What I learned from spending a week with the future of Crossfit

crossfit future athletes

Watching the sport of CrossFit grow in the past 12 years has been a fascinating experience. Reminiscent of those time lapse videos that showcase the life cycle of a plant. You know what is supposed to happen next but to witness it in action at such high speed still leaves you mind boggled. Similarly with CrossFit we’ve witnessed it grow: expand, contract, make mistakes, reach its teenage years and stumble along the way as any young being does. A little scary or concerning at times but it’s our sport and we’re proud to see where it’s going (mostly). 

Particularly I find myself fascinated by how the younger generations coming into the sport are being shaped and how they’ve changed through the years. There’s no one clear path to competitive CrossFit but there has been in the last 4 years an undeniable trend. What used to be a sport you’d move into after dabbling in other more conventional disciplines: from soccer and basketball to track&field and gymnastics to name a few of the most popular, it has now become its own beast. Things are different now: the new up and coming athletes grow up in the CrossFit kids classes.

By the time they turn of competitive age these guys have been eating, bleeding and sweating CrossFit for longer than some of us have been in the sport to begin with. Most competitive teens from 2015 to 2019 started around the age of 12 to 15 years old, now? Most of them step into a box for their first class at 8 to 10. And those five years can make a huge difference in the grand scheme of things.

the crown 2024 girls

Through years working on the field I’ve been lucky enough to interact with both generations of athletes and to witness these new youngsters at the top of their game while also having the chance to see what goes on behind the shiny screen of polished reels and 20 second interviews.

A changing tide brought in by the newest generation

Needless to say things are different now. And not in the way you’d expect.

You see, when you’re in the full swing of your teens it’s so easy to get obsessed, especially when this shiny new thing in front of you makes you feel different and special. When you are desperately searching for something that will help you define yourself, a sport that is so all encompassing like CrossFit can seem like salvation. But like any toxic relationship it’s also very easy for things to crash and burn as quickly as they started. For so many heroic stories of teens turned pro athletes there are hundreds more of individuals leaving the sport or struggling with their own individuality once they aren’t the cool new guy with a bright future anymore.

When you start CrossFit in your mid teens it’s so easy to make it all you are: school becomes a side quest, your friends are strictly the people at the gym, social outings are reduced to a minimum and all other hobbies are now off the list. All in pursuit of becoming stronger and fitter. This was the reality of many teens who’ve now moved onto the Indy category. But what about the current generation?

Here’s where the magic has happened. 

Not only did they literally grow up within the sport, they’ve witnessed both the outcome for their predecessors as well as many of CrossFit’s rollercoaster-style ups and downs. And these things combined have given these new kids a whole lotta perspective.

Breaking out of the box to define who you are

Now in their late teens, they no longer define themselves by being athletes. CrossFit is what they do, not who they are. And this might just be the recipe to success for many of them. 

It’s often said that to be successful in sports you cannot be a balanced person, you need to strive to do the most and be the best at all times. And although this is an agreeable statement we’ve seen what happens when it’s pushed to the extremes. Look at the likes of Mal O’Brien and Haley Adams: pushed to the brink for years on end until they cracked. What did these girls have in common? The complete obsession with breaking and pushing their limits day in and day out. The desire to be the best. The same obsession that led them to move cross country to places where they had little to no friends outside of the sport, basically no hobbies that weren’t CrossFit related and the complete sense that if they failed at the sport they were nothing and no ones. (Yes we’re going for the dramatics here, but you get the point…)

Very few survive with this mentality and we risk losing out on amazing talents because we expect them to never develop as humans only as athletes. So I cannot even state how refreshing it was to witness the unexpected approach of this new generation.

the crown 2024 boys

Perhaps it was the added perspective mentioned earlier or maybe they took a note or two from their predecessors and understood that they need to become their own selves first beyond CrossFit, and take care of their mental health to actually enjoy being at the pinnacle of the sport.

Whatever the reason, I found all of them identified themselves as humans with passions and dreams first, athletes second. Groundbreaking.

From budding musicians, to videomakers and aspiring physios the sentiment was clear among all. I’m more than CrossFit… and perhaps that’s what makes me so good at it. When you are not defined by the result in a sport you remove layers of pressure that risk making you crack when it’s time to perform.

And exactly this is a takeaway I believe we can all benefit from despite our age.