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  • Writer's pictureJaime Pollard-Smith

How I Became A Sponsored Athlete

“I really think you need to do the Open this year, Mom. It would be good for you.”

My son is nothing if not persistent.

For the last decade, I worked as a coach and affiliate owner in the CrossFit community. One of our tasks was hosting the annual CrossFit Open, an inclusive competition for athletes of all levels. It is a celebration of community and fitness. I could cheer and watch my athletes surprise themselves while competing alongside my family and friends.

Yet somewhere along the way, the story took a turn. The five-week competition became a burden depleting and pulling me away from my best self. Behind the scenes it was tearing at the fabric of our family. If the motto of our gym was building better versions of ourselves, we were certainly off track. I have since vowed to make choices that enlarge, not diminish, my life. I have walked away from things, places, people and organizations that hurt and drain me. It’s been unbelievably hard work but also some of the most important. It allows me to be the kind of person I hope my kids will someday grow up to be, which is what stopped me in my tracks when my son mentioned the Open.

I thought it would be liberating to not think about it or even care what was happening in that realm. I have reached a healthy balance with my CrossFit lifestyle using it as a tool instead of it using me. I split my time between two gyms and sprinkle in some home workouts and lots of yoga.

With this new setup and mentality in place, I did not think the Open was for me this year. I feel no need to compete, log, track or measure anything about my fitness. I do it because I like to be strong, and it enables me to do all the cool, active things I want to do outside the gym.

But my son demanded an explanation. He always does.

So it made me question my intentions. Would participating in my 8th CrossFit Open enlarge or diminish my life? I reflected on the word open, which truly is one of my personal core values. I also thought about the process of evolution and growth. Does my new perspective mean I have to throw out the baby with the bathwater, or can I choose to use this experience in a different way that aligns with my values and beliefs? I have intentionally sought out places where I can be open, authentic, honest— true to myself; but can’t I still celebrate the sport I love with friends and family? Maybe it had nothing to do with the Open or CrossFit. I’ve learned that just about anything can be harmful when boundaries, accountability and priorities go awry.

After some deliberation, I gained the clarity I needed.

“Jude, I decided I will do the Open.”

“You mean, like you’ll register and really do it?”

Evidently just enduring the brutal workouts was not enough for him.

“I don’t know if I want to spend the twenty dollars.”

He shot me his signature smile.

“I’ll sponsor you, Mom.”

This morning I completed the first workout (21.1) next to my best friend (six feet apart, of course). We are two women in our forties air high-fiving our own badassery and physical prowess. Next week I will do 21.2 with several incredible friends in their driveway. We will cheer and scream for each other. It will look different this year—but doesn’t everything? I never wanted to get back to normal. I wanted to get better. I’m open to new possibilities.

**I would like to thank my sponsor and remind him that he still owes me twenty dollars.

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