Run a Successful CrossFit Open — Tips From Affiliate Owners

January 25, 2024


Here are a few tips from affiliate owners for affiliate owners on running a successful CrossFit Open.

The 2024 CrossFit Games Open is approaching fast, and it’s time to rally your community.

While the purpose of the Open is to find the fittest athletes in each region to advance to the Quarterfinals, it’s also an opportunity for any athlete at any level to participate in the competition. It can add meaning and purpose to your athletes’ training while also bringing your gym’s community closer together. 

The Open is a perfect way to challenge your athletes in a positive and competitive experience. It can be a great way for them to meet new people and strengthen their bonds with each other.

It can also be a motivation to get your athletes back into the gym consistently, reinforce their goals, and create a fitness baseline for the next year. 

No matter what drives your gym to participate in the Open, you should create an experience that makes it fun for everyone involved. 

To help, we’ve gathered some of the best tips from affiliate owners who have experience running a successful CrossFit Open.




2021 CrossFit Open

2021 CrossFit Open | Photo by @wodphotography


CrossFit Huntsville

During the 2023 CrossFit Open, CrossFit Huntsville had 219 of its athletes participating. 

“While a lot has changed through the years, our love of the Open has not, and we work just as hard today as we did back in 2011 to encourage athletes to sign up and participate,” owner Mandee Stearns says. “My favorite thing about the Open is its ability to push each person individually to challenge themselves in new ways while simultaneously building a stronger community within the gym and creating new bonds and lasting memories.”


Tips For Affiliate Owners

1. Inform Your Members

Before the Open starts, the staff sends a detailed email to their athletes explaining what the Open is, how to sign up, and the logistics of how the affiliate will run the event. 

“After that, it is up to us (the coaching staff) to announce it to classes as a whole, and then take the time to talk to athletes individually, answering questions and explaining to them why we think it would be a positive experience for them,” Stearns says. 


2. Display the Number of Athletes Signed Up in Your Gym

Each year, CrossFit Huntsville sets a participation goal based on the previous year. To ensure they meet that goal, they create a visual aid and display it in the gym to show progress. 

This serves as a great reminder and a sense of FOMO for the athletes who still need to register. 

2022 Open Participants at CrossFit Huntsville

2022 Open Participants at CrossFit Huntsville | Photo courtesy of CrossFit Huntsville on Instagram


3. Make It Easy for Athletes to Participate

The gym programs the Open workouts as its class WOD each Friday, giving athletes the opportunity to do the Open during their regularly scheduled class. 

CrossFit Huntsville also offers free classes on those Fridays for anyone officially signed up for the Open. On Mondays, the gym allows athletes to either do the regularly programmed Workout of the Day or perform the Open workout. 

“We have found that for our community, it works to stick with what we've been doing since 2011. Show up, throw down, share in the successes of others, and enjoy the shared suffering that is unique to CrossFit,” Stearns says. 


4. Create Incentive With an Open-Themed T-shirt

To help promote the Open and get the community excited to represent their gym, CrossFit Huntsville designs an Open T-shirt each year and sells them for $10. 

The catch: You can only purchase the T-shirt if you’re registered for the Open. 

As a bonus, athletes who take the Judges Course and bring in their certificate of completion can purchase the T-shirt for just $5. 

“We then display all those certificates in the gym as well, and people really take pride in completing the judges course and being named a ‘certified judge’ for the Open,” Stearns says. “We have a big contingency of athletes who advance to the Quarterfinals each year, so this helps us make sure that we have enough judges in any given class with at least some experience and training.”

CrossFit Huntsville 2021 Open T-shirt

CrossFit Huntsville 2021 Open T-shirt | Photo courtesy of CrossFit Huntsville on Facebook


Free Will CrossFit

Of its 110 athletes, Free Will CrossFit had 40 participate in the 2023 Open. 

“It's amazing to see people take on a challenge, especially an unknown one,” owner Alex Hilderbrandt says. “We place a lot of importance on actively seeking out challenges and being comfortable being a novice at something, so it's cool to see our members step up and do the Open.” 


Tips For Affiliate Owners

1. Host an Intramural Open

Last year, Free Will CrossFit hosted its first Intramural Open, and it was “a huge hit,” says Hilderbrandt.

An Intramural Open is a team competition within your affiliate that uses the Open workouts as the centerpiece of the competition. It can also include additional “team tests” and opportunities to earn points outside of Open workouts to get your entire community involved. 

The gym used the resources provided by CrossFit Roots as a template on how to run the Intramural Open and planned a few fun activities each week to make the Open less about scores on the leaderboard and more about having a good time with the community. 



2. Devalue Open Scores

Hilderbrandt says the biggest hurdle their athletes face during the Open is feeling pressured to do the workouts as prescribed or get a good score. He says the best thing the gym can do is devalue scores and put more value on the weekly challenges they run during the Intramural Open. This is also a good way to highlight hidden talents in your community. 

For example, athletes can earn points by wearing their team’s color during a workout, attending three or more classes a week during the Open, or even winning a chili cookoff. 


3. Don’t Be Afraid to Make the Open a Big Deal

“We hesitated to make a big deal of the Open for years because we didn't want to make people feel pressured or excluded,” Hilderbrandt says. “My advice is don't hesitate!”

Free Will CrossFit nearly doubled their participation in the Open after starting the Intramural Open and athletes are still talking about how much fun they had. 

This is your time to give back to your members. The more enticing you make the Open, the more they will want to participate.


CrossFit City of Lakes

Last year, CrossFit City of Lakes had 133 of its athletes participate in the CrossFit Open — over a third of their total membership. 

And it has much to do with the party they throw every year.


Tips For Affiliate Owners

1. Host a Friday Night Lights 

CrossFit City of Lakes hosts a Friday Night Lights event every week of the Open to make each workout feel like a party. This is a great way to gather your community to celebrate fitness and cheer each other on in a fun and exciting environment. 

“We turn the gym into a competition floor with stands, taped-off competition space, a potluck, adult beverages, and a lot of cheering and fun,” owner Jason Johnson says. 

CrossFit City of Lakes Friday Night Lights

CrossFit City of Lakes Friday Night Lights | Photo courtesy of CrossFit City of Lakes on Instagram


2. Run a Fantasy League

Similar to an Intramural Open, the gym runs a fantasy Open league, where coaches host a draft and athletes are put on teams. The team with the best average score from each Open workout wins. 

“Teams make their team name, team playlist, colors, and we encourage fun/healthy smack-talking,” Johnson said. 


3. Buy-In First and Speak Early and Often

The best way to raise participation in the Open is to get your staff and coaches to “buy-in first,” says Johnson. 

It’s also important to speak about the Open early and often, and make it known the Open is more about the community (not the top performers).

CrossFit City of Lakes does this by sharing hype videos, ESPN-style analysis videos, and even poems on their blog to promote the Open in a fun and inviting way. 


4. Participate — Especially If You’re the Affiliate Owner

“Practice what you preach,” Johnson says. 

If your athletes see you participating, they will be more likely to join in, too. 


For more information about running the CrossFit Open at your affiliate, read “The Affiliate Owner’s Guide to the 2024 CrossFit Open,” and stay tuned for additional marketing tools and graphics on the CrossFit Games Affiliate Resources page.




Cover photo by The Michael Patrick Studio