crossfit open

Five Steps to Make The CrossFit Open Unforgettable at Your Gym

Ready to make this your gym's best CrossFit Open yet? Here are five tips from six-time CrossFit Games athlete and Deka Comp owner Michele Letendre!

Monica Hilton
February 22, 2024
Five Steps to Make The CrossFit Open Unforgettable at Your Gym
Ready to make this your gym's best CrossFit Open yet? Here are five tips from six-time CrossFit Games athlete and Deka Comp owner Michele Letendre!

Editor’s Note: This CrossFit Open feature was written by six-times CrossFit Games athlete, elite coach and Deka Comp owner, Michéle Letendre.

When The Open comes around, we’re all quite excited but also slightly annoyed. There’s a lot of organizing, expectation management, excitement and sometimes deception in our affiliates.

Remember when all that lasted five weeks?

When we run The Open, we can choose to have it ingrained and included. Or we can choose to make it a yearly event that stands out and brings our community closer to each other, but also closer to the worldwide community that is CrossFit.

Michele Letendre and Patrick Vellner
Michéle Letendre (right) with Patrick Vellner (left) after the 2023 CrossFit Games. (Photo credit: Deka Comp)

Having been a beginner, a coach, a Games athlete and an Owner, The CrossFit Open has had different meanings throughout the years and roles I’ve taken on. And most likely to you as well, as a newer CrossFit athlete or coach or affiliate owner.

One thing though that is always true; The Open brings pressure. Games athletes feel the pressure of the beginning of the season and the comparison to other high level athletes. Coaches feel pressure to be there for athletes and try to give them the best possible advice on an event that they’ve never done before, and don’t really know what score will look like.

Some members feel the pressure of beating their previous rankings or finally getting their first muscle-up. Other members are completely oblivious of what’s coming, and are a true example of why ignorance is bliss. (Gosh, I miss that one year…)

How to Make this Your Best CrossFit Open Yet.

This pressure, no matter how you feel it though, goes away once we feel like we have more control and visibility. So here are five tips, in no particular order, to help you have an awesome Open season. (But you’re probably already doing all of this because you’re awesome.)

1. Prepare Before Starting.

Prepare what? We don’t know the workouts. Yes, I know, it’s super annoying. Preparing in our world means setting the ground for the potential of XYZ. Preparing for a Friday Night Lights (FNL) event has a lot of unknown and very little time to set up. Here are some things that you don’t need to know but still prepare ahead of time:

  • Assign roles for the event to your staff. Clearly-defined roles and tasks will help you run the event without getting overwhelmed. One person should organize the lanes and stations for RX athletes, one for scaled, and/or other categories. One person can take care of reading the workout details and becomes the “head judge.” And another can take care of helping members warm up for their event.
  • Create an easily-editable signup sheet. At Deka CrossFit, we’ve always used a Google Sheet, shared via email on Thursday evenings after we’ve assigned stations to equipment, lanes, heat times, buffers, etc. Use a general structure that has a total number of cells of about the number of people you’ll usually have in one class. Then invite your members to put in their names in the appropriate cell. Yes, people will mess this up. Let them (within reason). It’s not a big deal.
  • Get your playlist ready.
Pro Tip: Want your own copy of the CrossFit Open sign-up Google Sheet? Simply click the link and make a copy to use in your gym!

2. Turn the CrossFit Open Announcement into a Party.

Sports are a big part of our lives. Yes, CrossFit is a training methodology but it’s also a sport (I mean we are doing the Open, we’re basically pros). We need to appreciate the sport we do.

When people participate in sport, it’s a bigger part of their lives. When people just go to the gym, it’s something they’ve ticked off their list. We have to nurture that relationship with CrossFit. So making a viewing party for the open announcement is one of the few times that we get to just watch the sport we participate in daily.

Open workout at Deka CrossFit
Members of Deka CrossFit complete an Open workout. (Photo credit: Deka CrossFit)

Make bets or create teams that support different athletes. Wager burpees or cleaning up equipment after the next workout. Or just have some beers and popcorn, and explain to your peers how you can do better than Brent Fikowski on this.

