CrossFit’s New Affiliate Head Responds: “I Don’t Think CrossFit is Dangerous”

October 27, 2023 by and
Photo Credit: SXSW (Youtube:
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CrossFit’s new VP of Affiliates and Operations, Jay DeCoons, is already facing some heat for comments that have surfaced in which he described CrossFit as unsafe. 

DeCoons was on a panel in 2018 at South by Southwest, the popular technology, music and media festival in Austin, TX, when he made the comments. 

YouTuber Andrew Hiller was first to bring the video clip to light.  The panel DeCoons was on at SXSW was called “Fitness is More Fun with Friends.”

In an exclusive statement to the Morning Chalk Up, DeCoons clarified his 2018 words:

  • “I don’t think CrossFit is dangerous,” he said, “Several years ago, I didn’t have a lot of exposure to what goes on inside an affiliate. Over the last five years of doing CrossFit, the level of fitness I’ve achieved has exceeded anything I’ve seen with other programs.”
  • “This firsthand experience changed my understanding of CrossFit and is why I’m so excited to work here,” he continued.    

One big thing: In his statement (more below), DeCoons provided detailed answers to several of the larger questions that emerged following the announcement of his hiring.

  • “Looking back, I was just wrong–I think I’m a good example of someone who started as a skeptic and, after direct experience with the program, quickly became a convert,” DeCoons said.

Remind me: On Wednesday, October 25, affiliate owners learned from CrossFit that DeCoons would be the new VP of Global Affiliate and Operations. His background is in finance at Highland Capital and he has over a decade of experience in the fitness industry including leadership roles at YogaWorks and The Bar Method. 

  • On the panel, in 2018, DeCoons and the other panelists are asked about at-home fitness and the efficacy and safety components that come along with that decision. 
  • When asked if it was a “real concern,” DeCoons was first to respond by saying: “It kind of really scares me that somebody is just kind of setting up their own CrossFit gym on their own.” 
  • “It just seems really unsafe. It’s sometimes unsafe enough when you’re actually there under the watchful eye of a skilled trainer. So I think it very much depends on the modality,” continued DeCoons, in the video clip.

Worth noting: The idea that CrossFit is somehow more dangerous than other forms of exercise and fitness modalities strikes a nerve with many, stemming from a 2005 New York Times article, “Getting Fit, Even If It Kills You.” 

  • That was followed up with a 2013 study by the National Strength and Conditioning Association that included falsified data (later proven in court), illustrating that in a sample size of 54 athletes in a 10-week CrossFit program, nine were injured. The courts found in CrossFit’s favor in 2019 and ordered the NSCA to pay $4 million in sanctions.

What they’re saying: About the concerns raised by the CrossFit affiliate community related to his 2018 panel comments, DeCoons stated, “I can appreciate how that comment would raise concerns.”

  • DeCoons: “Back in 2018, I wasn’t as familiar with how CrossFit works, and my prior comment reflects that. Now I have a real appreciation for what goes on in CrossFit gyms; from the thoughtfulness of the programming to the level of the coaching to the scalability of the program.”
  • “As someone who was previously a skeptic, influenced by the misinformation that permeates the mainstream fitness industry narrative about CrossFit, I believe I can help play a role in helping us overcome this challenge once and for all.” 

The Morning Chalk Up asked DeCoons about his experience with CrossFit–has he belonged to an affiliate, has he done the Open and participated in the community?

  • “CrossFit has a really unique ability to create profound changes in the health of individuals and local communities, and my number one goal in this role is to learn from affiliate owners so I can apply my experience in a way that preserves the uniqueness of the model and supports our mission of growing CrossFit,” he said.
  • “I’m looking forward to getting my Level 1 in early December, and I’ll participate in the Open this spring. When my family and I lived in the Bay Area, my home gym was CrossFit Burlingame, and now I belong to Invictus Seattle here in Washington,” DeCoons concluded.

The bottom line: While the decision to hire DeCoons struck many in the community as an odd choice, his resume doesn’t look all that different from several others hired at the director and C-Suite level over the past few years.

While he does not bring the experience of an affiliate owner to his new position, based on his statement above, he appears ready and willing to listen and work closely with the owners of the approximately 13,000 current CrossFit affiliates.

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