Surprisingly, I don't get asked this question a lot. Rather, someone usually just tells me that CrossFit isn't a sport even if I didn't ask for their opinion. Typically, it is someone who doesn't understand the CrossFit methodology or they have a preconceived notion/misconception about CrossFit, because everyone tends to be an expert in everything nowadays.
Before, I started teaching CrossFit to students at Vision CrossFit, I taught high school science and I still do in addition to coaching two CrossFit classes. As a science teacher, we often ask our students to collect data and then use the patterns they see in the data to make a claim that answers a question about a puzzling phenomenon. Often, what we unfortunately see in the real world is that people will come into an argument with a pre-existing claim that is only supported after they have cherry picked the data that supports the claim they are already espousing. This isn't the best way to arrive at sound conclusions regarding anything in life.
There are lots of definitions for the term "sport." Most of them generally state something similar to The Oxford Dictionary which states that sport is "An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment." Hmmmm, physical exertion, skill, competition? Let's take a look at these criteria more in depth and see if we can arrive at the same conclusion.
1) Is CrossFit and activity? The obvious answer is yes. CrossFit is an activity that combines other activities such as gymnastics, Olympic weightlifting, power lifting, and monostructural activities (like running, cycling, rowing, swimming, etc). I find it interesting that if you isolate any of these examples like "gymnastics," you will have a hard time finding someone who doesn't consider gymnastics to be a sport. Even combining some of these activities like swimming, cycling, and running in Triathlon constitutes a sport. Any one watch the "run swim run" or cycling events in the games this year?
2) Does CrossFit involve physical exertion and skill? Once again the obvious answer is yes! If you have any experience at all doing one of the many CrossFit Wods out there, you will probably concur that it requires a tremendous amount of physical exertion. There aren't many things out there that will leave you as physically exhausted as a CrossFit workout in such a time duration. By the way, this is coming from someone who has played organized football, soccer, baseball, basketball, run track, surfed, skated, and was even on the high school golf team. None of these sports even came close to the physical exertion required to do CrossFit. Does it require skill? Ummm, Yes! Have you tried to perfectly execute a full snatch after running a mile, or tried to string together ring muscle ups after rowing a 2K? Skill after skill after skill, constantly honed and constantly in need of improvement. Handstand walks, muscle ups, clean and jerks, etc. It didn't take me long to learn how to catch a football or hit a baseball, it feels like it is going to take a lifetime to perfect the multitude of skills need to be a great CrossFit athlete. By the way, I still can't do muscle ups after 3 years of doing this, more strength and skill required I guess.
3) In CrossFit do individuals compete against each other as individuals or do teams compete against other teams? Sounding kind of redundant here, but Yes! Every day you compete against others at your box writing times and other quantitative objective measurements on the whiteboard. Sometimes you compete using apps like beyond the whiteboard or against others who are posting workouts on CrossFit's main site. There is also a competitive season, there is the world wide open that begins at the end of February, regionals in the Spring and early Summer, and of course the CrossFit Games in August. Too many other competitions all over the world to list, just Google it. You can compete as an individual or in team competition. With the growth that has happened in the past 10 years, take your pick. Bottom line, anyone who does CrossFit knows that it is a competition even if it is only a competition with yourself to improve your times, weights, reps and skills which are quantitative measurements and not subjective.
4) Last, but not least. Do CrossFitters compete for entertainment? I wouldn't necessarily say that CrossFit is fun, it isn't always fun, but I guess it depends on who you ask. I know I typically tune in to watch the CrossFit games every summer. There is something cathartic about seeing people suffer and being able to relate to that suffering. I guess that is why communities form so quickly around CrossFit. I guess that is why when you watch the regional competition, like I had the opportunity to do in Portland this last summer, the crowd cheers even louder for the last person to finish the workout than they did for the person who finished first. Which leads me to my final point. I have never seen sportsmanship like I see in this young sport. It is built around mutual suffering and builds community and a drive to be the best you can be unlike anything I have ever experienced.
In conclusion, is CrossFit a sport? Yes! Will people still argue that it isn't? Yes! Do I care? No! I want to surround myself with positive people who make decisions based on experience, facts, and data. I don't want to be surrounded by negative people who have to drag others down because they are unhappy with their life. I don't usually rant in these blogs, but oh well it needed to be said.