How to Prepare Your Gym For a Successful Open Season

December 13, 2023 by
Photo Credit: @tracytcreates
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While February might seem far into the future, gyms will have just two short months to prepare for the Open once members return from their holiday vacations. While elite athletes view the Open as the official kickoff to the long road to the CrossFit Games, for the wider CrossFit community and your average affiliate, the Open has a bit of a different meaning.

One big thing: Every year, the Open serves as an opportunity for affiliate owners and managers to bring their community together and encourage members to push themselves outside of their comfort zones.

  • But how do get members to sign up for the Open and keep them excited and engaged throughout the entire three-week period?
  • While there’s no one right answer, there are several key phases to keep in mind when encouraging members to sign up for the Open.

Phase 1: Building The Hype 

While the glitz and glamor of Friday Night Lights might take up most of your planning time, you’ll need to ensure that you have members signed up to attend those events.

Create a nomination challenge: Utilize social media to create a chain reaction of nominations for your coaches and members to push each other to sign up.

  • “Our coaches who sign up for the Open post their confirmation email on Instagram stories and tag three individuals from the gym to nominate them to sign up,” said Invictus Boston marketing director Justin Bartels.
  • “They will usually tag three more members when they sign up, and the nomination chain rolls on,” he continued.
  • “Our gym page will repost all of the stories so our members can see their fellow members signing up. It creates a lot of momentum and camaraderie early on. We will usually get 60-80 sign-ups in a day from this,” he concluded.

Create incentives: While it might feel tough to ask members to pay $20 to officially register for the Open, having more members registered in an official capacity can encourage more participation in the long term.

  • Sophie LaChance, owner of CrossFit Portsmouth: The Port has a unique way to incentivize her members to officially register for the Open.
  • “We’ve had trouble getting our members to sign up for the online CrossFit Open. They don’t want to pay the money or understand the benefits. I’ve never pushed it because it costs money,” she said.
  • However, this year, LaChance has decided to give members who officially register for the Open $10 off their official CrossFit Portsmouth Open t-shirt as a way to help them feel like there are some additional perks to signing up.

Get coaches to lead the way: While social media is a great tool for encouraging members to sign up, the coaches who your members look up to and trust will always be your best bet for encouraging members to participate.

  • “I ask the coaches to start talking to the members during the whiteboard session about The Open, what it is, and how to participate,” said LaChance of CrossFit Portsmouth.
  • “[I encourage them to] stress that it’s just a fun in-house competition and more about fun and camaraderie than competition and scores,” she continued.
  • Affiliate owners and managers can also encourage members to share their own Open experiences with members, whether that be at the whiteboard or on social media.
  • Many coaches have been in the CrossFit space for a long time and can speak well to the way the Open has pushed them in years past.

Phase 2: Planning the Excitement

Now that you’ve encouraged your members to register for the Open, it’s time to figure out a way to create an incredible experience whether it’s their first Open or their tenth!

Bring the competition in-house: While it can be exciting to see your worldwide or national ranking on the official CrossFit Open leaderboard, there’s nothing like a little friendly competition amongst gym-mates.

  • “Each year we have an in-house competition theme,” said LaChance of CrossFit Portsmouth.
  • “We’ve done AM vs PM, Boys vs Girls, New Members vs Veterans, Young vs Old, etc., etc.” she continued.
  • “This year, I’m planning to create teams using Super Hero and Avengers characters. My son gave me the idea!” she concluded.

Prepare their skills: One of the more unique elements of the Open, is that it gives members a chance to test their skills in an official capacity. Not only does this mean pushing themselves to the capacity of their current skills, but potentially attempting completely new skills.

  • “I think another big part of building hype for the Open is to program skill sessions leading up to the event! We will be sprinkling in some gymnastics work on some movements that we are pretty sure will make their way into the Open workouts this year,” said CrossFit Medfield’s operations manager Luke Meade.
  • On those days, our coaches will make it very clear to their classes that we as a gym are prepping for the Open on that day,” he continued.
  • “I’m also a huge fan of programming past Open workouts into the week and highlighting that day,”
  • “On top of building anticipation for the Open, these days allow our coaches to teach our athletes the difference between training and competing throughout the rest of the training year,” he concluded.

Make it official: There’s nothing Crossfitters love more than a new t-shirt, especially one that comes in an official capacity.

  • Create an official Open-themed t-shirt for your gym that gives similar vibes to an official athlete jersey.
  • Not only does it encourage athletes to participate to the fullest (you have to earn the right to wear the t-shirt of course), but it also makes the event a bit more official.

Phase 3: Encouraging the Engagement

Once the Open has kicked off, the next challenge becomes keeping members engaged for the entirety of the three-week competition.

Host Friday Night Lights: While it might seem obvious, giving athletes a time and place to compete with friends under the bright lights is perhaps one of the biggest draws of the Open.

  • “Teams have the opportunity to dress up in their team’s colors, cheer on their teammates, and take on the workout in a raucous environment!” said Meade.
  • “These fitness parties are the best way to grow excitement for the next year’s Open,” he continued.
  • “I want my gym community talking about how cool the Open was last year for the whole calendar year,” he added.
  • “We have theme weeks and Friday Night Light events, which are fun to participate in,” added Sophie LaChance.

Bring in media: Not only does bringing in a local photographer or videographer provide you with great marketing materials, but it also provides an additional benefit for members.

  • Sharing photos or videos of the event is a great way to encourage members to keep participating in Friday Night Lights.
  • Not only that, but members who share these photos with friends and family on social media can create additional marketing for your gym.
  • The best way to find a local creator is by asking around with your members. Whether someone is just starting out or a seasoned pro will determine how much it might cost for the coverage, but it is well worth it.

Award elements beyond performance: While it’s always fun to celebrate the high performers of the gym, giving everyone a chance to be recognized for their efforts can help to create a supportive and encouraging environment that will keep people coming back week after week.

  • If you plan on hosting an in-house competition, award points for elements like showing up for Friday night lights, dressing in team colors, sharing on social media, or hitting a PR.
  • Encourage coaches to get involved by having them nominate a member of the week based on effort, attitude, and sportsmanship.
  • “[We have it so] you can earn points weekly for your team just by showing up or earning MVP,” added LaChance.
  • “We give away lots of points so everyone feels like they are contributing!” she concluded.

The big picture: Whether this year is your gym’s first Open or its fourteenth, the Open remains a time to draw the larger community together for three weeks of friendly competition. Taking the time to plan and set your gym up for success can go a long way with members.

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