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Growing Grinders and Games Athletes: CrossFit Kids

According to the Generation Adidas website, “A Generation Adidas homegrown player is a local youth player who trains and plays with an MLS (Major League Soccer) team's youth academy.


According to the Generation Adidas website, “A Generation Adidas homegrown player is a local youth player who trains and plays with an MLS (Major League Soccer) team’s youth academy. These players develop within an MLS team structure and are given the opportunity to sign directly with their MLS club’s first team.” This program has roots going back to 1997 and was started to encourage more rapid and quality development of soccer players in the United States at both the domestic and international level. Since the advent of this program, the MLS and teams abroad have seen an increase in the quality and volume of US soccer athletes. There are currently 92 Generation Adidas players in the MLS and many more playing professionally in leagues around the world.

According to the CrossFit Kids website, “Since late 2004 CrossFit Kids has been forging “The Future Of Fitness” and is currently in over 1,200 gyms in North America, Australia, Europe, Africa, India, Japan and Panama. CrossFit Kids is a strength and conditioning program that is specifically designed for kids and teenagers and helps them develop a lifelong love of fitness.” Like the Generation Adidas youths, CrossFit Kids is fostering a love for fitness, training and competing in a young generation of grinders and firebreathers. Unlike the soccer initiative, this movement is still in its infancy on both a national and global scale. But, given time, CrossFit Kids could potentially have an impact on the growth and development of a new generation of CrossFit athlete. Kids who have grown up in a CrossFit setting and learned the movements and WODs at an early age stand to become exemplary CrossFit adult athletes.

What will that athlete look like in the future? What are the long-term impacts of growing a new level of grinder?

My own kids (twins) have been in CrossFit Kids at our local box for the past three summers. As a parent and CrossFitter, I think it is very important to expose them to the types of movements and strategies that doing WODs can teach. My kids have learned so much about training and about themselves by doing CrossFit Kids. It might not happen here from our local box, but the thought occurred to me that somewhere, right now, there is probably a 12-, 13-, 14-year-old future Games champion just being taught about metcons and Oly lifting.

I was fascinated by the thought that someday our “Fittest on Earth” would be interviewed after winning the top spot and give credit to a CrossFit Kids program and their CrossFit coach for getting them started at a young age.

With this notion, I contacted Jeff Martin, co-founder of CrossFit Kids and director of Youth Programs for CrossFit, and asked what he thought about the CrossFit Kids program developing a new generation of grinders and the potential of it spitting out a future Games champ sometime down the road.

Martin explains that what’s at the heart of the CrossFit Kids programming is not directed toward the competitive aspect. He says, “In CrossFit Kids, we want to teach kids to move safely and effectively while learning to enjoy being fit. I would hope that CrossFit Kids is seen and will remain to be seen as a feeder system for the community rather than the Games. Teaching good movement, teaching a love of fitness — there is longevity in that, both for kids and the program. “

As I’ve witnessed in my own two kids, that competition develops naturally in the WODs, and to me that seems to be a good thing. Much like you and your buddy trying to best each other at “Fran” or PR on a snatch, my son doesn’t want to get beat by his sister on a box-jump height just as much as my daughter hates that her brother can do more pull-ups. This competition drives each one of them to work on their areas of weakness, and the immediate goal of trying to beat out a sibling or another kid in class leads to them getting better at the movement in the process.

Martin says he can see the beauty in the lessons that CrossFit Kids can impress upon its young learners and doesn’t seem to think that developing youth-centered competition events would be in the best interest of the Kids’ community.

“I would hate to see CrossFit Kids “Little League-ized” in any way. There’s a big difference between kids getting together and pretending to be their sports heroes and adults organizing and encouraging it,” Martin says.

There are positives in having kids learn how to use competition environment in CrossFit as both a building block for an emerging future community and as a vehicle to do good things for others. Using small-scale comps or allowing kids to participate in scaled gatherings (HotShots, CrossFit for a Hope, etc.) that are components of fundraising efforts could teach them the basics of how to move and function in a competition-style format while harboring a sense of “helping your fellow man.”

“What we have instead is the CrossFit Kids Varsity Gauntlet series, which raises money for Hope and is affiliate-driven. Its purpose is to provide a fun place for teens to compete against each other, and it was never intended to crown the ‘fittest teen,’” Martin says.

I couldn’t agree more. Just by demonstrating the style of a CrossFit competition and giving it a purpose, such as helping to raise money for cancer research, vastly outweighs the need for a medal or title for the kids. Martin says that those days will still be there for the best of the best, when the time comes for them.

“Will the program continue to also feed the growth of our sport? Of course. Competition is a natural component of being human and a very important part of the teen experience,” Martin states. “The Sport of Fitness is evolving fast. Like any sport, we will see that the top athletes are people who have good genetics but also have been training diligently throughout their youth. “

But he advises caution when trying to get young athletes to focus too much on the competition side: “I believe if we make the end goal of our program getting to the Games, we will be shooting ourselves in the foot.”

What do you like about the CrossFit Kids program? Do you think that it should remain a developmental system to introduce young kids to the basics of training or is CrossFit at a point where it should start looking at youth leagues? Send me an email at jtolgrinder @ and let me know your thoughts.

Stay on the grind.

— Jamie Toland (JTol)