Year Nine: Shrinking Pains

I’m writing this blog post a day late because I’ve been super busy this week and the last few weeks with lots of new folks that we’re “On-Ramping” into our CrossFit program.  Which is awesome!  That takes a lot of time as I try to get to know each individual that requests access into the CFKI community, to understand your strengths and weaknesses as well as your goals that will define success.  Then I communicate those to our outstanding coaching staff as you transition into our group classes for continued development.  I find a lot of joy in these individual sessions as that is why I started coaching in the first place – to witness the beginning of a new development process that can be very challenging and then to teach and encourage you to stay on the path and continue to get incrementally better each day!

In Year Nine, it wasn’t always like that.  In late 2020 and into 2021, the pandemic persisted and while the state regulations allowed us to gradually move back to our regular training model and have max capacity back in the gym, many people were not quite ready for it.  Our members that many times in the beginning of the lockdown said “keep my membership going, I want to support the community” started to fade a bit.  Some transitioned to full-time at-home training.  Quite a few people moved during the pandemic or changed jobs, bringing their focus away from regular training in the gym.  And not that many people outside of the CrossFit world wanted to get started.  In a word, our community shrunk.  For the first time in our history, we decreased in membership from a high of 203 active members to a 3-year low of 149.

In our classes, you might not have felt it.  The energy that everyone brings to a CrossFit class continued to be high, and those that stayed the course were still improving and felt the strong pull of the community.  But questions of “where did Steve go?” were sometimes met with a shrug and “they decided to take a break.”  Alicia and I spent a lot of time reaching back out to former members, staying in touch and reminding them of the good old days and their training goals.  But it was tough sledding to regain old members as the natural tendency toward safety and health prevented many from re-engaging with the group.
As our membership shrunk, our costs continued to rise, as our cleaning and maintenance budget increased and everything just seemed to cost more!  We went from a pre-pandemic high to a “this has gone on for so long now” low, and like many small businesses, were forced to take steps to stay in business and be able to make rent and payroll, like SBA loans and second- and third-guessing every expenditure.  From a business perspective, it was scary, as we now knew what we didn’t know – how long the pandemic and this downturn in revenue would continue.

I’m sharing this now in order to be real about our CFKI history – this is what Year Nine at CFKI was like for Denee and I as we tried to batten down the hatches and withstand the storm.  And as always, reliving that experience is a bit cathartic and therapeutic for me as I internalize the lessons.  The first lesson, and what I think we did a good job on right away, was to double-down on our members’ experience in the gym and make sure that we didn’t lose anyone for the nebulous reason of “it’s just not for me.”  If anyone leaves that way, we have failed them and we need to learn why and fix it.
The second lesson, which took me a while to execute on, was to find other ways of conducting our core business of coaching and developing people.  To that extent, I refocused on my Unbeatable Mind coaching training in 2021, and looked to find new people to train one-on-one and in small groups, both physically and mentally.  I freed myself up for more available time to coach individuals, and let our coaching staff take on more of our group classes as they were available.  This additional revenue stream, as well as the recent resurgence of new blood into our group classes, has us now back on track and looking forward to continued growth once again.

There are so many case studies out there of businesses that were not structured to be able to pivot and find new ways to serve their community, and they failed.  Hopefully they can rise up soon and continue their mission.  There are others that, like us, were able to take some hard knocks but come out of the fight stronger and even more resilient, with more tools in their kit.  Looking back to Year Seven, after the tornado that ravaged the island and our members’ lives, we made a shirt for our fundraising event that said:

“Fate Whispers to the Warrior, You Cannot Withstand The Storm.
The Warrior Whispers Back, I AM the Storm.”

We can all take this approach to big challenges in our lives, whether they are brought on from outside us like a pandemic, or something brewing within that is keeping us down.  If you would respond to a storm that is wreaking havoc on things that you hold dear, you must become an even more powerful storm and take back control.  Year Nine is in our rear-view mirror now.  Let’s continue to grow and become stronger and more resilient in the gym and within our lives.  We are the storm.