Tactical Games Catching On with CrossFitters as National Championship Goes This Weekend
It goes without saying that functional fitness should prepare you for far more than crushing a CrossFit workout, and there’s no shortage of stories with this example in practice. An athlete goes and smashes a marathon, becomes a triathlon stud, gets into obstacle course racing, or any assortment of athletic feats utilizing their versatile capacity and body control. The Tactical Games are one of the major crossover sports that continues to grow and attracts general class-goers and elite-level athletes alike.
The sport was “created to provide a platform to test the skills and readiness of tactical athletes of all backgrounds,” according to the company’s website, and is, simply put, a series of fitness tests coupled with marksmanship.
The Ideal Tactical Games Athlete (Hint: There Isn’t One)
“I think it goes for shooting sports at large; there’s a common misconception that it is predominantly a white, male, Republican, far right-wing sport, and it really couldn’t be further from the truth,” said Nick Thayer, President of the Tactical Games. “Our athletes touch all races, all demographics, all political leanings. It’s really, really cool…we touch every community.”
Two women taking the sport by storm include CrossFit athlete Callerina Key and CrossFit Games competitor Margaux Alvarez. Both ladies will be throwing down this weekend (Nov. 4-6) at the National Championship in Florence, TX.
Key, who grew up in Alabama hunting and around firearms, got into The Tactical Games scene relatively early, in 2019.
“People are always like, ‘oh, are you military, are you ex military, are you law enforcement?’ I’m like no, I’m a chiropractor,” she said laughing. “Anybody can compete as long as they are good people; we have a great community as long as they’re willing to learn, as long as they are safe with firearms, anybody can compete for sure.”
Thayer reminds us that while gun ownership is commonly aligned with a particular political affiliation, there’s no intention of that in the industry.
“It’s shooting and fitness and that doesn’t need to have a political tie to it. Of course, we all believe firmly in the Second Amendment, but the Second Amendment is a bipartisan part of our Constitution. It shouldn’t have a political leaning to it. So that’s our stance on it; we want anybody and everybody that wants to come out and compete,” he reiterated.
Alvarez also discovered the sport in 2019, inspired by the Rogue Invitational Biathlon, and although she lacked significant shooting experience beforehand, she found a need for personal weapon education through an unfortunate circumstance.
“I fell in love with the idea of knowing how to fire and protect yourself during Covid and when my home was broken into in 2020. Some CrossFit Games items were stolen so that was another catalyst to learn more. I have since acquired my CCW and have come to love the SIG SAUER weapons I own,” she said. “It is a huge responsibility that does require a ton of respect but you will quickly realize those in the space have nothing but respect towards this craft. The learning curve however does require a lot of time practicing much like the snatch or the clean and jerk. I was hooked immediately.”
A Transferable Skill Set: Body and Mind
The crossover application between the two is evident, but not to be underestimated.
“It’s a similar modality, similar training methodology. Training for CrossFit won’t necessarily make you a great Tactical Games athlete, but it makes you a very competent Tactical Games athlete,” Thayer stated. “It’s really about preparing your body physically for demand under load like that — and it’s no different than the CrossFit kind.”
The ways the two sports are alike extend beyond the physical application, as The Tactical Games can serve as an unique opportunity to test your headspace as well.
“Shooting is very mental. You need the discipline to allow bad shots to live in the past while sticking to a very regimented dry-fire routine that can seem mundane. Dry firing is like mobility, not a lot of people do it and that is where you can make huge progress,” Alvarez said. “I was very diligent on dry fire drills, sling manipulation, and transition speed in terms of reloading etc. in my training, (and) I was also very fixated on transition times in my competition days in CrossFit as well, so a lot of things transferred over.”
Key added that resilience and adaptability to stress are key components of success.
“It’s a very unique sport. It’s a different kind of stress (and) it’s still very physically taxing, but you can’t redline or else you won’t be able to shoot,” she explained. “So it requires a lot of thinking and definitely a lot of, just like in CrossFit, planning your workout, your structure, knowing yourself well enough to know ‘I can’t blow up on this’. Because with this one, if you blow up, you get the line. You can’t shoot.”
In thinking about putting athletes through exhaustive exercise and then asking them to shoot a firearm with incredible accuracy, we couldn’t help but wonder how The Tactical Games navigates keeping athletes and event-goers safe during the competitions. Putting it bluntly, “if you move with your muzzle pointing the wrong direction, it’s an immediate disqualification,” Key said.
Thayer expanded: “Safety is paramount in our sport. We’ve made changes; I won’t say that it was necessarily always the case right early on.”
The sport’s inception is in large credit to former military members looking for a way to train similarly to how they did while deployed, and after it caught on with civilians, “we’ve had to institute rules that are just kind of common sense rules to us that don’t affect the competition, but definitely make it a much safer environment and a safer place for people to go out and have fun,” he said.
The Future of the Sport: On and Off the Competition Field
As the industry continues to grow and provide more competition opportunities, the potential to increase longevity as an athlete is evident.
“I mean, I love CrossFit, don’t get me wrong. CrossFit is what keeps me fit and I love the functional fitness side of it. But, The Tactical Games is something that I know that I can do and will do longer than being a competitive CrossFitter,” Key admits. “Competitive CrossFitter eventually starts taking a toll on my body. I’m excited because I can do The Tactical Games for a really long time.”
In a way that’s all too relatable for CrossFit OG’s, Alvarez compared this season for The Tactical Games to “a very grassroots early CrossFit Aromas kind of time”.
She continued: “There is absolutely zero stress (as an athlete) and I’m at a stage in my life where national distribution in my wine company matters most, so I don’t have a goal like I did being a CrossFit Athlete. Of course, I always want to win of course but shooting is extremely complicated and that takes years to master. I owe the girls who have fired a lot in their lives a lot of respect.”
For more on Alvarez’s take on the inspiring women competing in this field, check out this video on her YouTube page. Whether she’s showing up for a chance at prize money or just practicing in solitude, the application extends beyond the formal competitions for the athlete turned entrepreneur.
“As recession hits, inflation gets worse and cases of violence look like they are rising, I am more confident each day after all the training I put in, I am better prepared. I hope I will never need to pull my Sig out, but if I do I will have more of an understanding of my capabilities that will warrant an appropriate response, backed by tons of hours at a range and more time dry firing,” she said. “I really do take that seriously more so than competing and a lot of the girls that I train with feel the same so it is a great network I have developed. There are some amazing girls in this sport with amazing stories and I hope to one day tell their stories so other women know they aren’t alone.”
Thinking About Giving it a Shot?
If you’re interested in participating in The Tactical Games, volunteering at an event or signing up for a local one-day skirmish is a great way to get your feet wet. They also put on athlete camps through their university program across the country, which empowers participants with knowledge and hands-on practice for a true competition. And for more on the National Championship this weekend, visit their website.