CrossFit athletes speak up about what they like—and what they don’t like—about your throwdown

By: Emily Beers

Nutts Cup 2014

Fitness throwdowns have become as varied as the sport of CrossFit.

Some events emphasize simple and inclusive programming that everyone can do. Other events are about catering to the spectators with crowd-pleasing workouts, while others still aim to beat the athletes to a pulp to test their resilience and make them feel like they got their money’s worth. And, of course, there are the events that emphasize never-tried-before, razzle-dazzle events, such as human barbell thrusters—where the men thruster the bar as the woman is perched on top.

Whatever type of throwdown you choose to host, the harsh truth is, your event will get scrutinized: Athletes and fans will judge your programming, your announcer and DJ, your warm-up area, your seating arrangement for spectators, and even the kind of coffee you serve.

And while it might be impossible to please everyone, this three-part series gives a quick glimpse of what the athletes value, what fans value, and what organizers of successful events are doing to set their event apart in what has become a competitive market.

More than 250 athletes, volunteers, fans and organizers were surveyed via an online survey—including Regionals and Games-level, as well as lifestyle athletes.

The survey has spoken. Here’s what the athletes had to say:

Programming, programming, programming

What do athletes value most? What will get them to return to your competition year after year?


43% of athletes said they value programming most, while 29% said they value a competition that runs smoothly and on time above anything else. The third most popular answer at 17% was a competition that is inclusive and offers multiple divisions, such as firebreather, Rx and scaled.

Interestingly enough, although many competitions are heading down the prize money path—offering more and more prize money each year to try to attract big-named athletes—most athletes said neither prize money, nor the presence of big-named athletes, are selling points for them. Only 1% of athletes said they place a high value on prize money, while 6% said they appreciate if big-named athletes are competing.

Nutts Cup 2014

What do athletes consider “good” programming?

Let’s start with what athletes don’t think is good programming:

Athletes don’t want to see what the survey called “gimmicky or weird events,” nor do they value programming aimed at destroying them to the point that they can’t walk the next day. Athletes do not place a high value on the events being “spectator-friendly” and easy for the crowd to tell whose winning each event.

Instead, athletes value a competition with safe events, as well as competitions that release their events ahead of time to allow for proper planning and recovery. Most importantly, though, 73% of athletes said what they look for most in programming are balanced events that equally test the fundamental skills of CrossFit, skills they practice everyday in the gym—essentially a balance between gymnastics, max effort events, lifting and endurance.

Team versus Individual

48% of respondents said they prefer team competitions, while 33% would rather compete as an individual. The remaining 19% said they enjoy doing an individual competition on Day 1 and a team competition on Day 2.

How much are athletes spending?

A significant portion of athletes – 33% – said they spend between $250 and $500 a year on competition entry fees and other related competition travel expenses, while another 20% said they spend between $500 and $1000. 12% of athletes spend upwards of $2,000 a year on competing in CrossFit, some of whom spend more than $4,000.

As for entry fees, 50% of athletes said they expect and are willing to pay $100 as a registration fee. Only 2% said they’re willing to pay $250 or more to compete.

Details, details, details

Three other notable details athletes said are important to them:

Warm-up Area: Athletes want the warm-up area to offer adequate space, equipment and chalk. A common pet peeve listed was a small, cramped warm-up area, where everyone is fighting over equipment, as well as lack of time to warm-up.

Leaderboard: The majority of athletes said it’s important to them for the competition to offer a live scoreboard/leaderboard, so they can follow the standings after each event.

Judging: The number one pet peeve among athletes was bad or inconsistent judging.

Nutts Cup 2014

The Most Loved Throwdowns

While there are many throwdowns that have grown to become well-respected and prestigious events in the CrossFit community, such as the Kill Cliff East Coast Championships in Boston, Massachusetts, Wodapalooza in Miami, Florida, the Kill Cliff Granite Games in St Cloud, Minnesota, and the OC Throwdown in Costa Mesa, California, there are tons of other smaller events that are incredibly well-run and well-respected in their local communities.

Some notable events that were mentioned multiple times in the survey are as follows:

The West Coast Triple Crown events, namely the Winter Challenge, – in Vancouver and Squamish, British Columbia

Dakota Games in West Fargo, North Dakota

Clash of the Clans in Dover, Ohio

Battle of the Border in Lloydminster Alberta

Fort Vancouver Invitational in Vancouver, Washington

Mid-America Championships in Bentonville, Arkansas

War of the WODs in Greensboro, North Carolina

Tune in again for Part 2 – What CrossFit fans are saying about your event!