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Crossfit Vancouver: School of Fitness - A look to the future

An open letter to CrossFit Vancouver Coaches, Apprentices, Supporters and The City of Vancouver A while ago, My Girlfriend, after completing a Landmark Education course, asked me "Are we really a Vocational School"? "Yes" I said and "anyone that is not on board with that is either going to have to change or get off the bus, including you". Those might sound like harsh words, but if you knew my girlfriend, you might chuckle. The point is, why did she ask that question? Probably because CrossFit and CrossFit Vancouver have been evolving so rapidly it is hard to keep up. A lot of people (including some of our coaches) questioned why we would we want to give away all of our information and set up competitors all over the lower mainland. The answer is.....we were doing that anyway. In fact we were so good at what we did that former clients of ours now own 15 CrossFit affiliates in the lower mainland. If you throw in all the people from out of town who we have significantly (I have the testimonials) contributed to, that number jumps up to over 50 CrossFit locations across North America. We have had significant contracts to train the military including a program that saw us train the Officers and NCOs of two local regiments and we have ongoing training of officers from the RCMP and the VPD. Those facts alone would probably put us in the BC Vocational School hall of fame, and we were not even trying to do it. The real problem was, we didn't want to give away our information and that became cancerous. Bad vibes were being created, people began spying, we were cautious and overprotective. We somehow began to occur as selfish and insular. Not a recipe for hope and inspiration. Actually we were approached by CrossFit HQ some two years ago to become a "Center for Excellence" and declined, arrogantly stating that we wanted to own 10 of these things and we didn't want to set up our competition. It was a mistake. About a year ago, after much heartache, we began to make the shift away from this type of thinking, we began to accept personal trainers, CrossFit Affiliate owners and anyone who wanted the knowledge. The vibe in our box improved dramatically, what we gave away did come back to us and more. The laws of Karma seemed to be guiding our business to a higher place. (sounds hairy fairy I know, I wouldn't have believed it either but I witnessed it in action). In November we were contacted by CrossFit HQ again about becoming a school and a conversation began about what direction we should take in the future and how it would all work. Then in March the City of Vancouver questioned our business license. We were told we were a "Fitness Center", the "same as Fitness World". We were not sure what we were, but we sure as hell knew we were not the same as any of the "Globo" gyms in the Lower Mainland. The ladies behind the desks were adamant about what we were, there was no room for any discussion or listening, let alone help. (As a side note: check out this website City of Vancouver: Where Business Grows naturally). The staff there must have missed the memo. One good thing they did do was to send me up to another department. In one meeting with a guy from the Zoning department (great attitude, real nice guy, he read the memo that his job was to help us) I described what we do, and he said, "That sounds like a Vocational school". It was the kick we needed to send us in the right direction. Now I am not saying were a full blown vocational school at that point or that we could not be confused with a "Personal Training Studio", but we were in a hell of a good position to transform ourselves completely into a school for teaching trainers. We had to ask ourselves some important questions first. What do want form our lives? What is the best way forward for our community? and maybe most importantly.....CAN WE MAKE ANY MONEY AT THIS? Well.......we say we want to make a difference in people's lives, everyone has heard it, we say it and we mean it. I know when I started CrossFit it made a huge difference in mine. So much so that I quit the engineering profession because I knew I could make a way larger impact on people's lives in CrossFit than I could in Engineering. So as personal trainers how many people can you really affect . . . 50 maybe 100? My goal when I started this was to make a difference in the fitness, health and longevity of our community. Admittedly It sounds idealistic and a tad naive, but follow along with me. What are we really saying if we try to remain a Personal training studio / school of self-improvement? Are we saying "I only want to effect 100 people and only those 100 and have them pay exorbitant prices, horde all the knowledge to ourselves and tell everyone else to go away"? When another personal training studio, another struggling coach/affiliate/hopeful comes to our door are we supposed to turn them away? Who would we be if we did that? What would we be standing for? If we are really going to stand for something meaningful and make a difference for others in our lifetime we need to give away all our information. Now if we can each coach 100 coaches what kind of an impact can we have on our community? What kind of a difference would this commitment make on our health care system, our mothers and fathers, our military, our police, our kids????? We have an opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of the people in the Lower Mainland and put Vancouver on the world scene when it comes to health, longevity and human performance. I know it has been a hard transition for some of you, but trust me it will be worth it in the long run. As it turned out we actually didn't have much choice in the matter anyway. After digging into the Provincial registration process it became clear that we actually had to be declared a Vocational school to continue doing what we were doing. The province stipulates that 40 hours of training or $1,000 tuition and the training prepared them for a career or was a part of their career requires us to be registered with the province as a vocational school.....which requires a business license from the City of Vancouver. The writing was on the wall, the world was forcing us to step into a new frontier. Again. It was an evolutionary process that needed to happen and yes the business license played a significant role in all of this, but Greg Glassman (founder of CrossFit) had to leave his garage for CrossFit to evolve, Nicole Carrol (Director of World Wide Training) had to evolve from a personal trainer into teacher of personal trainers, so too did we need to move from personal trainers to coaches of coaches. In the past 5 months we have witnessed an astonishing transformation, once we opened the doors and announced to the world that we were a vocational school, the response was nothing short of amazing. We have been swamped with requests both inside and outside our CrossFit Vancouver community with folks that want to become fitness professionals or already are and want to learn what we know. We have support from the Military, the police department, the academic community (Tony Leyland, SFU professor in Kinesiology is the chief educational officer of our school), and the medical community. We have 52 Level I apprentices and 18 Level II apprentices who have signed letters of intent. We receive 4-7 inquiries per week about the school, we have 10 CrossFit affiliates from around North America who have signed up and a long list of those interested in our various programs. Included in this is the staff from one of the largest personal training studios in the province, Studio 55 The owner, Nathan Mellalieu, contacted us after we posted our apprenticeship program on the site to train all of his staff. We now have a contract in place. A year ago this never would have happened, an owner totally outside the CrossFit world who wanted us to teach them everything we know??? This represents a significant milestone in the advancement of our profession and our industry for three reasons. 1) No owner of a personal training studio has probably ever asked a "Rival" to help him. The old argument " My Kung Foo is way better than your Tai Kwan Do" is the usual norm. Ridicule and scorn for another system is the general attitude of the fitness profession. Hanging on to an inferior product to the bitter end (like calling in bogus parking complaints) rather than openness to change is a human trait all too common in our industry. Granted, Nathan comes from an athletics background, is very intelligent and is progressive, it still gives us hope that we can transform the fitness community to one of sharing ideas instead of spreading ignorance. 2) An independent school (not a government entity) is flourishing because people want what the school has to teach, not because it is a requirement for licensing or insurance. Such a school is sure to allow the fitness world to grow and expand the landscape for performance, health and longevity of the population it serves. 3) One would have to be delusional not to agree that we are a Vocational School for Personal Trainers. Furthermore CrossFit headquarters supports the school fully and wants to further develop the programming to go hand in hand with their Certification process. They have over 70% of their students failing the Level II Certification and need a "Finishing School" to send these people to. It is a huge market for us. Consequently we have had to develop real systems, contracts, curricula etc and get better at what we do. After a 30 hour workshop and 350 hours of paperwork and systems development, a 7 hour face to face meeting and a site inspection with the province of British Columbia, we feel confident we know how to run a first class school for fitness professionals. And I think we can earn a damn good living at it too. Thanks to all those who have supported us over the years......... and especially those who have stepped up as real leaders over the past five months. All we need now is for the city to embrace us, to help us flourish and allow Vancouver to become a hub for health, wellness and human performance. Respectfully, Craig "patty" Patterson