The PGA Model: How to Make These CrossFit Games Changes Awesome

From the Ranch to Madison, I’ve watched every iteration of the CrossFit Games (except for the very first year).  Refreshing the blog to find out Khalipa had upset Spealler was probably the “moment” I became obsessed with CrossFit itself.

With each and every change, there were always a raucous chorus of detractors.  Eventually detractors settled in to the “new way” only to be upset when the “new way” became the “old way.”  This change is no different.

Of the changes throughout the years, I’ll admit this one seems the most drastic and far reaching.  Although there’s still TONS to be revealed and unpack, I think this has the potential to be REALLY awesome; or really terrible.  

Hang with me for a sec, but let’s talk about GOLF

Ironically, I’ve long thought Golf and CrossFit share a lot of similarities.  I think sharing the same competitive structure could make a lot of sense too. Let’s talk about how the golf “season” works.

The PGA (and Tennis too for that matter) doesn’t really have a single championship like CrossFit does. Instead the PGA operates like this:

  • Weekly Sponsored Tournaments where top golfers and lower tier players compete together.  I.e, The Wyndham Championship, The AT&T National.

  • Four Majors: The Masters, The US Open, The Open Championship and The PGA Championship.

  • The Fedex Cup (which is very new and functions sorta like a playoff/championship...but not really… I’ll explain more in a sec)

  • Kinda random but popular “team” Competitions like the Ryder Cup and the President’s Cup… I’m gonna leave those aside for the moment.

These weekly events constitute a bulk of golf tournaments.  PGA sponsored golf events are basically invite-only. The organizers are the ones who decide the field.  You can get exemptions (previous winners, sponsors, etc) but mostly you have to be ranked highly to compete.  

But deciding the field for the FedEx Cup is different.  It uses a ranking/points system of your performance throughout the year.  So if you win the Masters you’ll get a lot of points.  But even if you don’t win a single thing all year, just place well and compete a lot throughout the year and you can definitely still qualify for the Fedex Cup.

How Could This Work for The Sport of Fitness?

If we replace the PGA Model above with CrossFit it could look like this:

  • Variety of Comps throughout the “season” that contribute towards qualifying for the CrossFit Games. This could be the various comps mentioned in the Morning Chalk Up article.  To compete in one you could pay for a spot, or organizers/sponsors could invite you, or maybe if you finished top 5 last year you're automatically invited back.

  • The Majors: Take the 4 biggest of these “16 CrossFit-licensed Competitions”

  • The Fedex Cup: The CrossFit Games

In this system, instead of only using the Open and Regionals as qualifying events for the CrossFit Games; qualification would become a season long points system.  If you wanted to qualify for the CrossFit Games, you’d need to participate in a number of competitions throughout the year. It would truly be a season, and not just a few competitions.  

What is great about this system?

Variety.

Despite the claims of being “unknown and unknowable” qualification for the Games is pretty known and knowable.  We definitely know when and largely what each stage will consist of. That’s unfortunately contrary to CrossFit’s overall aims, in my opinion.

In golf, the different majors are often very different tests.  The Masters is held at the same course so the golfers know it well and can’t make any mistakes or they’re screwed (just ask Jordan Spieth).  The Open Championship (aka the British Open) usually de-emphasizes driving the ball in favor of short game and putting.  On the other hand, this year Brooks Koepka won the PGA Championship by destroying his opponents off the tee. Even though it’s ultimately the same sport, each tournament is a different test, and that’s a good thing!  By the end of year, the FedEx Cup rankings determine who were the OVERALL best golfers.  The Fedex Cup is then a tournament of only the best that year, with one winner holding the trophy and a MASSIVE prize (more money than the 4 majors combined).

WZA could emphasize endurance.  Granite Games could be strength biased.  Like how the Masters is always played on the same course, Dubai Classic could do the same events every year so if you screw up once you’re in big trouble.   Just like each affiliate is run differently, each competition could run their events their own way and do largely whatever they wanted.

But in the end, all the competitors would need to compete throughout the year to gain enough points to qualify and they'd be subject to a variety of competitions.  The variety of events would make it impossible to hide behind their weaknesses.  However, forcing people to compete in a multitude of events wouldn't subject the athletes to luck.  They wouldn't be screwed by one bad performance (like you are now at Regionals).

