CrossFit Kids Trainers Should Know Better

For the past several weeks, Mikki and I have been making our position clear with respect to what we view as the problematic culture of youth sports in the US. We have punctuated each statement with a warning that this culture is finding its way into our community in the form of children’s fitness competitions. These competitions allow children under age 12 to participate—and by participate, we mean compete full bore in high-intensity workouts.

It should be abundantly clear by now that we are absolutely against this practice. And it should be pretty clear that this is not simply a pet peeve of ours. This is not just opinions and theory. We have spent the last decade developing CrossFit Kids in practice, in the gym, with children of all ages. Methodologically, CrossFit Kids focuses on teaching children fundamental motor and movement patterns. We’re talking about mechanics. It takes years of patient training for children to develop consistently good movement. It is only at that point that we advocate increasing the intensity for young athletes. Our position reflects the guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the stance of every major position statement on youth resistance training, and the recommendations in every pertinent book and peer-reviewed article. Not a single authoritative voice suggests intensity before consistently good mechanics for children. Not one.

To a professional youth coach like a CrossFit Kids trainer, our position is obvious. Those who are not CrossFit Kids trainers can be forgiven if they do not understand that allowing young children to participate in fitness competitions threatens to undermine our ability to do what is best for children. In this case, best practices to Mikki and I mean cementing good movement not just to improve sports performance and overall fitness but to prevent injuries that could haunt children for the rest of their lives.

What is deeply troubling to us is that there are CrossFit Kids trainers who are allowing their young athletes (age 11 and under) to compete in fitness events; some even organized by people with no experience working with children. In publicly available videos, we have seen children as young as 7 moving dangerously over and over and over, with the only sounds from the adults being yells to go harder and get more reps. Mikki and I were shocked to see children not only allowed to move so poorly, but in some cases, forced to move so poorly.

CrossFit Kids is not a neighborhood recreational sports league that must make do with parents who volunteer their leisure time to do little more than shepherd a team through a season. CrossFit Kids trainers carry the tremendous burden of children’s welfare on their shoulders every time these young athletes enter our gyms. If they do not feel that weight they should not be running a CrossFit Kids program.

About the Author
Jeff brings over 30 years of coaching experience to CrossFit Brand X, which he owns and operates with his wife, Mikki Martin. Jeff has been CrossFitting since 2003. Since that time has logged countless hours attending and teaching at various CrossFit Training and Specialty Seminars; including, but not limited to, the CrossFit Level One Certificate Course, and the Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, basic barbell, gymnastics, endurance, mobility, nutrition, and CrossPIT specialty seminars. Jeff remains a CrossFit HQ trainer and holds the distinction of being one of fewer than ten people worldwide have been accorded the title of CrossFit Coach by the founder of CrossFit himself, Greg Glassman. Jeff and his wife Mikki are Co-Founders of CrossFit Kids
12 Comments
  1. Dustin Kreidler Reply
    Amen, sir. Elm City CrossFit Kids is fighting the good fight with you. I can attest that in my Kids cert seminar, Mechanics->Consistency->Intensity was drilled every which way to Sunday.
    • Jeff Reply
      Thank you Dustin. That is great to hear.
  2. Tristan Reply
    CrossFit Kids has been amazing for my daughter, Annie. She loves it. Much better than her sitting in front of a TV or playing on the iPad. Kids need to stay active!
  3. Aaron McIlwee Reply
    Hi Jeff At Crossfit East Auckland, New Zealand - We support and share the same position as you "cementing good movement not just to improve sports performance and overall fitness but to prevent injuries that could haunt children for the rest of their lives". Keep up the good work, pass on my regards to Mikki. We have a great team at CFEA focused on a "culture of coaching" for our kids and teens, long may it last. Cheers Aaron
    • Jeff Reply
      We really enjoyed our time in Auckland. Hope to go back some day Aaron.
  4. Nikki Barker Reply
    Great article Jeff and Mikki. Shared on our site....
  5. Colin Hill Reply
    We at Crossfit Calgary are totally supportive of the sediments expressed in the article.
  6. Guy Adams Reply
    Good article Jeff. I agree on the youngsters . Especially in regards to growth plate issues. We saw this kind of silliness in powerlifting also. Building a firm foundation with proper Form and lighter weights is critical for youngsters if you want to see any longevity in the childs interest. Asking kids to go full bore at that age is irresponsible. Good subject to address Jeff.
  7. Brandy Lindsay Reply
    CrossFit Niverville completely agrees with this article as well. Thanks for posting it!
  8. Karen Arnold Reply
    Thank you for posting this mandatory message. After coaching gymnastics for over twenty years, I hope coaches can appreciate the risk involved with children and proper movement. As coaches, we owe it to our children to "protect them from themselves" when they want to lift too much too fast. Thank you for stressing longevity instead of instant success.
  9. Matthew Thomas Reply
    Great article and I wholeheartedly agree with it except for your comment that so called neighborhood leagues are run by volunteer parents shepherding the children through a season! my children do crossfit kids, I have been doing crossfit for over two years and I also coach and under8 rugby team. As a coach we have to undergo all manner of courses and I know for a fact a level one children's rugby coach qualification takes just as much effort and time as a crossfit kids qualification if not more! Let's not do the stereo typical crossfit thing and make out crossfit kids is the only sport to care about children's welfare as everything you described here is just as important to lots of other sports as well, as with everything you will have good coaches and bad and it's up to the parents to do their research and choose a club, sport and coach that they believe has their children's best interests at heart!
  10. John Hallett Reply
    Well said. Your thoughts are one of the big reasons why we have CrossFit Kids @RockyMtSDF & Mountain crossfit. CrossFit Kids needs to be a light at the end of the tunnel for parents and kids to come to vs. The overly competitive youth sports scene. I hate seeing some of these coaches over train these young kids. Thanks for posting

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