I’ve been on all sides of the ‘functional fitness‘ competition process. I’ve served as a standard judge, head judge, MC, competitor, weight-changer, and everything in between. Some competitions were well organized with flawless execution while others were more shambolic than an office overrun by rabid wombats. Despite my eclectic competition background one truth remains the same. If the judging is “crappy”, the entire competition is automatically labeled the same. It doesn’t matter how random the WODs were, the location they take place, or even how sexy the competitors are, if judges are not fair, consistent, and effective, “That competition sucked!” will be resonating for days afterwards.
In order to keep your next throwdown out of the “sucked” category I’ve outlined a few simple rules for judge hopefuls.
1. Be Outspoken. When an athlete approaches for the WOD be the first to speak. Introduce yourself and look them in the eye. This demonstrates that you are not afraid to use your voice and can establish a mutual respect. However, don’t let this “respect” result in any favoritism (bro-reps). You are there to ensure a fair performance… not make friends.
2. Customize Communication. Assuming the competition organizers have given judges freedom to “assist” the athletes, it’s important to understand exactly how to do so. Some athletes prefer to have reps called out in a specific method (i.e. every five) while others might like to hear a clarification of certain parts of a movement (i.e. lockout). It’s not necessarily your job to babysit the athlete – but clear/effective communication between the two of can decrease the chance for drama. Ask what they prefer and try to accommodate (within reason).
3. Be Loud. Odds are good that after “3,2,1, Go!” a degree of chaos will ensue. Music will be blaring, a crowd may be screaming, and several others judges will be bellowing rep counts. You will need to get loud to be heard. This not only helps the athlete but can help you (as a judge) tune out the many distractions. You can also be “loud” with your actions. When the time comes you must “No Rep!”, correlate your arm movement with it (like “safe” in baseball). You can also use fingers to communicate reps.
4. Stand Your Ground. Many CrossFitters can look rather intimidating. Perhaps they’re 7 feet tall with mountains for traps. Maybe their beard would smother a small country. But no matter what, you (the judge) are the boss – act like it. Don’t be shy or faint-hearted (Some athletes will pick up on such a try to use it to their advantage). From rep one get ready to enforce the standards outlined and do so from the first questionable rep. Letting even one bad rep slide can leave room for argument on others. There is no place for timidity in CrossFit judging!
5. Be Consistent.It’s obvious that every athlete you judge has something to lose/gain based on how effective/ineffective you are. However, realize that all the other athletes (the one’s you’re not judging) are also depending on you. The only thing more frustrating to an athlete than getting a “no rep” is getting one while the guy next to him/her is getting away with sub-standard movements. Be fair and consistent to all the athletes by simply being so with the one you’re judging.