How to Be an Effective Judge during the Crossfit Open

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April 2, 2015

Judges are as integral to the success of CrossFit as a sport as the athletes and workouts themselves. You can’t have one without the other, and during the Open everyone has the opportunity to be a judge—if they so wish. Of course, it’s not as simple as saying that any member of a box can grab a clipboard and start no-repping every athlete that wants to compete in the Open. There’s more to being an effective judge than simply counting out numbers.

Who can be a judge at the Open—and beyond?
The first thing to clarify is that according to the information provided on the CrossFit Games site, the 2015 Online Judges Course is mandatory for:
-Affiliate managers
-Judges of Regional qualifiers and
-Those who intend to volunteer as a judge at Regionals or the Games

As you can see, there is no mention that one must pass the Online Judges Course as a prerequisite to being able to judge an athlete in the Open. In fact, if you go on the Online Judges Course site itself, there is no mention of the Open:

“The 2015 CrossFit Judges Course offers an introduction to the skills the CrossFit Judge will use during any competition. This course includes general information on competition rules, regulations and common movements. Each module includes a quiz to test the skills of the aspiring judge. These skills should be practiced and maintained regularly.”

So what does this mean? Technically speaking, anyone who wants to judge someone during the Open, can. Of course, only certified judges can validate an athlete’s scores—which is one reason why there is a big backlog on the CrossFit Games leaderboard right now. Furthermore, if you plan on doing the Open, I’m sure you’d prefer to be judged by someone who is well versed in the rules and movement standards of each workout. We’re not saying that someone won’t be able to tick those boxes without passing the online course, but it may help to solidify and quell any…’debate’ over the legitimacy of an Open workout score. Of course, for those athletes who are seeking to compete in the Open for fun, for their own personal objectives and who are less serious about challenging for the top score in the box, it may not matter who judges them. With that being said, there are a few basic requirements to being an effective judge during the Open.

1. Know the movement standards and go over them with your athlete
Movements like toes-to-bar (t2b) are simple to observe, but if you (as a judge) aren’t aware that the athlete’s feet need to go behind the vertical plane of the bar, you’re in trouble. It’s important to brush up on the movement standards for each Open workout, so that you know what qualifies as a rep—and a no rep—and you’re able to explain that to your athlete before they attempt the workout. Doing so will help the athlete avoid no-reps, post a good score and reinforce their confidence in you as a judge. If they do happen to perform a no-rep, they’ll be less likely to give you shit about it—depending on the athlete, of course.

2. Ask your athlete what their preference is for counting and encouragement
Some athletes want every rep counted out, while others like to hear every 5th rep. Others simply want the judge to be silent until they confirm all the reps have been completed. Similarly, the same applies to the level of encouragement a judge should give to their athlete. Everyone has a personal preference when it comes to how much support they want to receive. It’s more than likely that you’ll be judging a friend at the box (though it’s still important to stay honest—see below) so you’ll already probably know what they want to hear (or not hear) and when, but it doesn’t hurt to ask how they feel about encouragement during the workout. After all, this is the Open and people tend to take it a bit more serious than a regular WOD. Some athletes might want things to be quiet so they can stay in ‘the zone’, and others might want as much vociferous support as they can get.

3. Be aware of space and equipment
Though it’s not the judge’s job to touch the equipment, you can make sure that your athlete has plenty of space to operate prior to the workout getting underway. You don’t want a catastrophe where a bouncing bar runs into the shins of someone performing 15.2 right next to you. In addition, make sure you know where to stand to judge each repetition of each movement. It’s no use standing directly in front of someone when they’re doing t2b, as you won’t be able to see if their feet are breaking the plane of the pull-up bar. For most movements, the best position to judge from is to the side of the athlete—this way you’ll be able to see full extension of the hips, knees and arms. Once again, make sure that you have enough space to be able to stand and judge without interfering with another athlete’s workout.

4. Be honest
Perhaps the most important quality of a judge is honesty. Don’t be afraid to hand out repeated no-reps during a workout. It may feel uncomfortable, but you have to remember that you have everyone’s best interests in mind. You want to ensure that your athlete’s score is an accurate reflection of the performance they gave. You don’t want other people in the box to be ticked off because you let your athlete get away with repeated no-reps, thus giving them an inaccurate score and placing on the leaderboard. In that sense, you have to be fair to all the athletes who are competing in the Open—not just the one you’re judging.

With that being the case, you shouldn’t judge someone you don’t want to do well. You have to maintain some level of professionalism and not give out snarky comments when they miss a rep or fail a lift. Similarly, you should consider NOT judging your best pals at the box. If you want them to do well, it can be that much harder to give a no-rep when you should. Yes, you can be encouraging and supportive, but remember that it’s your job to enforce the movement standards to the best of your ability and ensure that the athlete’s score is as accurate as possible.

Photo courtesy of Paul Fazzone/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 

About Damect Dominguez

Co-founder of BoxLife Magazine. Author: Training Day: 400+ Workouts to Incorporate in Your Training.

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