After the CrossFit Invitational events ended, Dave Castro (Director of The CrossFit Games) took to the microphone to announce some changes for the 2018 competition season. There were 2 major announcements to take note of:
Team competition will be changing to 4 person teams instead of the previous standard of 6.
Slight reshuffling of some Regionals, notably that the West, Canada West, & California region will combine to become a single regional. South America will have their own regional again and Europe will be divided into 2 regions. One regional will be comprised of Northern Europe and the second regional will combine the Southern European Countries, the Middle Eastern countries, and Africa.
The Regional changes will have an impact, but we will have to wait for more details to know exactly what countries fall into where regarding the changes across the pond. Now, the change of combining West, Canada West, and California will make things tight and lead to a very entertaining weekend. I'm not going to list all the names but there are going to be some big names left out from an already tight field qualifying for the games next season.
The biggest change is definitely the reduction of teams from a six person team to a four person team. This changes the landscape of the competition completely and will undoubtedly have a direct effect on the Individual Competition. To dive into the details, you must look at the perspective of those directly affected by the move: coaches and athletes.
Your standard team of 6 just got reduced to 4, obviously taking away 2 spots. The impact of this change will start to affect the landscape of teams immediately because during the off season, you tend to see movement from athletes joining teams and making large life decisions to set them up for success. As an example, just recently, Team Mayhem Freedom (Rich Froning's team) brought in a new 3rd female teammate to fill the void left by a recent departure. This new teammate of theirs was an individual Games competitor recently and is very well rounded. With the reduction of one spot on the women's side you start to wonder how will this affect their team and so many other teams in similar situations.
Multiple teams or an all-out fight for 4 spots?
The question will start to rise about, "should we create 2 separate teams?" This will be one of many issues for gyms with a deep talent pool, especially those with young, selfish athletes looking to get under the spotlight for the first time and out from the shadows of veterans or those more talented than them. I promise you this: the most selfish of athletes will ask questions about 2 teams looking for their best opportunity/easiest path to get on the regional floor. They won't want to play the role of backup on a better, more complete team, be ready to step in if an injury occurs, or be willing to fight for a spot. I am particularly interested to watch and see the team breakdowns, so we can look at who wants to be a teammate and pay their dues versus those who just want to get on the floor.
You also must think about the relief some teams are feeling now, knowing that they don't need a 3rd guy or girl necessarily. I can personally relate there, having our team held back in some previous seasons by the inadequacy of a teammate. It is less stressful from a coach's point of view only having to focus on filling 4 spots and at game time, coaching only 4 athletes/personalities. These new teams of 4 will feel like a weight has been lifted off of them, not only from not worrying about the inadequacies of extra teammates but also from sharing the burden of expectations while having two fewer people to point fingers toward at the end of each workout.
I personally do feel bad for the athletes in one way: 2 fewer spots on every team means a lot of people will not be going to regionals this year to participate. Regionals is a great experience and opportunity to learn about oneself and teammates. At the same time, I understand the reduction based on the results and locker room conversations from past years; meaning there are teams at regionals every year that you look at and wonder, "How in the hell did you qualify?" The talent pool at regionals will be denser this year, meaning closer finishes and a better overall competition. But the coach in me still feels for the good athletes that will miss out this year.
Another thing to think about is the "test." Dave Castro was quoted saying it will be a better test for the athletes, better programming, and a more complete test. All that really means is that you are going to be doing a lot more work as a team athlete than in some previous years. The workload for team athletes has increased over the years but this change will dramatically shift the turnout in some workouts. Your ability to do high skills and volume will be tested significantly; the impact it will have on the overall results will be massive and more than likely will be the separating factor for the top teams. To me, this is a key reason teams comprised of former individual competitors will excel in many of the workouts. Make no mistake: teams will still have the worm waiting for them with its new slimmed down sections made to inflict punishment on 4 people rather than 6. One thing that will remain is the requirement to work as a team on this object (which in previous years has proven to be more difficult than everyone expects). The worm has a special ability to suck out your soul and beat you down (which makes it my absolute favorite). And unlike other movements, you must do this as a team and need all participants to move in synchronization in order to be completed.
Among all of the regional and team changes, we don't really know how it will impact the individual side of things just yet. Maybe some of those past games individual competitors that are tired of getting 35th at the Games will want to join forces on a team. With this possible new incentive for some of these athletes to go team, will this open the door for other athletes to punch their individual tickets for the first time to regionals or even the Games?
In the end, you are going to need 4 very solid people if you want to make it onto the regional floor as a team. To make it to the Games, your group will have to be very good without any glaring weaknesses. And to get to the top of that podium come next year at the Games, you better have 4 people with an immense amount of talent, experience, and mental fortitude. I honestly think the days of no-namers becoming more known from team competition are gone. The field will be dominated at the top with household names teaming up to create these super teams.
So where does your group land?
One thing is for sure, people are going to start talking even more and it will continue to grow and get more attention all the way to the Games. Many teams will be searching for where they fit in and possibly for new teammates. So, keep your eyes peeled for people switching gyms and possibly relocating. CrossFit competitors are crazy and will go to extreme lengths sometimes. Oh, and speaking of, I will be searching for another legit female to add to #TeamDensity for the 2018 season in the quest for another one of those shiny golden circles to go around our necks; so if you’re in the Houston area or want to be, don't hesitate to contact me.