Volunteer Judges, Regionals and the CrossFit Games

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by TARYN HAGGERSTONE
Brent Fikowski at the West Regional. Photo Credit: Jay Borden

Brent Fikowski, West Regional. Photo Credit: Alive to Thrive Photography

In 2007 the first CrossFit Games were held at a Ranch in Aromas, California, and approximately 70 participants competed in 3 separate events. That year the prize for 1st place was $500.

That was only 8 years ago, but since then the CrossFit Games (and the sport of CrossFit) have changed dramatically.

  • Athletes can no longer show-up and compete at the CrossFit Games (they must qualify)
  • Those who do qualify no longer compete in Aromas (the Games outgrew the ranch in 2010 and moved to Carson, CA).
  • The level of athleticism is as at a whole different level.
  • The top prize has gone from $500 to  $275,000.

One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the fact that CrossFit relies heavily on volunteers to judge at both the Regional and Games level. And considering the current level of competition and how much is now at stake, is that acceptable?

The CrossFit Games (and the qualifying process) has become so close and so competitive that one or two misplaced “no reps” and a few extra seconds can have a huge impact on who qualifies for the Games and who misses out.

Upping the Standards

Judges Cert

That being said, as the Games have become more competitive, HQ has implemented certain rules/requirements for individuals who want to judge at Regionals and the Games.

  • Completion of the Online Judge’s course
  • Experience judging in the Open (Regional Judges)
  • Experience judging at Regionals (Games Judges)

And these rules have had a positive effect on the overall quality and consistency. In addition to these requirements, the organizers try to ensure fairness and make sure the “right athletes” get to the Games by

  • making sure that at least one “head judge” is on the floor at all times,
  • doing their best to assign more experienced judges to the high profile athletes, and
  • being selective about judges during the application process.

Some of this I knew already, but some of it — like the fact that so many people apply to be judges — I was unaware of until I spoke with a volunteer/judge who kindly agreed to answer my questions and give me some insight into Regionals from a judge’s perspective.

Alicia Connors

Alicoa Connors, West Regional. Photo Credit: Alive to Thrive Photography

However, that doesn’t change the fact that these judges play a huge role in determining the “Fittest People on Earth,” and they are unpaid volunteers.

Don’t get me wrong; volunteers can make great judges and paid judges can still “shit the bed” or make a bad call. However, paid judges can be held more accountable — it is literally their job to get it right — and if they fail to live up to what is expected of them and/or uphold proper standards, they risk losing their job, not just a “volunteer position.”

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