“The most important thing to me was maintaining the sense of community while still having a competitive team,” Kenny Kane says.
CrossFit Los Angeles has had their eyes on the Affiliate Cup title since 2009, the first year of an independent, team-based competition at the CrossFit Games. In 2009, CrossFit LA took 20th place out of 96 teams. The next year, they missed the Affiliate Cup after falling to 25th place at the 2010 South West Regional.
Determined to return to the Games, 2011 became a 'come back year.' CrossFit LA went from 30th place in Southern California at the end of the Open—securing the last spot to the 2011 Southern California Regional—to taking the final berth to the Games.
The Open has become a facet of box ownership. Last year, more than 26,000 people competed in the Open, including everyone from top athletes like Rich Froning Jr., who aspired to compete at the Games, to the casual CrossFitter who simply wanted to see where they landed in the worldwide and regional rankings.
Consequently, last year, the CrossFit LA coaches were challenged to learn how to support a competitive team while still fully supporting the rest of their 350-person box community.
“The most important thing to me was maintaining the sense of community while still having a competitive team,” Kenny Kane, the CrossFit LA team coach says. “Andy and I are really clear, community first.”
The Open is not only a test of fitness; it’s a test of integrity and an ability to make hard calls. Affiliates from across the world are summoned to count reps for their athletes, validate scores, and help the community find the top 60 athletes and top 30 teams to compete in each region. Members and coaches are responsible for validating their friends’ scores and must have the guts to say the dreaded phrase “No rep!”
CrossFit LA knew that their reputation was on the line, as was the merit of all boxes across the globe. According to Shirley Brown, another member of the affiliate team, “No rep is no rep,” she says. “If it’s your friend, still, no rep.”
“No bullshit. It’s a rep or it’s not,” says Kane. “We’re fun, we’re dancing, but we can’t have bad reps.”
The Come Back
CrossFit LA went into the 2011 Southern California Regional the underdog, the last ranked team in the Open. “I told my wife don’t even bother coming down,” Petranek says, “I mean we took 30th in the Open. I told her we would be home on Saturday.”
Yet CrossFit LA’s focus on completing full range of motion and willingness to call their athletes out when they fell short during the Open paid off at Regionals. Under the intense scrutiny of official judging, CrossFit LA thrived. By the end of the weekend, they had earned bronze and the final berth to the Games.
They made sure to keep it fun. “We start our Sunday morning practices dancing, starting our cheers,” Kane says, “That kind of practice really pays off. It gives us the sense that we’re a team. We earned that 3rd place. We trained smart, but we also had fun.”
The 2011 CrossFit Games Affiliate Cup sent CrossFit Los Angeles through the ringer. They took last place on the first workout, a 200-yard sandbag carry with obstacles, fifth to last on the team total for 1RM cleans, and third to last on the team Triplet Sprint. Despite these setbacks, they were able to move up in the standings after tying for 25th place on a max set of rope climbs in two minutes and tying for 29th on the team Killer Kage. After a challenging weekend, CrossFit Los Angeles settled into 39th place overall.
The Open Season
The team is currently treating the Open as a season, and approaching it like many athletes approach their respected sports. They have practices, they are “in” training, and most of all, they are thinking team.
This approach can sometimes bring problems for the average CrossFitter who finds that they still must maintain a balance among work, home life, and training. These CrossFitters aren’t professional athletes (yet), and they aren’t getting paid. This entrance into a team competition is still “voluntary.” The thing is, once you are on a team, it is no longer about just you and your training, it’s about representing your gym to the CrossFit community.
According to Logan Gelbrich, another member of the 2011 team, one main focus for CrossFit LA was recreating the team atmosphere many professional athletes thrive within.
“It’s difficult to have everyone speak the same language and be on the same page, like with unwritten rules. Especially this year we are trying to frame up what it looks like, and what it is to be on a team,” Gelbrich says. “Some people may cross the unwritten line, but the best teams police themselves. You don’t need a father figure preaching about rules, but on real teams there are unwritten rules, there is unwritten respect for the other members of your team.”
These rules, these unspoken expectations are simple. First, don’t show up late to practice. Second, respect your teammates.
“This is voluntary, but when you have a team, you have to be there. It’s your team,” Kane says. “When you are an athlete you don’t miss the bus, you don’t miss the plane, you don’t miss a practice. In return it becomes a part of our team culture, and is then seen throughout the community.”
These unwritten rules have helped CrossFit LA thrive in the team environment and stay connected to their community of more than 300 members. They hope to have a large group cheering and dancing on the sidelines of the 2012 SoCal Regional.