Steph Roach Creates Independent, Scaled Leaderboard for the Adaptive Division, “Sets The Bar” for Next Year

April 9, 2021 by
Credit: Courtesy of Steph Roach
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This year marked a first for adaptive CrossFitters: a chance to see their name on the official CrossFit Open leaderboard. 

The 2021 CrossFit Adaptive Division added eight divisions to the official leaderboards —  lower extremity, upper extremity, seated (with hip), seated (without hip), short stature, vision, neuromuscular, and intellectual — following through on CrossFit’s commitment to making 2021 their “most inclusive competition yet.”

One big thing: The Adaptive Division leaderboards were only for RX athletes. This meant that scaled athletes were left without a leaderboard, until Steph Roach stepped in. 

Roach, a longtime CrossFitter, created the Staying Driven Scaled Open, an independent-from-CrossFit leaderboard specifically for scaled adaptive athletes. 

  • “I felt like it was important to give the scaled athletes somewhere to put themselves on a leaderboard, especially because it’s cool to like, see your name, see your country flag that you represent, and put your efforts into something,” she says. 

Some background: Roach, who has cerebral palsy, has been a part of the CrossFit community for nine years. 

  • In 2014, she competed as the first adaptive athlete at Wodapalooza. In 2015, she proposed a dedicated adaptive division be added to the competition. 
  • Until last March, she ran an affiliate in North Carolina called Hammer Driven Fitness. Now, she and her husband, Tyler Roach, run Staying Driven LLC, an affordable and accessible online fitness program that is focused on the adaptive and aging populations.

In a video posted to her Facebook page, Roach says the announcement of CrossFit’s first Adaptive Division was “exciting and heartwarming to hear, knowing that all of the hard work of the community was… coming together and being brought to life.”

  • But Roach goes on to say that she expected that the adaptive divisions would be given the “full experience.” 
  • “It was my full understanding in the beginning that even though scaled athletes were not going to be able to go to the Games or able to qualify for anything further… was that as a scaled athlete [was] still going to be able to put scores on a leaderboard, just like we do in every other competition,” she said. 
  • “When we found out that there was no scaled leaderboard, it kind of felt like ‘Well, what are we going to do now?’” she added. 

How the leaderboard worked: Roach ran the scaled leaderboard through Competition Corner. Registration was free, no video submissions were required, but judges were encouraged. 

She held to the eight adaptive divisions laid out by CrossFit, but added one of her own: seated (without hand function).

  • “People that are quadriplegics don’t always have hand function,” she says, explaining the addition of that ninth division. “It can be more difficult for them to grip things or for them to pick up weight.”

43 athletes competed in the Staying Driven Scaled Open, and about 26 of them were from Staying Driven.

  • “My athletes had no idea about CrossFit,” Roach says. “I’d say 95% of them are adaptive and 95% of them are at home, never really been to a gym in their life, and never really tried CrossFit before.”  
  • “I had almost all of my athletes sign up for the CrossFit Open,” Roach says. “But all of my athletes are scaled athletes. None of them could put their scores anywhere, and as soon as we found that out, I felt it was really important to create a place where we could put their scores, and see, this next year, did they get better, did they see progress.”

Roach provided scaling breakdowns for each division, releasing her adapted workouts at 8 a.m. on Fridays. She said she’d first scale it for “the world” and then go even further for her Staying Driven competitors, who were working with limited, at-home equipment. 

  • She gives the example of 21.4: “Instead of creating a complex, we did a seven-minute hold. [Athletes] had to either hold weight or hold water bottles over their head, and as soon as they broke, they would be done.”
  • “It was a way for them to have a similar stimulus as far as what you can do in that seven minutes because a lot of them don’t have heavy weights, so we couldn’t really do the complex,” she explains.

The bottom line: Roach said creating Scaled Open wasn’t a jab at CrossFit (she designed it to run side-by-side with the official leaderboard); it was simply an opportunity to offer her community more options. 

  • Creating the adaptive division at Wodapalooza puts this into perspective: “I actually understand… that it takes a lot of work to start something brand new,” she says.
  • “But now, we’ve set the bar,” she continues. “So next year, [the athletes] are going to be looking for [a scaled leaderboard]. I’ve heard that you know, next year, CrossFit’s big goal is to have a leaderboard for everyone, which is amazing – and I really hope that comes true.”

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