New Strategies for Team Competition

February 3, 2012

Jessica Sieff

    Anyone interested in seeing how far CrossFit Murfreesboro is going to go on the path to the 2012 CrossFit Games, need only look to the changes owner Evan Satterfield has made to the gym’s programming since placing 3rd in the Central East Regional team competition in 2011.

Since then, Satterfield has streamlined the programming at CFM, taking notes and inspiration from Outlaw CrossFit’s Rudy Nielsen.
Members are already competitive, Satterfield says, but CFM has created an environment that fuels progress and the drive to excel by breaking its programming down into levels. Members must complete qualifying tests to move from beginner to intermediate and advanced. And an impressive 10-test qualification is necessary for an extended invitation into the gym’s elite team, “Assault on Weakness.”
Satterfield says he doesn’t like to make predictions when it comes to the Open, Regionals, or the Games, but with Assault on Weakness, a team dedicated specifically to training for competition, anything seems possible.
The Box, The Culture
CrossFit Murfreesboro is a 10,000 square-foot gym with 45-foot high ceilings. Inside, the box is divided into two sections – with a 2,500 square-foot section devoted to the competitive team.
Though it’s in the neighborhood of two other CrossFit gyms and just a short distance away from a college campus, CFM has developed its own unique membership base.
“It’s a pretty competitive CrossFit gym,” Satterfield says. “It’s loud, it’s type-A, and there’s high-fiving and foot stomping.”
More than one-third of the box’s membership, around 40 percent, participated in the CrossFit Open last year. Satterfield describes CFM’s membership as more mature, in the age range of 30-45 and there are 30 married couples at the gym. All of that makes for a “more stable clientele,” and lends itself to the competitive edge and dedicated nature of CFM. “It’s kind of a grown up CrossFit,” he says.
The Programming
Even with a strong membership that feels like family, what athletes want out of their training when they step into the box, varies. Satterfield says he found he was trying to be everything to everyone.
“Instead, I was doing a bad job to either group, of being what they want,” he says.
So, he changed things. Programming is now broken down into levels with qualification testing required to advance to the next level. Tests are given quarterly. The 10-test qualification required to join Assault on Weakness includes three strength tests, four skills and three work capacity tests. Assault on Weakness is considered the “elite competitive branch” of CFM. Streamlining his programming has allowed Satterfield to actually be everything to everyone. With the varied levels, he can teach three different classes at once. 
Trainer Matthew Hughey trains this elite group. There is an importance to specializing workouts, especially for the competitive team. “Those, the workouts ... they don’t have to be fun,” he jokes. 
Last year, Assault on Weakness team members trained for competition as a team. This year, individuals are training to their strengths and weaknesses. “This year, a lot of our athletes just wanted to see how they could do as an individual,” Satterfield says.
Early on, Assault on Weakness set the goal, hoping to see eight of those individuals make it to Regionals. Satterfield says CFM has 12 within striking distance right now. “After the Open, we’ll sit down and say, ‘OK, now what do you want to do?’” he says. 
The owner and firefighter just qualified for the team himself. In addition to streamlining and splitting up into levels, Satterfield has created a “CrossFit co-op” with “Assault on Weakness.” Make it to the team and members see a discount in dues. Those dues are kept strictly for the team’s needs going into competition. The team can decide collectively how to use those funds for such expenses as hotel rooms, transportation, etc. It’s another example of how Satterfield isn’t just creating a program, he’s cultivating a culture of competitors. 
No Predictions
When he changed up his programming, Satterfield says, “I thought, ‘It’s really going to magnetize.’ But it hasn’t’ really.”
It’s a strategy that’s new to CrossFit, he says. Developing programs to fit the varied tastes of clients is something most gyms are just now figuring out. “It’s really grown very organically,” he says.
Even with a new, thought out, specialized strategy, Satterfield is not making any bets on what will happen in regional competition. “I’m not much on predictions when it comes to CrossFit,” he says. “You never know who is going to be at Regionals. And there are a lot of unknowns when it comes to the Open this year. But our team has worked harder this year as a whole than they ever have before. They have trained with a plan this year.”