These social gatherings create buzz, connect people and just allow everyone to have some fun.

3. Overcommunicate by Spelling Out the Rules.

People will forget to sign up for their heat time or put in their scores. They’ll also neglect to read the rules, movement standards, requirements, etc.

You’ll need to budget some time to read the instructions provided by the CrossFit Open team. Don’t expect members to understand the standards and scaling options. You’ll have to help them with that. If I've learned anything as a CrossFit Games-level coach, it’s that no matter what level of competitors you have, they will be frantic.

Your communication should include:

  • Reminder of the event details. Explain the schedule, heats and categories. List any equipment they need to bring on their own (i.e. jump rope, weightlifting shoes, etc.)
  • Deadlines to submit information. An example of this is the signup sheet for FNL. We used to get tons of emails about when the sign up form would be ready. So in our weekly CrossFit Open email, we spelled it out: The Open registration sheet will be available this Thursday evening.
  • Reminder athletes when they’ll need to submit their scores.

Now, this isn’t to say that you have to do everything for everyone. But it’s just a good idea to know the workout details, and explain them as simply as possible to your people. If you don’t have the time to do that, ask one of your coaches!

4. Friday Night Lights or Monday Motivation? You Decide!

At Deka CrossFit, we’ve always done FNL and a Monday Open workout. This works well for a few reasons:

  1. It allows our more competitive members to redo the workout in a controlled way.
  2. Staff is able to really get to know the workout and create a more organized plan to make it work in Monday classes.
  3. For those who don’t know what The CrossFit Open is (or are intimidated or on the fence about participating), it provides the opportunity to do the workout with no pressure, in the same safe environment they’re accustomed to workout in every Monday. Some people really just need to dip their toes before jumping in!
  4. FNL or any event specifically for The Open gives people intense feelings of both nerves and fear, but also pride and joy. That is an awesome feeling everyone should feel. So yes, sometimes organizing an Open-specific event takes a lot of energy, but seeing the pride and joy in peoples faces should make you feel good about the time and effort. To help you assign tasks to your staff, set clear expectations of their role in this community-building strategy. Share the burden and share the rewards!
Celebrate community with The CrossFit Open
The CrossFit Open is a great opportunity to celebrate connection and community. (Photo credit: Deka Comp)

5. Celebrate Every Finish Line.

When I was young, I swam competitively with my local pool every summer. We had meets every Friday evening and when the meet was done, we’d all gather at the local Harvey’s (I didn’t know back then, okay?) and have a burger and fries to celebrate, no matter if we won or lost.

Make your tradition. After The CrossFit Open is done, have a celebration. Whether that’s a party, dinner, ice cream cone or a cold plunge, you do you. Do something to celebrate your people. Thank your staff for their involvement and wish good luck to those who have moved onto the next step.

You can even get creative with a prize ceremony. Distribute prizes for things like most improved, funniest fail, MVP, Spirit of the Open, etc.

In Summary: Have a Great CrossFit Open Season!

Most of you have been doing this for at least a little while so you’ve probably got a good thing going. Hopefully this list will have given you at least some ideas to help you keep this event fresh and engaged by even your oldest member (in membership age and actual age).

At Deka Comp, we love The CrossFit Open and encourage any gym to include it as part of their gym culture. To help our members do this, our programming during the open has always been to give options accommodating everyone’s schedule. We provide a class workout every day of The Open and give the option to do The Open workout on Friday or Monday.

We also provide our members with an Open workout sheet that has a warm up, workout notes and some organization pointers. This helps to provide our coaching team with the best possible experience for their members.

If you want access to these CrossFit Open workout PDF sheets, simply sign up here and we’ll send those out on Thursday evenings following each week’s workout announcement.

Have a great CrossFit Open season, everyone!

Monica Hilton

Monica is our Content Manager extraordinaire for PushPress. She also owns her gym in Indianapolis, Together We Rise CrossFit, which she opened in 2014 and previously worked in IndyCar racing.

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