Team or Individual? A complicated decision for one is a sure thing for another.
Some CrossFit competitors prepare as a team throughout the whole season, while others throw their hat in the ring as a lone warrior ready to battle. Some CrossFitters just CrossFit, letting the pressure build as the decision nears and that fate filled day approaches when they make the choice between team and individual.
It would appear that for Matt Sharp and Jennifer Smith of CrossFit Maximus, the team or individual decision would not be an easy one to make. After all, Sharp finished 12th, while Smith took home 5th in this year’s Open in Central East.
Sharp, Smith and the CrossFit Maximus crew have been planning to compete as a team long before the 2012 season was underway. They have trained that way, functioned as a whole, and essentially contracted themselves to one another. “Even if I was top three in our region’s Open, it would still be a tough decision to not go team,” Smith says.
The team decision for Sharp, a 34-year-old long time CrossFit competitor, is born first out of his love for community, and second because of his lack of time. “I just don’t have the time to compete as an individual,” Sharp says. The same sentiment is echoed by teammate 25-year-old Smith saying, “I am not a professional CrossFitter, I don’t work at the gym, and sometimes life gets in the way, but we make it work.”
Team members on CrossFit Maximus, including Sharp and Smith, usually train at separate times doing their best to get together as much as possible. The decision to remain a team over the years comes easy when you perform so well together and enjoy everything team competition brings to the table. Not to mention the sheer baseline competency needed to enter the individual side of CrossFit competition is more than just a little demanding. Sharp and Smith have the utmost respect for these demands, however, both athletes agree, that even if they had all the time they needed for individual competition they would remain team competitors. “CrossFit is just more rewarding with your friends,” Smith says.
What makes a good team?
When CrossFitting as a group, everyone's strengths are magnified, along with everyone's weaknesses, making the selection of your very selfless teammates all the more important.
“When the clock starts they (a good teammate) can turn it on,” Sharp says. “Everyone can shoot free throws, but not everyone can shoot free throws with two seconds on the clock.”
There is no doubt that successful CrossFit teams such as Maximus have varied components. But the most successful of these teams have learned to place those components in such a way that it makes them shine all the brighter for what they are good at, not what they still need to improve on. “It’s like playing Nintendo, you pick a character with certain strengths, good at some things, worse at others,” Sharp says.
If CrossFitting individually is about being your fittest, then CrossFitting as a team is about being the fittest as a community and the athletes at CrossFit Maximus are proving that they have a pretty good idea of what that looks like. “There are 8 million experts, but no one really knows because CrossFit is still finding itself,” Sharp says. According to Sharp their team programming is admittedly strength bias and resembles CrossFit Football. After all, “stronger is better,” he says.
There is no doubt team competition has become more and more fierce. If your team is lacking one simple talent from their groups wheelhouse, victory is a pipe-dream. This anomaly is especially concerning when it applies to gender. Smith feels that great teams challenge gender specific strengths doing everything they can to fix every chink in the armor of the individual, thereby improving the team dramatically."It's much easier to get great guys in the gym that can be competitive. The real challenge is having girls that are just as strong. The best teams always have amazing girls as well, ones that are well rounded and able to perform all the movements,”Smith says.
Successful team ingredients for CrossFit Maximus, and most likely many other CrossFit teams, include: a supportive community that you want to work hard for, enough time to dedicate towards making yourself and, maybe more importantly, others better and competitive individuals who are capable all on their own but who chose to share victory with their friends.