Today I want to write about my experience as a judge at the Beach Throwdown in Zandvoort. It was the first time that I judged at an official CrossFit competition and it luckily was a pretty popular one this year. That made it more exciting and challenging for me at the same time. Competitions that have been rather small in 2015 have grown to a pretty competitive event with some of the top athletes of the Netherlands. The nice and even more interesting thing about the Beach Throwdown are the challenges under rather unusual conditions at the beach. Besides, it’s of course also not too bad to spend a weekend with fun people and lots of sun at the beach.
Why judging as a crossfitter?
I’ve actually never considered judging at a competition, until I was asked by the co-organiser of the BTD 2016 and then I thought, why actually not? I’m a passionate crossfitter and familiar with all typical movements and it would be a great opportunity to learn more about the sports and competitions. I’ve judged at my box during the Open and other qualifiers before and felt secure enough to judge at a public event like the BTD as well. Now, I’m glad I did it, because it made me respect judges more and made me more aware of the importance of moving correctly and clearly in order to avoid no-reps, when it really matters. It’s the athlete’s responsibility to make a clear rep and not yours as a judge. I’m hoping to qualify for a national competition myself, which is why these are two very good reasons for me. But even if you never join a competition as an athlete, those two reasons are valid, since you might join a qualifier or the CrossFit Open for fun, where you have to move well/clearly and be judged as well.
There are four things that I recommend to do before the actual event. First of all, you should have already judged a couple of your training buddies in your box before in order to gain experience as a judge, before it becomes more serious. Second of all, it’s always a good idea to absolve the official online judges course by CrossFit HQ. It’s a good test to see, if you are familiar with the movements and ready to decide over a rep or no-rep during a WOD. Besides, I also looked up some articles online in order to read tips of people that have gained some experience with judging. The most helpful one I found on Breakingmuscle.com: “So You Want to Be a CrossFit Judge? 7 Tips to Help You Make the Right Decisions“. However, the most obvious and important preparation for any workout that you have to judge is making yourself familiar with the workouts and their movement standards.
Overall experience and tips for judging
CrossFit, a big crowd, sun, ocean and tasty burgers – it definitely was a successful weekend. The days were really long and I didn’t have much time to eat during the day or even go to the toilet, but at the end of the day it didn’t matter, because I mostly had a lot of fun. It was nice to meet so many different athletes on different levels and with different nationalities. There is one moment that I’ll never forget, though. This is probably one of those moments that you fear the most as a judge. Since there are three sections at the Beach Throwdown in order to give more athletes the opportunity to join the competition – intermediate, RX and RX+ – I had to make a choice in which section I’d like to judge. On Saturday, I chose to judge the intermediate athletes, since I knew there was a big chance that I make a mistake and even though intermediate athletes are often the worse movers, it’s still easier to judge, because you don’t have as much pressure as with the RX+. However, on Sunday I felt confident enough to do switch eventually to RX+. Indeed, they are better movers, but on the other hand some of them really try to push the edge and don’t want to put more effort in each rep than needed, which makes the judging pretty hard at some times. So you need to be really confident, focused and familiar with the movement standards. The hardest movements to judge actually were heavy deadlifts and the heavy atlas stones over the shoulder. But before I go on and go on, back to my one moment that I’ll remember for a while. The last workout included heavy atlas stones over the shoulder. The athletes had to complete each weight only once, which is why the last stone was pretty heavy and quite a challenge for most people. There was one guy that went through the first reps pretty easy, but struggled with the last stone for some while, until he finally made it. So he thought! I had to no-rep him, since he didn’t meet the standards. He was so confident about his rep that it almost make me doubt my decision. A lot of people had their eyes on us, which made me even more nervous and he got even pretty pissed at me and threw his belt pretty hard in front of my feet. Those are moments that are the hardest for judges I believe, but I’m really happy and proud about my decision and you need to be prepared for those moments. Afterwards his buddy came to me to apologise and to thank me for my time and for judging. I really appreciated that and I do understand that the athletes do these workouts with all their heart and that it sometimes can be really frustrating, so I wasn’t angry at all for his reaction. On the contrary, I felt sorry, but I of course can’t let that influence my decision. So if you want to be a judge, you need to be able to make quick decisions under pressure. Just test it out during qualifiers at your own box.
It was a really fun weekend and a great experience as a crossfitter. If I don’t decide to do the qualifier myself next year, then I’ll definitely volunteer again.