Don't be remembered as the unsafe event that didn't run on time

If you’ve ever run an event you know how time-consuming it is. You pour your heart and soul into it, so the worst thing that can happen is for your event to receive bad reviews from athletes or fans or both.

While programming is usually subjective, some programming ideas are objectively dumb...

Surveying dozens of athletes and fans, the three most common complaints that give an event a bad name—and ultimately stop people from attending the following year—are:

• Unsafe 

• Runs Late

•‘Bad’ programming

Safety First: Space, space, space

We’ve all been to an event where a guy hits a heavy snatch and goes for a walk with the barbell right into the crowd. Or an event where someone kicks up to handstand and smokes another athlete in the head because there just isn’t enough space on the floor.


The stands should be a safe place...

Organizers say a big part in keeping an event safe has to do with spacing on the floor—spacing in relation to other equipment, spacing in relation to teammates or other athletes on the floor, and spacing in relation to the crowd.  

Sure, you can set rules to prevent barbells from bouncing into other lanes, like prohibiting athletes from dropping weights from overhead, but isn’t it just easier to run your events in a way that provides enough space for the athletes?

One of the common reasons organizers don’t leave enough space is because they get so tied to a workout they created and want to run their event in as few heats as possible—so the crowd doesn’t have to sit through 8 heats of each event. If you're worried about too many heats, then consider changing the workout to make it more spacious, or suck it up and add a heat: It’s never worth it to sacrifice safety. 

There's a reason a lifting platform is as big as it is...

How much space is needed?

Some organizers say an 8-by-8 foot space is best—similar to a lifting platform—especially if the event involves working up to a max clean and jerk or snatch. If the event involves lighter weights of a movement like a deadlift, then not quite as much space is required, but it’s always good to air on the side of caution. It’s also always a good idea to practice an event with demo athletes beforehand to see how it plays out with 10 barbells and 10 athletes on the floor. 

Time Management

We have all been to that event that starts late, and is already two hours behind schedule by 11 a.m. 

Staying on time is possible, and the best events run like clockwork. Three tips, other than time capping events (which most have figured out by now) for staying on time include:

• Practice transitions with your equipment team: It goes without saying you need to leave enough time between heats and events. But sometimes changing equipment takes longer than you think so do a dry run with your equipment volunteers and judges, especially if a transition between heats involves something like adjusting the ring height. It always helps to air on the conservative side when it comes to time between events in case something unforeseen goes down on game day.

• Assign a volunteer to corral the athletes in the next heat well ahead of time (8-10 minutes before their heat begins is best) so you’re not waiting on athletes to figure out they’re up next. 

• Set up equipment BEFORE the next event: Do things like pre-build barbells with the appropriate weights, so as soon as the current event finishes, the next one can get started.

Programming, programming, programming

While it’s impossible to please everyone with your programming, as opinions are incredibly polarized on the topic, it is possible to get everyone to respect your programming decisions. 


Then again, some programming decisions are objective dumb 

I’m not going to go into what makes good or bad programming as it’s so subjective, but one of the tips I received from an organizer that really stuck with me was about figuring out the intention of your event and the type of athlete competing. Your programming will look a lot different, for example, if your event has attracted mostly elite-level CrossFit athletes than it will if your event is a fun, inclusive event with athletes of all levels. 

One mistake organizers make is they program too early before they know who is competing. They get their hearts set on specific movements and workouts. Don’t be afraid to abandon your first programming plan—even if it feels like it nearly kills your soul—and make appropriate programming changes to reflect the make-up and nature of your event.