At Quarterly Town Hall, Roza Addresses Opportunity and Growth Amid COVID-19

February 14, 2021 by
Photo credit: Eric Roza (instagram.com/rozaeric/)
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CrossFit CEO Eric Roza held his quarterly town hall on Friday and delivered several updates about the season, the DEI Council members, and the impact of COVID-19 on the community members around the world. 

He addressed where the top markets currently sit amid the pandemic and how CrossFit will approach growth in a post-COVID world while continuing to keep members safe. 

The Nitty Gritty: Roza produced a chart featuring the top 10 markets for CrossFit and how COVID-19 is currently impacting them. The United States sat atop the list with the most affiliates, followed by Brazil. The Netherlands — which included Belgium and Luxembourg — sat at the bottom of the list. Of the markets featured, five were completely shut down while the other five had varying levels of restrictions. The majority also featured green arrows signifying that COVID-19 numbers are going down.  

  • “The most hope-filling part of this slide is that in eight out of 10 markets, that we are seeing COVID trending, getting better relative to coming back from the holidays,” Roza said. The two notable exceptions were Italy and France. Both countries are completely shut down but have rising COVID-19 cases

The key takeaway: COVID-19 will continue to have an impact for the foreseeable future. 

  • Roza provided the chart as an example of where the world is now, specifically highlighting CrossFit and its affiliates. The situations could change, resulting in the various markets opening back up and easing restrictions, but Roza and his staff do not know when — or if — this will occur. 
  • “We know COVID will be with us for some time, and we will continue to stay on top of it. But this is just the reality of what we are dealing with as we think about our affiliates, as we think about the season of the sport of CrossFit, as we think about trying to get new members into the gym,” Roza said. 

Bastions of safety: COVID-19 transmission can happen anywhere, but Roza highlighted several surveys showing that it has been less likely at gyms. A European survey (SafeACTIVE) found only 487 COVID-19 cases in 62 million visits to gyms and fitness centers. Similarly, a contact tracing study in the state of New York found that “only 0.06% of 46,000” community transmissions took place at the gym. 

  • “This does not mean that we should become complacent because transmission can happen anywhere. And because we are so focused on getting gyms back open and having them recognized as a key part of public health, it would really set us back if we took our eye off the ball,” Roza said. 
  • “I can tell you that in our affiliate survey that you all received from us a few months ago, we found corroborating data saying that the rate of infection with COVID — we didn’t study transmission because that’s a little harder to trace — but the rate of infection with COVID is significantly lower for CrossFit gym members than for others. And it also tends to be less severe as well when people do get it.” 

Considerable growth: COVID-19 may be causing countries to shut down and implement restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus, but CrossFit is expanding at an impressive pace a little more than one month into 2021. Roza’s presentation showed the number of new affiliates per week, which included more than 20 the week of Jan. 14. 

  • “These numbers might not look that big to you — 10 one week, eight, 12, 20, so on. We had 18 last week. But when you look at it over the course of a year on average here, we have over 750 gyms opening on an annualized basis, and we are in the middle of COVID,” Roza said. 
  • “Europe has been CrossFit’s biggest growth market for the last five years. Europe is almost entirely shut down, and yet we had 750 new affiliates on an annualized basis opening since the start of the year.”

The bottom line: CrossFit gyms are less likely to become hotspots for COVID-19 transmission, but Roza does not want owners and members to become complacent. Remaining vigilant will only continue this positive trend and help keep fitness centers around the world open. This will be critical as the season fully kicks into high gear and as the CrossFit community examines opportunities for continued growth in a post-COVID-19 world. 

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