How To Make The Open Easier

The Intramural Open is the best thing many gyms do all year.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy.

The CrossFit Open is 5 weeks of extra classes, extra organization, extra stress. Clients are in an anxious state; coaches are overworked; and you’re adding more of everything to your plate.

As a gym owner, I love and loathe the Open at the same time. I’ll do anything to help my clients feel amazing. And if I can find a way that makes it easier on my staff, I’ll do it. So here are my tips, and over a dozen tips from the TwoBrain family:

  1. Get more judges than you think you’ll need.
    Offer to pay for the judges’ course AND give a pound of coffee to any member willing to take it.
    If you can fit 1-2 more athletes into each heat during your Open tests, everyone will get home faster.
  2. Run Friday classes as “Open Workouts”. Even those who aren’t registered still do the workouts with those who are. Avoid the chaos of a separate programming stream. If an athlete needs to test outside of a normal class time, they can buy a 1:1 session to do so.
  3. Post heat signups in advance. First come, first served. We use a whiteboard: we count up the judges in attendance, and open that many spots per heat. When the athletes walk in, they put their name in the earliest heat available. We allow 3 minutes’ break between heats, and we stick to the schedule. Any professional event will do the same. Delays and disorganization don’t help anyone.
  4. Don’t allow free “do-overs”. I don’t think anyone should do an Open workout twice unless they’re trying to qualify for the next level, but that’s just me. We allow anyone who wants to “re-test” to do so…if they buy a punch card for extra classes. It’s not about the extra $15. When we allowed athletes to try each workout twice, a growing number would sandbag the event Friday (“I’ll just do a light run-through”) and then come back and hit it hard on Sunday. But of course, they still need a judge for their run-through “just in case”, and heats get flooded, and everyone waits longer for their turn. If there’s a small cost to do the workout twice, most won’t. And they shouldn’t.
  5. Stagger heat times on the longer events. If another 40-minute AMRAP shows up, tell athletes to be ready to go when the previous athlete finishes. Give judges stopwatches instead of relying on one clock. No one wants to sit around and watch one athlete struggle through 50 double-unders all alone for 20 minutes (including the athlete.) Keep the floor full.

Here are some of the best tips from the TwoBrain family:
“Overplan. Despite the fact that it’s just a workout, everyone’s stress levels increase, and people behave in ways that are out of character. Expect odd behavior, and manage it with patience and solid preparation.” – Mike Warkentin
“Ensure you have a plan for the early morning classes. It’s not fair to ask a coach who went to bed at 10 the night before and who has to be up at 3 am to coach, to create the plan every Friday morning.” – Nick Habich
“We did a video series for each week leading up to the Open. When you make the videos, don’t say the year or any dates. Make it generic so you can reuse the videos year to year. We’re actually using the same videos and we just replicated the mailchimp campaign and changed the year in the subject line.” – Bronson Dant (Here’s a sample.)
“We run our open on Saturdays. Makes it easier to plan. Let’s us run heats, coordinate judges and so forth. Thursday is our big potluck day and where we have one person from each team go. Then Friday is a normal day/recovery for most to prepare for Saturday.” – Carlin Vandendriessche
“After workout announcement , make a logistics plan that you share with your entire staff that includes:
– map and layout of your gym for workout (have it set up before your main Open event time, and mark everything – lane numbers, etc)
– heat times set with transition times built in
– have specific scaled/masters/male/female slots for heats (sometimes we are limited by equipment, and this can prevent it in advance)
– specific roles for coaches (we do head coach leading class, head judge, and photo/media)” – Leslie Macedo
“Lots of prep work helped make the Judges self sufficient!” – Denise Miccoli Trent
“Plan to run 2 more heats than you would normally think.” – Brian Zimmerman
“Print the standards/set up logistics for the morning classes. Assign athletes to judge right after their heat, team captains for motivation and to manage athletes score submissions” – Erin Alphonso
“Your staff are your messengers. If they fully understand what’s going on , makes easier for members to follow” – Anastasia Bennett
“Assign 2 team captains per team. 1 a fun member and 1 a coach. Put all planning for events on a team and rotate.
– mark all lanes, setup equipment ahead of time, and have people signed up as athlete for 1 heat and the judge for the next.
– mix your social events. 5 Fridays in a row is tough on everyone.” – Mike Lejeune
” We assign one lead coach to manage one of the Friday nights. Then they are off for the rest of the weeks. We also assign a coach to help people warm up and one more to be the heat stager/coordinator for the night. Runs like clockwork.” – Andrea Savard
“We run it on Sunday as a separate event.
1. Run a Thursday night announcement throw down. This seems counterintuitive, but it forces you to think through the logistics and standards early!
2. Assign the person responsible for set up, but ask for elves to help set up.
3. Set up Rx and scaled lanes
4. Think through how many will be Rx and scaled, as well as 55+, so that you can create a good ratio of each lane…see #3
5. Assign a heat master who assigns heats and judges. Esp since most of my judges are also competitors.
6. A separate place to warm up if you are going to be running multiple heats. At least plan some space for this.
7. Plan for spectators…even folks that have already finished need to be told where to go and where not to go.” – Ric Thompson
“Print an Open ‘cheat sheet’ each week – the workouts and quick notes on standards” – Phoebee Frost
“Emotions run high. Empower Captains to listen to concerns. Then when deemed worthy bring them to your Intramural Open staff or you. Whatever is appropriate.” – Ashley Bridges
“Hire someone else to look after it…. :)” – Kaleda Connell
“Set up the judges station:
One clip board full of blank judges sheets
One clip board for completed judges sheets
One clip board per station
Plus lots and lots of pens!” – Karli Kaea-Norman
My last tip: take ten seconds, every day, to look around and realize: “I did this.” You’re the reason they’re smiling, jumping for joy, congratulating friends. YOU, Coach.
Like CrossFit, no one said hosting the Intramural Open would be easy. But I promise: it’s worth it. Learn from our extra effort and mistakes: after 8 years of hosting an Intramural event, plan yourself a week off after the Open, buy your coaches’ lots of extra lunches and coffee, and hold every hug for one extra second!
(Two extra seconds is creepy, but still acceptable.)


One more thing!

Did you know gym owners can earn $100,000 a year with no more than 150 clients? We wrote a guide showing you exactly how.