CrossFit CEO Eric Roza talks about global diversity in the sport of fitness


The story of CrossFit’s collapse over the last few weeks of former owner and CEO Greg Glassman’s tenure does not need to be told again. We said so. You don’t need to hear the story of how new owner and CEO Eric Roza and CrossFit Inc OG Dave Castro were going to go to great lengths to reclaim the business and the training method as a force for the good. Because we said it too.

Instead, when we, the MH SQUAD team, spoke to Eric on his tour of Europe, we wanted to know what actions he and his team were actually taking; how exactly he was going to not only repair the damage but also increase the influence of health and fitness in every corner and in every community.

As you will see from this interview, which is exclusively for MH Squad members, Eric Roza does not rely on common answers, nor does he slip on the most irregular issues.

Men’s health: You took over CrossFit during a very tumultuous time, with racial callousness and accusations of sexism during the tenure of the previous owners. What were the first things on your to-do list.

Eric Roza: We must have wondered if CrossFit was really racist. Is CrossFit Really Sexist? And we have to make sure we feel really good to answer these questions and show people that we’re not.

Then it was about figuring out how we were going to grow CrossFit – stretch a lot more than it is now and have samemore impact in the world in terms of transforming lives.

Because we always measure and will measure our success by the number of lives we transform. More than any other metric. It’s more important to us than the turnover of the business or the profitability of the business, or whatever.

Finally, after COVID, the question really was how can we come out strong and continue to grow the business? I’m speaking to you from Spain right now and we have a lot more gyms here than before COVID. This is at an all time high and we are already seeing it in some markets. In other markets, we continue to recover.

Regarding the inflammatory question of diversity, to what extent was this an opportunity to develop a more inclusive business?

It was 100%. We knew, and I knew having owned an affiliate for almost nine years now, as well as visiting countless other affiliates, that CrossFit at its best is one of the most inclusive environments I’ve ever seen. All barriers break down when you sweat with people. So we had to figure out how to reflect that in our actions as a CrossFit company, as CrossFit Inc. How could we be alike?

We have really tried to run the business that way and one example is that we have put in place a diversity, inclusions and fairness council; one of our executives devotes 100% of her time to diversity, equity and inclusion. Not just at the corporate level, but also in the community. We have an email box where we hear gym owners and members talking about diversity issues and we help solve them.

Another example is the people we bring in: people of different skin colors, different genders and gender preferences. Most recently, we hired three new senior executives. A president, a chief financial officer and a marketing director, and two of them are women. So we really try to show that we are engaged in all aspects of the organization.

How much emphasis has been placed on supporting, investing and empowering CrossFit affiliates, rather than just using their money to use the brand name?

We asked affiliates what tools they need to be successful. They all said very clearly that they don’t need more rules from us, we need tools from us. So everything that we have tried to provide has been fully embraced and used by the affiliates. If all goes well for a gym, don’t mess with success. If you run your business as a hobby then maybe you don’t want to invest any more time in it, and that’s great too.

But if this is your job and you are trying to make your affiliate your main source of income, here are a number of tools you can use that will make you more successful and do more good in the business. world. So we have already invested millions of dollars and hired many more people in the Affiliate Group, and we will continue to do so.

Many people believe that there is a financial barrier to entering CrossFit and this makes it impossible for less privileged communities to engage. Is this something you want to fix?

Absoutely. We have nearly 1,500 gyms for which we change the fees, so that they can provide services to their members. These gymnasiums can be located in schools, churches, hospitals, military posts, etc. Where I am in Spain right now, there is a hospital around the corner where they offer CrossFit to cancer patients before their surgery. It is actually prescribed by the primary oncologist.

In the United States, we have now partnered with an organization called The Phoenix, which helps people recover from addiction. They have set up two CrossFit community centers, one in Boston and one in Denver. These have become magnets not only for people with substance use disorders but also for a number of other CrossFit nonprofits who can use these gyms for free and provide their services to their communities for free.

One last example. In the state of Colorado, we have four prisons that offer CrossFit to inmates and we rely very heavily on this partnership. Over the next month or so – and people think it’s really amazing when I say this – we’re going to be training 60 inmates to be Level 1 CrossFit coaches, so we can spread that more widely.

We have now agreed with the Colorado prison system that their 19 prisons will eventually have CrossFit gyms. Will always have the difficult problem of getting them material at a reasonable price, because they do not have large budgets.

But we give hope to people who don’t have much hope every day. They have an identity other than being a convict, which is so important. And we are seeing from a public health perspective, much less violence and gang violence inside prisons when they are setting up CrossFit gyms. This has been fully documented, which is why the prison system is prepared to deploy it so widely. We are seeing fewer people coming back to the prison system because they now have an identity and a way to earn an income. And more than anything, they feel a certain autonomy.

These are just a few examples. We are talking about our long term goal being “100 Million Lives Transformed by CrossFit”. I would like half of these to occur in underserved communities, which are traditionally not able to join a gym.

I read recently that you are planning to have more affiliates than the US in Europe soon.

If you look back a few years ago, Europe had half as many affiliates as the United States. Now it’s 75-80%. I don’t know if it will take three or five years, but although there is growth in the United States, Europe is growing much faster. The population in Europe is double that of the United States, so I think we’ll see more gyms, ultimately.

What other parts of the world do you see as the next CrossFit boom?

Australia and New Zealand are a very good market for us. I would call it a mature market, really. If you look at Latin America, Brazil has always been one of our biggest markets, but the rest of Latin America is still ahead, frankly. So we have a lot of opportunities there outside of Brazil to develop ourselves. There have been devastating issues there with COVID. And markets like Argentina have had their own economic challenges regardless of the pandemic, making it a very difficult time for them.

Asia and the Middle East are regions offering enormous opportunities. We are still quite small in Asia. We have initial positions in most Asian countries, but I can tell you that even in big markets like China, India, Japan and South Korea, we are still in the early days. . We’re probably where we were in Europe ten years ago, to give you an idea.

Each market has its own unique challenges. What works in the UK will not work in Japan. So we have a lot of work to do there and we see this as a ten year project. But if Europe becomes our biggest market in five years, say, in fifteen years Asia will be our biggest market, because of demographic trends and the growth of the middle class.

How we get there, I have no idea at the moment!

Is reinvesting in CrossFit Games since you owning it helping to reach more people around the world?

It’s a yes. We know that five to ten times more people watch the Games than CrossFit right now. So it helps us reach a wider audience. But that’s not enough, because then we need to make CrossFit accessible to that audience. The game is a vehicle for intriguing people, but then we have to get into these transformational stories that show ordinary people, often with greater challenges than the viewer.

The athletes of the Games provide an aspiration. We hope that the stories we tell about members of our community will provide inspiration.

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