De-Centralized.  

Right now, one person decides what the test of fitness looks like.  Everyone has biases so they will (whether they admit it or not) bias those tests in favor of things they like/find interesting.  This largely stands contrary to “Hopper Model” that I’ve always enjoyed about the CrossFit concept.

The decentralized PGA model would rely on the wisdom of crowds.  Instead of one person deciding all the qualifying events, the CrossFit Games would be decided by many different sources, with many different biases and the Games will consist of how the competitors perform “on average" through out the year, not just one weekend like Regionals.

In my opinion this fits a lot more squarely with the hopper model that decided the original CrossFit Games.

Bottom Up, Not Top Down.  

One of the biggest concerns I’ve heard so far is how these new changes affect the “bubble” athletes. The PGA Model would HELP the bubble athletes.

Right now, reaching the Games requires you being at your best during Regionals.  Did you get sick the week before? Tweak a pec during an event? Did you have a single bad judge who screwed you? Good bye years worth of training for the Games.

With multiple qualifying events, you'd get to watch Fraser compete throughout the year instead of just at Regionals and the Games.  If you're just a bubble athlete, you could still make it to the Games by grinding all year long. 

The biggest downside is that it would make it hard on the bubble athletes.  Lots of travel, a longer season, more expenses. But to be perfectly honest, that’s the life of a struggling athlete.  It’s easy to get lost in the glamour of the NBA and MLB life, but for every NBA player there are 40 G-league kids struggling or AAA ball players sleeping in a bus trying to make it.  On the flipside they'd also have a chance to get LOTS more exposure to build a following. 

Personally, I'd love to watch the Instagram stories/vlog/snapchat of a guy traveling around the country, competing every single week just trying to qualify for the CrossFit Games.  I'd definitely let him sleep on my couch if he needed to crash for a DC competition.

Share the costs.  

In all honesty it'd be exactly like what they do now with the affiliates, just with competitions instead.  CrossFit could license their name to an event to make it an "official" CrossFit comp; and then their job is effectively done. HQ could maintain a CrossFit Games Qualifying "Leaderboard" that would be updated after each official comp (sound familiar?).  Have the regular season end in June, the leaderboard is set, and the top 40 qualify for the Games in August. 

There's really no reason there couldn't be multiple "Official" CrossFit Games Qualifying Event every week (that's what the PGA does).  CrossFit's capital expenditure would be next to nothing.  All they would have to do is cash checks from licensing their name.

Event organizers would bear the brunt of the costs but also stand to make a large profit. Being a CrossFit Games Qualifying Event would significantly improve appeal and sponsorship opportunities.  Wodapalooza could turn around and become the RXBar Wodapalooza.  Kill Cliff could pay their athletes fees and drape them in all Kill Cliff everything.  Sponsorship opportunities (for both athletes and competitions) would increase dramatically since there would be tons more comps and lots more eyeballs.

More people would sign up because they knew it would count towards their CrossFit Games Qualifying Points; so event organizers could charge more for entry fees.  CrossFit could ply their marketing leverage to help promote without really spending a dime; just using their earned Social Media.  Sponsors get amplified reach, athletes get more exposure by attending more competitions, competitions make more money by attracting more sponsors.  It's a virtuous cycle.

All CrossFit would need to do is sell these organizer’s a licensing deal, and cash checks.  

In Conclusion

Of course there are a few things CrossFit announced that stand in the way of this.

Top Male/Female/Team from each country.  Let’s be real honest.  This is stupid. They should drop this immediately.  It’s going to completely water down the competitive aspect of the Games and render them unwatchable.

Only Winners Qualify from “Official” Comps.  This is stupid too.  Just replace this with a points system across all "official” competitions and allow the points system to decide who qualifies for the Games.

I’m sure there are other things standing in the way of executing this idea but if done properly this could dramatically improve the Sport of Fitness and make it easier and more profitable for CrossFit at the same time.  

What are your thoughts?  Leave a comment below.

Andrew Killion1 Comment