindered the end goal of the CrossFit Games season, but they have happened enough where the rulebook continues to grow.  An example of this is the “uncommon movement clause” in section 1.15 — which has roots from a famous incident involving Matt Murski all the way back at the 2008 CrossFit Games that was featured in the movie Every Second Counts. This leads to the next takeaway.

Athlete unification was needed: Maximizing the potential of the sport starts with having more shareholders at the table — namely the athletes — when it comes time to make decisions on the path forward and any future developments. There would be little chance of that happening without a unified front to collectively speak on the athletes behalf.

  • The fact that fairness is one of the two primary focus points of the PFAA — and considering that the other is practically a given — means that this has been a longstanding issue with the athletes, but they’ve basically been powerless until now.
  • The Games have historically been an oligarchy, and when it comes down to the nitty gritty of competition, the athletes have had very little say. Although there was tremendous growth and the system largely worked in many ways, the sport was in its infancy, and for things to further move towards true professionalism there needs to be a divesting of some power into the hands of those stepping onto the competition floor.
  • Chung: “In the past up until now, we’ve all been kind of singular, so we haven’t had one voice speaking for all of us, we’ve only had our own (individual) voice, so if you had some kind of issue, it was just you speaking on behalf of you, and I think this organization is a really good step forward in getting all of us working as one unit. “

It’s worth noting: Chung was in Boulder because the PFAA was actually given a seat at the table for the summit. The incoming leadership of CrossFit Inc. has been incredibly proactive in seeking out the many branches of the CrossFit community and inviting the feedback and perspective of those groups to hit the ground running once the sale is final. Chung revealed that she was optimistic about her experiences at the summit so far as well as the future of the sport now that PFAA had formed, and steps towards change were being made.

“I’m feeling really good about it, and I know you have to have to take my word for it but I think good things are coming.”

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