Justin Bergh Admits Inadequate Communication through Semifinals; Vows to Improve Moving Forward

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As was the case after the Open and Quarterfinals, CrossFit HQ hosted a press conference for members of the media yesterday (June 16) to break down the Semifinal stage of competition.

  • General Manager of Sport, Justin Bergh offered some insights into the communication breakdowns and ideas for moving forward.
  • Other speakers on the hour-long call included CrossFit’s Director of Competition, Adrian Bozman, and athletes Brent Fikowski, Emma McQuaid and Lazar Đukić.
  • A recording of the call is available on the CrossFit Games YouTube channel.

Bergh opened with a telling statement: “We’re leaving a Semifinal stage that is exciting for us, but surfaced a lot of gaps in our new system. It’s a system that we feel comfortable with and we want to lean into, but we know there have been gaps in communication; in some cases, gaps in accountability.”

Remind me: Throughout the Semifinal stage, athletes and media outlets have raised questions about judging and equipment standards (including but not limited to movement standards and their enforcement, rope lengths, ring heights and pull-up bar heights). In a notable example of the communication breakdown and inconsistencies across Semifinals, Strength in Depth (week 4) was the only event to raise the ring heights per athletes’ request, spearheaded by the Professional Fitness Athletes Association (PFAA).

When asked about this situation specifically, Bergh expressed confidence in the outcome of athletes who’ve qualified for the Games, despite mistakes made throughout this key stage of competition.

  • “Two of those events were standardized, and in implementation, in some cases that created an inconsistency from one event to the next. What’s important to note about the inconsistencies from one event to the next is it did not affect the overall results from that competition,” Bergh said.
  • “So, where one event may have had a slight difference from their event to another event that took place later on, the qualifying spots were contested with the same type of equipment set up, or the same movement standards that were issued. So the Games qualifying spots were consistent within that region.”

“We’re leaving a Semifinal stage that is exciting for us, but surfaced a lot of gaps in our new system.”

Justin Bergh, CrossFit GM of Sport

What they’re saying: Brent Fikowski, who heads the PFAA, when asked about where athletes should direct their in-competition questions going forward he said “I’m not really sure.”

  • He went on: “We had a call with CrossFit about this and they are very aware that those silos of communication, like who’s responsible for what, needs some tidying up for next year. They are super aware of that, we were giving them some feedback and they were nodding their heads like ‘yeah, we know’ not in a condescending way but like ‘we know’ and the gears are in motion.”
  • Regarding accountability surrounding movement safety and standards, Bergh explained that, “Under the system that we’re running this year, ultimately, that is a decision and accountability that we have allowed the event organizer to own. We have worked with them on standardized programming. But what I think is important is, going forward, this is identified as one of the areas that needs improved communication and more direct accountability before this stage takes place.”

One big thing: Communication between CrossFit, Semifinal event organizers, and athletes needs to improve, particularly as it relates to consistent standards and athlete safety, and with similar goals in mind, that can help guide additional adjustments to be made in the future.

  • Bergh: “Overall the way I see this, this is an area that is going to be an important topic as we debate this internally, and as we communicate with athletes and other groups outside of that which is how do we provide the right level of safety and consistency across all of these events.. And how to also improve the visibility and communication when there are disputes, which will inevitably arise between athletes and event organizers.”
  • He continued: “I reject the notion that the event organizers and the athletes and CrossFit have different interests. We have the same interests in terms of advancing the sport, providing quality competitions and treating safety and fairness across the board with a really really really high value.”

“I reject the notion that the event organizers and the athletes and CrossFit have different interests.”

Justin Bergh, CrossFit GM of Sport

The bottom line: Bergh left the media in attendance at the press conference with optimistic sentiments in regards to communication across the organization and with their partners as we near the end of the season and the CrossFit Games.

  • “I think there’s been an increasing level of trust in the communications that are taking place and that has allowed us to have much more open and candid conversations. Some of those lead to debate, some lead to really good information transfer, and the goal is that we can continue to improve the overall sport and the presentation of our sport going forward.”

He concluded: “I also recognize that it has been difficult. The Semifinal stage this year is coming off of a couple years of COVID closures and other challenges in the world that are outside of our control. So I’m pleased with the progress we’ve made this year, but also acknowledging that we have a long way to go to continue to grow this stage and our sport overall.”

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