Justin Bergh Says CrossFit Games Taking Steps Toward Consistency: “Consider this a cornerstone”
Last week, CrossFit’s Competition Director Adrian Bozman and the company’s General Manager of Sport Justin Bergh appeared on the Talking Elite Fitness podcast to discuss changes to the 2023 season and the CrossFit Games team’s plan going forward.
A lot was said and there were a bunch of nuggets of intel and information dropped, so here’s a complete rundown.
What To Expect
- Fans and athletes should consider the 2023 season a template that will be built upon, but not restructured.
- Bergh: “We have a really high confidence this is where we’ll be for the foreseeable future.”
- “We don’t necessarily need to vary the competition format anymore in order to make our sport better. Fans and athletes should consider this (season schedule) a cornerstone that we build out from.” – Bergh
- Differing numbers of Games spots per Semifinal
- Bozman: This is the “most flexible system we’ve ever used.”
- Each Semifinal will have a minimum number of qualifying spots (regardless of athletes in the field). These are not identical to the 2022 season and will be published in the rulebook.
- The remaining Games spots will be allocated based on the strength of the athletes in that field. “It will be a significant portion of the 40 spots,” Bozman said.
- Rankings will be based on performance in the Open, Quarterfinals, and other “recent competition history” (exact details are still being ironed out).
- Strength of field will be evaluated independently for each gender, meaning the same region could have a different number of women qualifying than men.
- Competitors will know the number of Games spots available well before they get to their Semifinal. They will not be guessing what place they need to get to move on.
- Regions will be known at Open registration (November 15). Locations of Semifinals will be known “before the holidays.”
- Strength of Field details are still being worked out. At a high level, an “athlete’s overall global ranking” will be based on “recent competitive history” from Games events and possibly “other key events in the community,” according to the interview.
- The rulebook to give multi-divisional athletes a roadmap
- These athletes can compete in more than one division through Semifinals. However,
- Only one in-person option (Individual or Team) is permitted.
- If you compete online with Age Groups, you can also choose one in-person division. Assuming you qualify for more than one of the three.
- Team rosters will be locked upon Quarterfinals registration.
- These athletes can compete in more than one division through Semifinals. However,
- A Regionals feel to return
- Teams and Individuals registered with the same affiliate will compete at the same venue, known well ahead of time.
- For this reason, athletes are not permitted to compete in both Individual and Team Semifinals.
- Schedules for the events are yet to be determined, with divisions possibly competing on different days (similar to CrossFit Games) or using different areas of the same venue at the same times. John Maclaughlin is working out those details now.
- More great content from CrossFit
- Mariah Moore is working on a new documentary in the next year about “what is strength” and finding the Fittest 40
- Bozman said he is excited about the videos coming out on YouTube, about the CrossFit methodology, connecting daily gym goers to athletes.
- “There were a few that trickled out before the Games–others will be coming out shortly,” he said.
When To Expect It
- Expect to Register for the Open as Early as November 15
- Justin Bergh: “On November 15 Open registration will open; the goal is to give participants plenty of time to prepare and start setting goals”
- Expect the first published version of the Rulebook “in a couple weeks”
- Expect to know the minimum number of Games spots allocated to each semifinal “with the rulebook, if not sooner,” according to Bergh.
- Athletes will know their specific regions upon registering for the Open.
- Semifinal locations and dates will be released “before the holidays,” Bergh said.
- Expect Semifinal strength of field and additional Games spot allocation after Quarterfinals
- These will be determined using the qualified/registered athletes for each Semifinal (clarity coming with rulebook).
- Semifinal athletes will know how many Games spots are available at their Semifinal “well before they get there”
What was the Decision-Making Process?
- According to Bergh, the Divisional Athlete Committees, have consistently shared this is what they want to see from CrossFit:
- Better channels to gather feedback
- Professionalizing the sport
- Better communication
- More consistency
- Safety and fairness
- Getting information out earlier
- Why the Semifinal Maps were Introduced/Changed:
- Bozman stated that the Games team wanted every Semifinal to be stacked competitively
- Attendance in 2021 wasn’t great and the seeding process didn’t allow fans to plan to go watch their people. In this system, everyone will know their region and the location of their Semifinal (and most everyone else’s Semifinal) from the start of the season.
- It will allow for better planning for athletes, fans and event organizers.
- Why did CrossFit Decide to Take Over Operations of Semifinal Events in North America and Europe:
- These are now the largest pre-Games events (60 in each field instead of 30), and the largest number of Games qualifiers will be coming from those regions
- These are the two top markets for CrossFit
- It’siImportant for CrossFit as a brand “to show up in those markets really well,” Bergh said.
- Why North America was Split Down the Mississippi River (Kind of):
- Bozman: “We did take a look at where the most competitive athletes are coming from (in North America), there is a higher concentration in the East, so geographically the East region became a little smaller to account for that. We also had to look across the company to some other decisions that were made regarding affiliate representation and some other initiatives we had going on.”
- It was also done to “create harmony across the company–it made sense to follow some of those boundaries,” he said. In other words, for affiliate reps specifically, the Games team didn’t want those regions to be split for one rep.
- Why CrossFit Decided to use a Global Ranking System:
- In conversations with leaders in the sporting world, in and out of CrossFit, a central set of statistics was something missing in the sport. This global ranking system is a step in that direction, according to Bergh.
- He is also hopeful that this global ranking system can be used within, and even beyond the season as a more objective way to make decisions.
- Why Team Eligibility Requirements Were Changed/Loosened:
- According to Bozman, the changes were made to match the behavior we’re seeing from athletes anyway.
- This will also streamline the policing process, which will benefit the athletes and the CrossFit HQ staff.
- The Open roster being used throughout the season got really confusing and most teams didn’t tap back into the original pool of athletes anyway.
- “I don’t think we’re going to see a radical change in the team division,” Bozman said in regards to the possibility of new “Super Teams.”
What We Don’t Know
- There are several unanswered questions, that will likely be clarified when the rulebook is released in November:
- What exactly will determine Overall Global Ranking?
- According to Bergh and Bozman, “recent competitive history” will be the primary factor, presumably performance in 2023 Open and Quarterfinals
- It’s unclear how previous experience will be weighted compared to 2023 performances.
- This is CrossFit’s first attempt at relatively objective power rankings
- What determines Strength of Field for Semifinals?
- This will likely be the global ranking of athletes that qualified for a given Semifinal, but the rulebook will clarify.
One Final Takeaway
- Expect CrossFit to start moving more quickly in one cohesive direction
- Bergh said, “Don has made this crystal clear–this is not going to be a changing target–driving the amount of people who do CrossFit with a coach in a gym, will be our focus. For the company. Not just for the training department, or (affiliate) department— for the sport group, too.”
- “When we all play that same game full speed, that’s when you’re going to see a gear change… I feel we will soon be unlocked in that regard…I think we’re closer. You should expect another gear change when we really lock that in, he concluded.”