President of the International Functional Fitness Federation (IF3) Gretchen Kittelberger joined the Talking Elite Fitness podcast this week where she discussed some of the happenings and developments within the organization on the competition side, including one thought-provoking detail.
Kittelberger, a four-time individual Games athlete in her own right, revealed that they were looking into adding a technique component into the IF3 competition for the teenage divisions to encourage better movement quality and re-shift the focus of the teenage division.
- Kittelberger: “(we want) to try to really encourage good development and good habits and proper movement patterns, and the technique things are…above and beyond just meeting the range of motion standards. So you still gotta squat below parallel right, but if you’re let’s say doing a clean or a squat clean below parallel but you stood up and your back rounded like this, ok well you lost that technique point for keeping your chest up.”
A growing trend: Since it’s formal inception into the entirety of the CrossFit Games season in 2015, the teenage division has seen significant growth in all areas. The level of fitness being developed by the teenagers through competition was on full display last season when Haley Adams finished inside the top-10 at the Games in her first year in the women’s division a year after winning the 16-17 year old title in Madison.
- By 2018 the registration numbers for teenage athletes in the Open had nearly doubled, athletes were qualifying for Regionals outside of their respective divisions, and the entirety of the teenage competition was streamed for free, recording millions of views in the process.
- Despite the growing popularity, and reports highlighting the hard work and training the top teenagers are putting in, the level of competition in the teenage division continues to require athletes to spend more time in the gym, at the expense of other endeavors.
A double edged sword: While it’s great that through CrossFit a growing number of teenagers are taking an interest in health and exercise at a time when the Center for Disease Control reports that 20.9% of adolescents aged 12 to 19 are obese — with rates higher amongst Hispanic and Non-Hispanic Black adolescents — but is focusing too heavily on the competitive aspects of CrossFit at a young age detrimental as well?
- A Loyola University study found that sport specialization was a strong predictor of injury in young athletes with those specializing in a single sport being 70 to 93 percent more likely to be injured than athletes who played multiple sports.
- The CrossFit Games purposefully do not include prize payouts for placement during the season in the teenage divisions. Doing so would negate the amateur status of the athletes involved, making them ineligible (in the United States) for any collegiate sports.
- Angelo Dicicco, 2-time CrossFit Games Teenage champion: “I think there is a place for both. If you have an itch for competition which I think any teenager has, it needs to be let out somehow. Choosing where to let it out is the question. I missed out on a lot of organized sports, but I don’t think I missed out on those types of experiences personally. There is fun to be had with a team but I feel my upbringing in CrossFit around my training partners gave me that outlet.”
- He continued, “So in my experience I would say I didn’t miss out on much although I could see how some could, given a different environment. Given the professionalizing of it I think that should wait til the adult division. I don’t think teenagers need the stress out on them of being a true professional athlete but more so of a fun and competitive way similar to a high school sport. I feel there should be some sort of compensation though, yes recognition is awesome but I think some sort of scholarship would be the best way to compensate them.”
- “I don’t know how that could work, but if there could be a way to give the kids a better chance at college or another career of their choice out the money towards those outlets instead of giving an 16 year old kid say 10,000 dollars. With all that said if you would have asked me 4 years ago I would say the opposite of all of this. Although my opinions may be unpopular now, I think treating a teenage kid the same as you would a full-time athlete could be a tough route. As a teenager you may think you know what’s best for you but the truth is you really don’t and won’t for a while. You can guide them towards a career in CrossFit but keeping the fun of it all is very important for a young adult,” Dicicco concluded.
At CrossFit’s core lies the phrase coined by Greg Glassman as the concluding sentence in the now famous Fitness in 100 Words that states “regularly learn and play new sports,” along with the principles taught in the Level 1 Seminar around the development of mechanics, consistency, then intensity for building long term health.
- The questions about the teenage division’s role in the sport are certainly valid, and with a new ownership group coming in, the time is right for a critical evaluation of those questions and all the ways the division could be improved for the well-being of the youth in the community.
Summer reading time: Our resident teenage writer — 16-year-old Ava has published a wide range of articles on the teenage division relating to this topic, and you can read them below:
- Elite Teens Face Burn Out and Injury, Find Success in Olympic Lifting
- How CrossFit Prepares Elite Teen Athletes for College
- Analysis: Making the Jump from the Teen to Individual Division
We want to hear your thoughts on the future and purpose of the teenage division, comment below and join the discussion.
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