An Open Letter to CrossFit
My name is Greg Walsh. I began involvement with CrossFit in 2003, and was a member, trainer, and manager of CrossFit Long Beach until 2008 when I returned to my hometown of Rochester, NY.
In 2008 I began Wolf Brigade, and we have been expertly training people of all walks of life and fitness levels every day since.
During my time in Long Beach, I developed relationships with many involved in the CrossFit brand, and began a friendship with Greg Glassman. That led to a “partnership” based on my idea of providing a one-stop-shop for affiliates to receive world-class artwork and garment printing, and the ability/ option to showcase them for worldwide purchase on a website called, at the time, crossfitshirts.com.
We had a small but very high-quality printing business in Rochester, I loved CrossFit- especially the affiliates- and wanted to both help them and be more involved. I presented the “CrossFit Shirts” project at an affiliate gathering in 2007 to very positive response, and we were off and running.
The project was a big hit. CrossFit branded merchandise had never looked better, and affiliates were benefiting from our high level of expertise in art direction and graphic design.
The crossfitshirts.com platform was fun, exciting, and mutually beneficial; CrossFit received a percentage of everything sold, as did the affiliates we worked with, and it expanded quickly.
Between 2007 and 2009, Greg and I became friends (or, at least, that is what I believed), and I felt no overt reason to pump the brakes on development of our combined projects. We expanded the print shop, hired talented staff, and rose to the growing occasion. During that time, Greg would routinely call to talk about his life, marriage, business struggles, and also routinely invited me to his house in Arizona, on various CrossFit-related trips, etc. I appreciated though seldom accepted, because we were neck-deep in working on both the gym, and developing our “partnership”.
My mistake, was in assuming a handshake “contract” meant the same to others as it meant to me.
In 2009, with our coordinated projects in full swing, I was called out of the blue- first, by a hard- talking lackey of Greg’s, and then, by a smarmy and stylized CrossFit lawyer. Both were tasked with delivering the message that, effective immediately, we were no longer permitted to use the CrossFit name without affiliate-specific branding, and much more seriously- that
the crossfitshirts.com site was to be handed over to them immediately.
Without overplaying the hand, it felt like a bad joke. We have always struggled- I have been working in and running small, high-quality businesses for over 25 years, and we were finally on to something that was growing, and fully in our wheelhouse.
I did everything I could to figure out what was truly happening, Greg would not return calls, texts, or emails, and I was eventually given the “option” to haul all remaining softgoods to another affiliate event in Austin, Texas, and attempt to sell them off. Having sold shirts at shows and events since I was a young teenager, I knew exactly how that would go, (poorly), but had no other option. After paying shipping for the garments, and my travel, and selling less than ½ of what we brought, at less than ½ the prices we usually charged, I had lost several thousand dollars.
This was around the same time that poor decision-making, ego-based leadership, and shortsightedness drove off some of the most progressive, endearing, and well-respected minds in CrossFit, including Robb Wolf, James “OPT” Fitzgerald, and Greg Everett- three people that I have respected since first exposure and whose positions I took very seriously. I knew then, even though I was very much in the fringes in comparison to those three, that our “partnership” was truly over; I had been deemed expendable or worse, and we had to act accordingly.
In hindsight, I should have downsized, relinquished our just-bought second press, let our newly- hired, experienced print staff go, and cut back to bare bones, but I truly felt we could retain much of the affiliate business and continue forward. I was very wrong.
Removal of the crossfitshirts.com site, and very clearly our “CrossFit blessing”, turned many affiliates away. Many stayed, also, and I still appreciate that step of faith to this day, but the loss was too much, our response was not what it needed to be, and in late 2009 we were forced to close our print shop and turn loose the dedicated people that had been operating it.
Now firmly in debt, having moved across the country to work on a project that was now dead, and having been betrayed and abandoned by someone I believed to be a strong ally, I focused all my efforts on training people really, really well.
I set to the task of developing and meticulously documenting our processes, and adjusting the elements of generalist training that we had begun working on in Long Beach and that I knew to be crucial to our idea of “Global Linear Progression”; In short, if there were a glass half full in this story, it is that Wolf Brigade has excelled and developed into one of the finest training platforms in the world- in every sense, and in many ways that no one else has ever addressed. When the chips were all the way down, I grabbed on tight to what had brought me to where I was in the first place:
Helping people, in the best possible ways I could.
Greg Glassman has never been a good person. Even when likely almost all that are reading this believed him to be, he was still a highly judgmental, elite-minded (in all the wrong ways), and opportunistic man that was comfortable telling anyone that would listen how much better he was, while offering very little proof of that statement.
In this time right now, there are many affiliates/ ex-affiliates/ participants that are questioning their direction, next steps, and need for “damage control”. As someone that has often been targeted and attacked based on the irresponsible words of others, and outside of the topic at- hand, I will say this:
Stand for what you know is right, and stand fucking hard. Do what is right, not what you’re told.
If what you want to do is train people, then hunt every avenue of progress and fact available to you and excel in your market.
In response to never offering territory protection for affiliates, Greg would say “The cream rises to the top”; Now is the time to prove that theory on yourselves. The current climate is creating unfortunate casualties among small facilities that would otherwise have survived, and the idea of needing to distance and re-brand from something that a foundation was built on is daunting, to say the least.
But it is not impossible. And amidst all the current acrimony and negativity, it is important to remember that CrossFit DID- in one way or another, and functionally or dysfunctionally- prove to all of us that we are stronger than we think we are.
Affiliates, ex-affiliates, participants:
Now is the time to “prove your fitness”… And it has nothing to do with burpees or box jumps.
CrossFit introduced me to concepts and ideas that I had never seen before, and I took the ball and ran with it. Greg Glassman partnered with me- a small, independent, unwealthy, passion-driven idealist- and dropped me cold without ever even offering a word of comfort, an act of contrition, or even so much as an apology- Much like he has done to all of you, recently.
That betrayal closed a door, and opened another- as it has for many that left around that time, and under similar schisms- and I used it to strengthen the fire I already had, and develop a brand and system of training far more transferable, multi-level accessible, and effective than anything CrossFit has ever done.
If I/ we may be of any help, our door is open.
We are not attempting to capitalize on the unfortunateness of this situation, but it is something we have had the displeasure of being able to forecast for a long time, live through ourselves, and now possess the skills and abilities to help others through it.
After all, ALL of this- at least, for the ones that should still be here- centers around helping others.
Candidly, and sincerely, Greg Walsh