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CrossFit® / mars 2018
Maureen Quirk, Global Newsroom

Dave Castro on Why Affiliate Gyms Were His Highest Priority During the 2018 Open

Yesterday, the 2018 Reebok CrossFit Games Open came to a close. Scores for 18.5 were due at 8 p.m. EST, as they are each Monday of the Open, and familiar names again sat atop the leaderboard. crossfit-open-vertical

Just days prior, Director of the CrossFit Games Dave Castro sat silently, alone, on the sideline of a small, makeshift competition floor at CrossFit Reykjavik in Iceland. Castro watched on as three of CrossFit’s most decorated female athletes went head-to-head-to-head in that final Open workout.

But this time, it was not Castro who programmed the workout. Nor was it ‘the Dottirs.’ The final Open workout of 2018 was chosen by an online vote from the CrossFit community—a community that boasts over 400,000 Open competitors and 14,000 affiliate gyms globally.

While letting the community vote on the workout may seem a small gesture, for Castro, it was his way – or rather, one of his many ways – of ensuring the greater CrossFit community feels seen during the Open, this year more than ever before. It was his way of showing that the Open is not designed solely for those individuals looking to qualify for Regionals, but rather for the everyday people taking classes in CrossFit’s affiliate gyms. 

In fact, Castro admits these affiliate gyms are his highest priority during the Open. 

“Almost 99 percent of all submissions from the Open are done in an affiliate box. That’s a powerful thing and we’re very proud of that.”

“Because of that, the focus is definitely the affiliates and the community in terms of getting members excited about and activated around participating in the Open,” he says.

The focus is definitely the affiliates and the community in terms of getting members excited about and activated around participating in the Open.

The Drop-Ins

Castro is not a man of just talk, either.

When traveling to the five cities that hosted this year’s Open announcements, he made a point of dropping in at nearby affiliates in all five. 

“I go to the affiliates and I talk to the coach. I talk to the owners and talk to the members,” says Castro. “I just want to let them know that CrossFit’s here to support them and they mean something to us.”

“Ninety percent of the time, they’re very shocked and excited when I show up. There have been a few times I’ve gone into gyms when people don’t recognize me,” he laughs. “It doesn’t happen a lot, though.”

How could Castro go unnoticed? It’s easier than one may expect. There’s no phone call ahead, no formal email from HQ to let you know he is coming. He just walks in like anyone and everyone else.

“I never tell gyms I’m coming,” Castro confirms. 

I never tell gyms I’m coming.

“I love to fly on a whim and do things randomly. I don’t want anyone to have an expectation that I’m supposed to be there, so as to not hurt people’s feelings or let them down if plans change.”

As for whether he works out at all these gyms, Castro notes that at most of them, it’s nothing but a social call. 

“They’re just quick drop-ins to meet the individuals,” he says. “I’ve had people ask me, ‘Are you here to judge me?’ But I’m not. I’m just here to hang out and say hello and show support.”

His favorite drop-ins during the 2018 Open were in Brazil.

“In Brazil, I came a couple days early, and I had time to visit 16 different boxes,” he says.

In Brazil, I came a couple days early, and I had time to visit 16 different boxes.

“I have the unique ability to travel all over the world for CrossFit, and it’s so much more powerful seeing it overseas than it is at home. At home, it’s been here for a while. It’s known. But when you go overseas – China, Australia, the UK, Brazil – and you see the passion for CrossFit at the beginning stages in these places, it’s pretty cool. It invigorates me.”

Illustrating Inclusivity 

Even with this focus on visiting local affiliates, Castro is realistic about the fact that the Open only brings him to five of the thousands of cities that house CrossFit gyms, and that there are many, many more participants and coaches who he has yet to meet, but are still inspired to join the Open—or just get to class every day.

This is, in fact, part of his reason for ensuring that all five of the 2018 Open announcements included additional heats of “everyday CrossFitters” doing the workouts – in many cases, the scaled versions – rather than solely the standard heat of Games competitors.

Castro’s hope is that these extra heats made it easier for affiliate owners to expose their members to how inclusive the Open is. 

“One of the guiding principles in CrossFit is that it’s infinitely scalable,” he says. “I’m always thinking up new ways to showcase that. We added these extra heats to show people that anybody can do the Open.” 

We added these extra heats to show people that anybody can do the Open.

While 2018 does not mark the first announcement or the first year where this happened, Castro notes it was a much bigger priority for his team this year. He wanted to tell the stories of these individuals—whether they were stories of transformation, weight loss, or how they discovered CrossFit. He wanted the individuals to receive interview time on the live broadcasts and feel as much a part of the show as the elites. 

“The feedback was great,” he says. “People loved it."

Over the last five weeks, the CrossFit Games social channels have also made a point of highlighting individuals of varying circumstances – adaptive athletes, pregnant women, elderly people – who have scaled Open workouts even further to get in on the competition.

And Castro’s watching.

“I think it’s cool that people scale further so they can participate.”

I think it’s cool that people scale further so they can participate.

 

14 minutes of doing YOUR best. #OpenMagic 🤳 @coach_chase_cfl2 ・・・ “#18point3 in the bag from Brooke (my athlete whose visually impaired)! A lot of elements in this workout. We put her new rope to the test and luckily we just worked on overhead squat work on Tuesday lol. I’m so proud of her. Official score of 100 on scaled. We took the overhead squat weight to 20#’s in order to continue with the workout, so the unofficial score is 210 reps!! 190 singles completed and she found her confidence in the overhead squat position and was able to hit 7 reps Unbroken in one of her sets! The thing that I loved the most is I no repped her about 7 times on the overhead for not going low enough. She didn’t bitch, no complaints, just said ok and continued to push forward. She was stoked to hear about all the positivity her training videos bring in the community and wanted me to convey her gratitude towards everyone! 3 down, 2 to go! @crossfit @crossfitfif @crossfitgames @crossfittraining @adaptivecrossfit“ #CrossFitGames #CrossFit @nicole.carroll

A post shared by The CrossFit Games (@crossfitgames) on Mar 9, 2018 at 10:10am PST

Personal Performance 

As for his personal participation, Castro finished the 2018 Open in 4,843rd place globally and 352nd in California. He put his score out there on social media each week for the community to see, captioning posts with honest thoughts on his performance.

“I go to the affiliates and do the workouts, and I have a judge. Same as everyone else,” he says.

“This year, I tried to rotate to different affiliates near my house and that was really fun.”

Does he get crap from others because he knows the workouts ahead? Of course. His response to it? A laugh.

“It doesn’t really matter,” says Castro. “Believe me, it’s not giving me an advantage,” he chuckles.

I go to the affiliates and do the workouts, and I have a judge. Same as everyone else.

Proud of your performance in this year's Open? It's not to late to reward yourself with gear from the official Open Collection

CrossFit® / mars 2018
Maureen Quirk, Global Newsroom