Those who can’t, judge… Or so the saying goes. Maybe you want to contribute to the community, or voluntary judging gets you a quicker route to competing next time – whichever you are, I highly recommend judging a CrossFit competition at least once, for everything you’ll learn along the way.
I took the CrossFit judges’ course in February so I could judge in the Open, then I recently judged at the Rainhill Trials – a competition I’ve competed in myself and will be competing in again – and since then I’ve been thinking of the lessons that judging has taught me, both from a judging and an athlete point of view.
Lessons one and two are specifically for judges; three and four for athletes. The final three are for how judges and athletes can work smoothly together, but I recommend you read all for a holistic view for your next competition, whether you’re competing or judging!
1. You have to be very clear.
Judging in CrossFit is a massive lesson in clear, concise communication. Athletes are fully briefed all together but it’s also helpful to brief them yourself before the competition starts to let them know exactly what you’re looking for. Whilst the workouts are going on, music is loud and everyone is moving quickly, so you have to be firm and clear with your language – and if it’s a no-rep, quickly explain why (“extend hips”, “chin over bar”, “both toes touch bar” were a couple of cues I used). It prevents anyone getting confused when they’re already wound up and nervous!
2. If something doesn’t SEEM right…
… Then it probably isn’t. Athlete rushing through reps? Doing butterfly pull-ups and not allowing you to see their chin go over the bar? Not clearly extending after a push jerk? Then these are probably no-reps, and you’re safer calling them as such than letting them go. This advice came from our head judges, who are both highly experienced Regionals judges, and it makes a lot of sense to me.
3. Quality reps beat speed.
Though the last point was from a judges’ POV, this one is very similar but from an athletes’ POV. Unless you’re a ridiculously experienced athlete, the more you rush your reps the more likely you are to not hit the movement standards and get no-repped, slowing you down. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast – which basically means aiming for quality movement will ultimately make you faster.
4. Steady wins the race.
Starting hot out of the gate may get you a headstart against your other athletes, but will you really be able to keep that pace up? If you can, great! But for most people, starting steady and sticking with your pace is a better strategy – even Games athletes do it. I found the athletes I judged did best when they found a pace they could stick with and clung onto it (Rainhill workouts are only short, after all) rather than going out fast and start-stopping to catch their breath.
5. Judging is tiring!
Take a look at my face – maybe you can tell how weary I was?! Don’t get me wrong, I had an amazing weekend but it was such a tiring time. I got very emotionally involved with each athlete I was judging, and wanted to be as clear as possible for them, so I totally lost my voice by the end of the weekend. Don’t forget that even though you’ll be tired after competing, your judge will be feeling it too – so don’t take any frustrations out on them.
6. ‘Fair’ and ‘unfair’ judges don’t exist.
Your judge will always want you to do well, but they have to do their job, too. If you get no-repped, your judge isn’t been unfair to you: judges don’t judge ‘well’ or ‘fairly’ – they just judge. Everything should be black or white whether it was a rep or not.
7. All athletes are treated fairly.
Similarly to the above, no athlete should receive an unfair advantage over another, so don’t be offended if your judge isn’t cheering for you like your friends and family in the crowd are. Just keep your head down, move well, be nice, and all will be well on your score sheet!
I hope this has given you an insight into judging a CrossFit competition and made you want to try it out! I really had the best time, and there’s no feeling like the gratitude you get from the competing athletes. Similarly, I’ll be bearing all this in mind the next time I compete and ensuring I move as well as I can and be kind to my judge.