Running a fitness competition is a lot like running a CrossFit box. The priorities and values one holds for running a good CrossFit box can be likened to characteristics one would attribute to running a quality fitness competition. For all the similarities in the fundamentals, a lot of people overlook some of the important aspects to a “successful” fitness competition. I put “successful” in quotes because success is measured differently by different people.
Instead of initially talking about the logistics and normal X amount of athletes in Y amount of heats and how to program or how to get sponsors, I think it’s very important to talk about the motivation and the goals of your fitness competition.
This should honestly be your mantra in ANY business venture, but especially in the "fitness" service industry. The WHY is everything, and if you don’t understand that, you have already failed. Your WHY doesn't have to align with a specific ideology, but you have to understand your WHY and be honest about it. In the end when someone puts their hard earned money down for something you are doing, 9 times out of 10 they will be doing it because of the WHY.
I have seen a couple motivations in this area work when it comes to fitness competitions. The first and most obvious is typically a CrossFit box owner who are looking to engage their community, give a taste of that competitive atmosphere and hopefully make some money to then put back into the gym to improve the primary business of training athletes.
This to me is as noble as any reason to organize a CrossFit competition, however, I think in some cases it turns into something that is unsustainable for a box owner … someone whose primary focus is not throwing epic fitness competitions but whose primary focus is the CrossFit box. I have said this to many a gym owner, “You are not in the competition business, you are in the gym running business”, this is an important distinction for CrossFit gym owners who want to get in the competition game. Most box owners in small town Wisconsin, where we are based, are stretched pretty thin. CrossFit box owners are running a business, coaching all the classes, doing the programming, running social events, personal training, cleaning the box … on and on. Make no mistake, organizing even the most basic CrossFit competition is A LOT of work for very very little financial reward. From the box owner standpoint, the reward ends up being very intrinsic and translates to exposure for the gym and a real forging of the internal community at the box. In most cases it's a “all hands on deck” scenario where the CrossFit gym members are competing, judging, crewing, etc for the event.
Now this is great for CrossFit box owners that have the time and feel its worthwhile and in some cases it's necessary because of the lack of access to well run fitness competitions might be sparse at best. The owners have to realize that they get just as much benefit in getting involved in a competition that they themselves don’t organize, and just being involved in that competition community outside of the four walls of their box. In some ways there is more benefit.
This leads us into why we do what we do as a business that runs fitness competitions. As someone that has never owned a box, I have been involved with multiple boxes on a very deep level .... coaching, programming, community outreach, branding, marketing. I quickly realized what made it all tick was the community.. When it came down to it, community is all I really cared about. This was never a business for me, it was something that changed my life and that I wanted to use to help change others.
When we started with event planning it began as well organized charity events that we were able to get multiple boxes and multiple box communities together for a common goal. Which really made our WHY solidify into something real.
The competition events came a little later. After market research, we really thought there was a gap in the market for not necessarily the elite athlete but for the scaled athlete. In our region, it was obvious to us that we could fill that role, not only make it more inclusive but raise the bar and help make even the other area competitions better. The goal: to provide a regionals level experience for all levels of athlete.
A single community is pretty powerful within the four walls of the gym or in their community but the real magic happens when you can start to build bridges between communities … extend that community making it bigger and more of a force. We quickly saw that this was our goal, not to help one gym grow and get better but to help the CrossFit community as a whole get better in our area.
Now the trick to all of this has always been how do you get competing businesses to work together. Well there are two aspects that pretty much all CrossFit type communities can get behind even if their “rivals” get behind it also, charity and competition.
Granted there are many reasons to get involved with planning these events, however, ask any people or businesses that do this and they will tell you … financial gain is not going to be one of them at least. Very early on you can expect to break-even at best. The amount of time you will put in, if you do it right, compared to the money you get out will never amount to much. In fact you can just assume initially that all the work you will put in will be free labor and you might, if you are lucky, break even on the backend. So if your goal is to make a million dollars, or hell five dollars, TURN BACK NOW!
So you’re a CrossFit box owner looking to run a competition or you are someone that just has a genuine love for the sport and event planning and want make some sort of business out of it. GREAT.
Before you can really do anything you need to make sure that you have some pretty great people willing to a lot of work for absolutely nothing in return. If you are a CrossFit box owner, this most likely means leaning on your gym community for help, sourcing not only manpower but special talents. While you probably won’t get a lot of help from other CrossFit gym communities, if your own community is 100% behind you, you will have a good solid base to lean on even if you yourself have to carry a brunt of the load.
For those of you that might not be in charge of a community like a box owner and are simply a part of a box community, you basically will need the support of your owner and hopefully you have connections with other CrossFitters from other boxes that are interested in doing something epic with you.
I would say non box owners have a distinct advantage, it is easier to build relationships with other boxes and get support. Let’s face it if you want to do BIG things you need a ton of support and a ton of manpower and most likely a ton of equipment.
It’s key to remember that although you will be relying on a lot of this to be volunteer support, you still need to provide value in some way. While it will probably never be monetary in nature you can provide a lot of intangible value to those that help you. Most important is never take it for granted, always be on the front lines in supporting those that support you even if it’s a very lopsided trade. I suggest going above and beyond for the people that blindly support you and to those that don’t leave the door open in some cases they are just a little slower to see your vision.
Again without this kind of support, unless you're independently wealthy and can pay people for it, you won’t even get the event off the ground.
Like with anything in life but especially with event planning, ideas are a dime a dozen … even epic, amazing ideas. Without execution it doesn’t mean a thing.
In my next blog we will talk more about the finer details of planning and executing a competition and what it takes to produce a quality product and provide value for your three key target clients which are the competitor, the sponsor/vendors and the spectator. Mastering two of the three is an integral part of being successful. Hitting the trifecta is what you will need to take things to the next level.
Break Parallel Guest Contributor
Owner, Bullet Point Competition LLC
John is the owner operator of Bullet Point Competition LLC based in central Wisconsin and holds a series of on site and online competitions throughout the year. Bullet Point Competition Series event are designed to give a regionals level experience to all that want to participate, inclusive enough for the most beginner athlete while challenging enough for the most elite.
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