Dear Wodapalooza: Stop Insulting Masters Athletes

We’re a pretty badass group of athletes, and if you want the best of us, you need to act like it.

The Wodapalooza got it wrong. Seriously. It seems the organizers think it’s 2008 and no one over 28 can perform muscle ups.

A Little Background

The Wodapalooza (hereafter “WZA”) is one of the “Big Four” functional fitness competitions in the U.S., along with the Granite Games, East Coast Championships, and OC Throwdown (RIP). World-class athletes are invited to compete on the basis of their abilities, or perhaps on the basis of their sponsor relationship. WZA is heavily sponsored by Reebok and Progenex, so it stands to reason that Progenex will send a number of their sponsored athletes to compete. Sam Briggs is a Progenex athlete so she might be contractually obligated to do the WZA.

Other athletes who are not sponsored but were at the CrossFit Games or podium finishers from last year’s WZA might get an invite. Perhaps you saw these folk on social media busting open their “invite piñatas,” which means they are going and will compete.

This is the invited class. Below the invited class are the elite qualifying class. These participants are required to register and compete in the qualifying round. They compete in six workouts over three weeks. The top 25 males and top 25 females qualify to compete, right alongside those invited athletes.

Next, there is a masters division (there are also other divisions like an RX and Team, but for the purposes of this discussion, those won’t be discussed much). The masters division is comprised of males and females age 40-49 who competed in the qualifier and made the top 25. Not bad – 25 spots. When I competed in the Granite Games qualifier, they only took the top 15. The 40-49 Masters folks were required to perform the same workouts as the elites.

Now the folly begins.

Enter the Men and Women With Canes

The next masters division is the 50+ crowd. You know – the walkers, canes, blood pressure medicine folks. The 50+ division, although required to compete in the qualifier, would be chosen on the basis of a lottery. You read that right. Essentially, bust your ass for three weeks over six workouts, and then your name gets thrown in a chapeau (that’s an old French word for “skullcap”).

The reason for a lottery, as explained by the WZA website, is this:

In year’s past, this was done through an ‘Open Registration’ format, which at a specific date and time individuals and teams raced through online registration. This resulted in frustration for aspiring competitors that were eager to compete, that weren’t fast enough; divisions selling out in mere minutes were dependent on the speed of one’s fingers, mouse, and internet.

In other words, “For the divisions we don’t really give a shit about, spaces were selling out faster than tickets to a Bieber show at an all-girls’ junior high. So now we’re going to pull your names out of a hat, even though you have to do the competition.”

This is just odd. Why not take the top 25 qualifier 50+ masters (or teens, or teams, those other poor suckers also playing the lottery)? Logically, a lottery makes no sense. Instead of converting the previously “first come first serve” divisions to a qualifier, the organizers thought they were solving their problem by turning it into a lottery. But at the same time, they required those folks to compete in the qualifier in order to show “full commitment.” Wouldn’t they be showing full commitment by doing all six workouts and attempting to earn one of the top spots? The explanation on the WZA website continues:

The probability of being selected will be weighted based on your performance. In the simplest terms, the higher you finish in a given division, the better probability you have of being selected.

So doing well in the qualifier gives me some algorithmic advantage, but in reality, finishing say, fifth overall doesn’t guarantee me a spot? Do an old man a favor. Explain to me how that makes sense. Combining a qualifier with a lottery is just plain ridiculous. It needs to be one or the other.

Let me put it in terms the fine folks at the WZA might understand. Imagine a radio station contest where the person who is able to keep their hand physically touching a brand new Dodge Durango wins the car. One by one, people give up, let go and go home. If I keep my hand on the Durango for three days while all the other contestants drop out, and then I have to be caller nine to actually win the car, then what was the point of the competition part to begin with? Why compete, then leave the actual results up to a game of chance?

It Gets Worse

Now the really insulting part. WZA added further disincentives by making the workouts so ridiculously scaled that you might wonder whether they mean to attract any 50+ athletes at all. “Knees to midline”? Hand-release burpee ring pull ups” instead of muscle ups? Come on. I was born in 1962, not 1862.

“We’re a pretty badass bunch of dudes (and gals). If you want 25 of the best in the country, act like it.”

If you want to have a masters division as one of the big four, you want to attract the best 15 -25 masters in the country. I hate to break it to you WZA guys, but Ron Ortiz is one of us now. We’re a pretty badass bunch of dudes (and gals). If you want 25 of the best in the country, act like it. Take the top 25 qualifiers, and give us workouts that allow us to prove we are the best. This includes high-level gymnastics movements. Like it or not, you’re not going to find the best crop with a low-skill, cardio-heavy qualifier. “Who can suffer the most” is only one of many criteria that should be in place in order to advance to the next round.

The possible upshot of the current scenario is that some of the more talented players lose out on a spot, and a guy like Ron Ortiz gets a sponsor invite and embarrasses the potentially less talented field. And nobody wants a bloodbath.

Stop With the Insults

All you event organizers out there, stop placating 50+ athletes. If you are one of the big comps, including the CrossFit Games themselves, give us your best shot. Let those 50-54, 55-59, and 60+ athletes who put in the work and have serious competition aspirations have a legit shot by hitting the full spectrum of possible movements. And so help me, if you program knees-to-midline ever again, I’m coming right across this table.

Time for supper. It’s four o’clock.

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Photo courtesy of Jorge Huerta Photography.