Dear Crossfitters around the world, yes, you, all of you. I'd like to bring something important to all of our attentions that is so fundamentally simple, it's easy to over-look.
This letter is coming from the perspective of someone who has visited dozens of Crossfit boxes around the U.S. and in Asia, and who has now called three different boxes "home". I've been Level 1 certified since 2013, and have coached hundreds and hundreds of classes. This letter is not about teaching people to kip better, or how to program for the average athlete. I wish it was, because that would be easier. Trust me when I say, I wish I wasn't sitting down to write a letter about the importance of making new people feel welcome when they walk into your gym for the first time. Or the second time, or the third.
My husband and I have been to a dozen different Crossfit boxes over the last 7 weeks during our travels across the U.S. and one thing has stood out to me the most when I reflect upon these experiences; how the community made me feel as an outsider coming in.
We had a few really incredible welcomings. Crossfit Longmont in Longmont, Colorado stands out. Sarg, the owner, greeted us, showed us around, personally introduced us to a few of the other members, made it a point to remember and use our names multiple times during class, checked in with us after class to get to know us, encouraged us to come back the next day, posted about us dropping-in on their social media. And the next day? Every single member came up to shake our hands and say hi again or introduce themselves if we hadn't met them the day before. Another coach came in after class to train, and went out of her way to introduce herself to us and make us feel welcome. A week later, we received a text from Sarg asking if we were still in town, and telling us how happy he was to meet us. Wow!
I wish we could have stayed at Crossfit Longmont, because they made us feel like they wanted us to be there.
Unfortunately, in my experience, this is an abnormality. For a global community made up of thousands of individual tight-knit communities who pride themselves on being a community, it sure is hard to feel welcome right away. And this can be detrimental for our growth.
If you are a member of a Crossfit gym, it is your responsibility to introduce yourself to any new face you see, during any class, at any time. It is your responsibility to make new people feel welcome. It is also your responsibility to say hello the next time you see them, ask their name again if you have forgotten, and make them feel welcome. It is your responsibility to help new people get familiar with the gym, where the equipment is, how things work, even if you aren't the coach. It is your responsibility, every single one of you.
Don't wait for a new face to come say hello to you. Don't wait to say hello until you bump into that new person when grabbing a kettle bell. Go out of your way to meet them. It's that simple.
The last 5 Crossfit boxes I've been to, I did a little experiment. I put my outgoing personality in check and purposefully didn't introduce myself to anyone, and waited to see who would approach me. During my experiments at these gyms, I felt extremely isolated, sharing awkward smiles or eye contact, but no conversation. Not a single gym member went out of their way to meet me, other than the coaches because I had to fill out paperwork. And only one of the coaches made an announcement during the warm up, saying, "Nick and Lindsay are dropping in today," and still, not one of the other 8 athletes in that class bothered to say hello to me. To take it even further, at the gym I am currently a member of (for 3 weeks now), I was in a class at a time I don't normally go to, where I didn't meet the coach until I finally walked up and introduced myself AFTER the class was over. I can't think of a bigger fail to the Crossfit community than that.
We can do better Crossfitters, and it's up to us. All of us! Get up off your foam roller and offer a handshake and hello to that new person who just walked in. Remember that feeling when you walked into your Crossfit box for the first time, not knowing anyone? It's not easy, even as a Crossfit coach, but it can be down right intimidating going to a new gym for the first time where everybody knows each other, especially if you've never done Crossfit before. Keep that in mind Crossfitters and commit to do better.