“The only reason I exist is because of a lack of transparency”: YouTuber Andrew Hiller Hosts Online Competition
“It’s always been about a message.”
Andrew Hiller is a personal trainer, YouTuber, and member of CrossFit Salire in Westmont, IL. He is a huge movie buff, a dog owner, and engaged to a woman he calls his “second brain.” By most standards, he’s a pretty normal guy.
He is also one of the most polarizing figures in the online CrossFit community.
The fitness-related content on Hiller’s YouTube channel ranges from affiliate stories to his personal journey through steroid use, but he’s most widely known for his controversial commentaries on the sport of CrossFit and many of its beloved figures.
His response to the backlash is simple: “You either understand what I’m doing here, or you don’t watch my videos.”
How It Started
Today, Hiller has over 24,000 subscribers on YouTube, but his content ideas stem from something he’s been doing for years—talking to CrossFitters.
A previous affiliate owner, Hiller often used one-on-one or small group conversations about the latest “gossip” to push the door open for larger takeaways. Now that he has stepped away from ownership, YouTube is providing an outlet—and a much more efficient one—for Hiller’s messages to be shared.
The creator’s self-proclaimed “obsession” with YouTube grew once the scope of this efficiency became clear to him. In March 2022, Hiller saw the views on one of his videos climb to over 6,000 people. In his eight years owning an affiliate, he had roughly 1,000 people total come in for a workout.
“I loved owning a gym,” Hiller shared on Instagram, “But never in my life could I spread a message like this using that avenue.”
His Bone to Pick
Though Hiller gained notoriety for addressing a lack of movement standards in top athlete videos, the meat of his message is generally aimed at the larger organization in charge—CrossFit HQ.
“The only reason I exist is because of a lack of transparency,” Hiller stated in an interview with the Morning Chalk Up.
To be clear, he’s not anti-CrossFit. The concept of “having a CrossFitter at every table” is one the ex-affiliate owner wholeheartedly supports. And yet, he says, if the goal is upwards of 25% of the world’s population doing CrossFit, we have a lot of work to do in simplifying the sport and governing it with transparency.
- Hiller: “If you have two billion people doing the Open, that’s 200 million people doing Quarterfinals. But I’ve got two people in my garage tonight who don’t understand the standard for V-Ups […] It should be so simple, but it isn’t.”
- “The further you get from ground zero the more and more unacceptable things become,” the content creator told the Morning Chalk Up, referencing grammatical errors on the scorecards and unclear starting positions in the movement diagrams, that he may have dismissed in 2011, but is deliberately highlighting in his content now.
A man of metaphors, Hiller likens his relationship with CrossFit to enabling an addiction. “If they’re not going to change, and it’s just going to continue to get worse […] It’s like having a frickin’ alcoholic in your life, you know?”
- “You have to cut them off at some point. Like, stop signing up. You’re giving them alcohol,” concluded the long-time CrossFitter, former CF-L1 Coach, and Registered Judge of ten consecutive years.
His methods may be intense. But his findings are hard to ignore.
Case in point: Oliver Queen
In an experiment testing the validity of CrossFit’s online leaderboards, Hiller entered scores for the Open under the veil of 31-year-old Oliver Queen—a fictional character from the DC universe and TV show, Arrowverse.
- He used a variety of methods to submit videos, including links from other athletes’ channels (men and women alike) as well as videos showing nothing but an error screen when attempting to play.
- In the ultimate kicker, the registered judge listed on all of Queen’s scores is CrossFit’s Senior Manager of Competition, Dave Eubanks.
The “Green Arrow” managed to slip through the validation cracks and land 249th in the North America East region Quarterfinals before Hiller posted a video detailing the prank and his scores were removed from the leaderboard earlier this week.
It’s not to say that there hasn’t been effort toward transparency in the sport. Already in this season, there are standout examples of CrossFit HQ providing more insight and clarity than has been the case in years prior.
- A list of penalties published by CrossFit on April 3rd details hundreds of score adjustments that resulted from video review of the Individual Quarterfinals. Though penalty lists have become more frequent, this is certainly the longest list we’ve seen to date.
- An Instagram post on April 13th described the decision process behind changes to the Adaptive divisions in the 2023 season.
- And when the barbells were improperly loaded at the 23.1 Live Announcement, CrossFit released a statement within hours.
Ultimately, the marriage of simple execution and transparent results is what Hiller aims to demonstrate in what he’s calling the “NOpen”, an inaugural online competition that started by accident.
Hiller posted videos throughout the 2023 CrossFit Open critiquing, what he deemed as, unnecessary complexity of the workouts. Soon, commenters were calling for him to host his own. Out of sheer curiosity, the YouTuber created a mock version of the “No Rep” Open on hosting website, Competition Corner. He set the cost at $10, used an old tshirt logo for the header image, and made up some general ground rules. He saved his work and walked away.
Except he didn’t just save his work, he published it, and by the time he got back to his computer, there were already ten athletes signed up. “So I guess we’re doing this.”
Mistake or not, the event is off and running, with 776 registrations as of Thursday, April 13th.
The basics: The online competition will take place in two segments over the course of two weeks, and will contain a minimum of four workouts.
- The deadline to register and submit scores for the first two workouts is this Monday, April 17th at 8:00AM CST. Week two begins April 17th and runs through April 24th.
- The workouts are intentionally designed with minimal equipment for garage gym athletes, and movements selected for ease of judging.
- The cost to register is $10, with proceeds going toward Hiller’s 40 paid judges, prize packages at various levels on the leaderboard, fees, and personal compensation for his time.
The Uncommon Competition Clause: The NOpen is for “anybody who is wanting to participate in an experiment,” Hiller told the Morning Chalk Up. This lends to some unconventional logistics that aim to right the ship in regards to his biggest gripes with the Open, while keeping the competition manageable for, what started as, a team of one singular person.
- A list of certainties posted in the event description includes promises of imperfection and a less than completely accurate leaderboard, as well as providing a test of fitness, owning mistakes, and 100% effort to moderate the leaderboard “the right way.”
- All scores require a video submission, and all videos are available to the public and open to feedback. There are no floor plans.
- There is one singular division, meaning men and women are competing on the same leaderboard. Scaling will result in a ‘0” score but participation is welcomed.
- Penalties will result in up to 50% loss of points on a scale in accordance with the level of infraction. Completely invalid submissions will receive a “0” score.
- Each of the 40 judges will be compensated anywhere from $50-$150 total, dependent on the amount of registrations. Right now, Hiller estimates this to be $75 per judge.
- Payouts will be given to the top ten athletes, including $1,000 to the overall winner and additional prize money for event winners.
- Anyone that identifies an “Oliver Queen” on the finalized NOpen leaderboard will receive a $10 reward from Hiller himself.
What’s the point?
Though Hiller admits the amount of NOpen registrations has become “unmanageable,” and he’s still undecided on the fate of the competition in the future, he’s pushing forward for the same reason he committed to uploading one YouTube video every single day—the message.
He’s already learned that a fully accurate Open (and NOpen) leaderboard is probably not feasible, but his greater purpose lies in showing what is possible with the intentional and dedicated effort of only one person. Ultimately, Hiller’s demands for CrossFit HQ can be whittled down to this: make it simple, be transparent.
Referencing a recent quote from CrossFit’s Competition Director, Adrian Bozman, Hiller says the larger the NOpen becomes, “I’m no longer the guy shaking his fist at the cloud (complaining that minor infractions indicate major travesties). I’m the guy in the airplane.”