BLUF – In leadership positions, your individual actions will echo throughout your team. Develop your sense of self-awareness and seek counsel when needed, but remember it is your responsibility to make a choice and act.
For those not in the know, the 2019 Reebok CrossFit Open is the largest fitness competition in the world and recently concluded last week. Five fitness tests in two different competitive division, as prescribed or “Rx” and Scaled, are issued over five weeks. Athletes from around the world compete to earn their chance to compete at the 2019 Reebok CrossFit Games, which is like the Super Bowl of the season.
Prior to the start of this year’s Open, myself and another athlete I will call “Quadz” decided to deliberate enter the Scaled division. We both have been competing in the Rx division since we started CrossFit, yet had compelling reasons to switch over. I myself had a few: I knew that my training regime has not been as dialed in compared to the past, I prioritized being a better coach/affiliate manager over being a competitive athlete, and I wanted to be an example to the majority of our athletes that there was nothing wrong with scaled. When I asked our athletes if they were going to sign up for the open, the would reply with “Yeah, but I’m going scaled…” in a demeaning tone. I replied to them with, “Don’t say it like that! Scaled is awesome, and we’re glad to have you participate.” Again, I had no illusions that I would be competitive with my fellow athletes at 907 CrossFit, but wanted to lead by example in showing that going Scaled was ok. For Quadz, he wanted to see how he would fair in the scaled division. He knew his cardio and certain gymnastics movements weren’t on par with his strength and weightlifting,
Fast forward to the end of the Open, where we have successfully completed another year of nerve-racking competition (the unknown workouts drive a high degree of stress over our community…yet we sign up every year, hahaha!). In the Scaled divison, Quadz ended up being 35th in the world and 1st in the state. I earned a top 15 spot in the state (some of the scoring is wonky since some athlete did a mix of Rx and Scaled workouts). With those performances, Quadz and I were invited to the 2019 CrossFit Alaska Invitational. 907 CrossFit actually earned 13 invites to the Invitational! Awesome note: one of our coaches, Ana, took 1st in the United States and 3rd in the world in the Scaled division. Friggin’ amazing! The Invitational is a local, follow-on throwdown to the Open where the top 15 male and female athletes from both Rx and Scaled division compete for fittest in Alaska. The event is really fun and a great example of how our community can come together for fun and competition. For Quadz and I, we had some decisions to make.
I decided to accept my invitation and compete. Even though I have not prioritized CrossFit or being a competitive athlete, my performance level was decent within the division. Notes: 2 other male athletes from 907 CrossFit placed higher than me, and there is no Masters 35-39 divison here locally. As one of the leaders of the box, I couldn’t go back on my word and say “Scaled is beneath me” through my actions and not compete. To everyone in the box, I earned my spot and should take it and represent the squad! I’ll honestly say if I wasn’t a coach/affiliate manager, I would have declined my invite. But just like being an officer or squadron commander, you have to lead by example through your actions doing things that may not mean that much to you, but mean a lot to the people you lead. I’m still approaching the event from a state of Coach/Team Mom who will be there to support all of our athletes…but I’ll also being working out in between cheering.
For Quadz, he contemplated declining his invite. There were several athletes that said “C’mon man, you earned it! Why give up something you earned? You can totally smash the competition!” Quadz knew that if he showed up and competed in the Scaled division, he would be at a significantly higher fitness level than his competitors (including me). He was concerned about everyone viewing him as sort of a “fitness bully” who decided to compete in a division he could dominate instead of the division he has been competing in for several years. In addition, he is a known athlete/coach around the community and will have lots of people asking why he is in the Scaled division in the first place. I advised him that he should decline. Based on our original intent of “experimenting with Scaled”, Quadz didn’t have anything to prove to anyone. Just like me, he checked the box of competing in another Open and kept his participation streak alive (this year marks eight in a row for me, six for Quadz). I shared with him that the amount of time answering the question “Why did you go Scaled this year?” would be far less than answering “Why did you compete in Scaled where you don’t have any actual competition?”. Quadz did in fact decline his invitation, but will remain a cheerleader for our athletes. A really fit cheerleader.
My lesson from this story is that people in leadership positions will face decisions throughout your career and life that will have more impacts on than just yourself. The second and third order effects of your decisions and actions can have huge impacts on others, and you need to be mindful of those impacts. There is no easy formula or if/then statement to adhere to, but having the self-awareness to analyze the situation is a great first step to the process. Having a trusted friend to counsel you never hurts either. However, in the end the counsel is just that and you are the one charged with making the decision. As long as you own your decision and understand the impacts to those outside of you, your decision should become obvious to you. This is the “tale as old as time”: the better leaders put the needs of the team above their personal needs.