A Simple Example of the What, How, and Why of a CrossFit Sav-Up Kids Class

By Nick Pappas on 4/25/2017

CrossFit Sav-Up Kids Class

Ages: 5-12

Class Time: 45min

Class Structure: Warm up->Skill Work->Workout->Game

Goal: Pairing Fitness with Fun

Hi there, my name is Nick. I am CrossFit Kids trainer, and a member of the CrossFit Seminar Staff which teaches the CrossFit Specialty Course: Kids. At CrossFit Sav-Up we try to make each class the best part of the kid’s day, and we take that goal very seriously. If I wish to could convey anything is these words, it would be that the overarching goal of our class is to have fun. What we have found fun for almost all kids is being successful. How we set up the class to make them successful may seem different, but can definitely be effective. Finally, the reasons why we use the techniques we do are to give the kids an opportunity to find success.



Providing an environment where the kids feel they are successful is the what. If the kids have fun, and improve their movement in the slightest, I am beyond happy. In CrossFit we have nine foundational movements. Each movement has a list of points of performance, and there is no end game or season to achieve these. Instead, we expect them to master these movements over years. In this age group we do have expectations, and behavior is almost as much of a priority as the movements they are learning. So throughout the entire class, we are praising good movement and behavior. Any negatives we see are ignored -- to an extent. To balance this idea, it’s important the child is immediately praised once the movement or behavior is appropriate. On day one an athlete may be praised for consistency in where they put their feet during a squat, and picked to be it for the game because they finally listened to their coach. Over time the once kid is now a coachable young adult confident in their abilities. It may take years, but those years were fun, and filled with success.


Making what the kids want, and what I want is the how. There is a structure to the class, but I am less concerned if it actually plays out. The plan on paper may look like a home run, and then two minutes into the plan, it’s obvious the entire class is out of control. Awesome! Enter the backup plan: The game. The game is the carrot. If the skill work of the day was to better learn and improve the air squat, then teaching the air squat needs to happen. If the original lesson plan makes the kids wish they were at home playing video games, then I need to teach them in a different way. Instead of teaching the kids in lines like adults, how about teaching them in a game? My favorite is tag. “The game is freeze tag. Every time you get frozen you have to freeze at the bottom of your squat. Sarah, come show everyone what the bottom of the squat looks like. If you do this, other kids will see and know to come tag you. If you don’t then the other kids won’t know you’re frozen.” Done. Now the kids get to play a game and want to squat. I get to see the kids in their squats, and therefore can give them cues to improve their movement. If they are smiling while they are moving then we all got what we want.


Having a reason for the what and how is the why. The fact is there is much more that can be accomplished in 45 minute class than just teaching a movement and working out. The squats, jumps, pushing, pulling, etc. are an avenue to teach kids the rewards of hard work. The reason why we praise effort is due to the research behind kids learning more effectively from it. “In laboratory studies, praising children’s effort encourages them to adopt incremental motivational frameworks—they believe ability is malleable, attribute success to hard work, enjoy challenges, and generate strategies for improvement.”(1)  Criticism is easier for us to give, but many easy things are not worth doing. The reason we brought Sarah out was to utilize imitation. Again, research supports this technique. “Children are exceptional, even ‘super,’ imitators but comparatively poor independent problem-solvers or innovators.”(2) Describing the proper technique to a child may work, but it’s the best bang for our buck to use imitation at the start. It promotes leadership, and confidence. It doesn’t have to be just the best mover. It can be used to highlight anything you deem important as the coach. Whatever we do, there is a purpose. Even if it just looks like a game.


As I said earlier, the overarching goal I wish to convey is that the class needs to be fun. Without it, I can not expect the kids to come back, and if they don’t want to come back then we have failed. So, on May 7th if you come and watch the class with your daughter participating I ask three things of you. First, try to decipher what is the warm up, skill work, workout, and game. They may not look so obvious. Second, count how many squats they accumulate over the class. Repetition is integral to learning these movements. Finally, ask them if they thought it was fun. If they say yes, it will make my day. More importantly though, it will be forty-five minutes of exercise made theirs.


You can follow this link to join us on 7 May 2017 from 10-11am for an example of how we pair fitness with fun: Register today!


1. Parent Praise to 1-3 Year-Olds Predicts Children’s Motivational Frameworks 5 Years Later. Elizabeth A. Gunderson, Sarah J. Gripshover, Carissa Romero, Carol S. Dweck, Susan Goldin-Meadow, and Susan C. Levine. 2013 Feb 11.
2. Imitation by combination: preschool age children evidence summative imitation in a novel problem-solving task. Francys Subiaul, Edward Krajkowski, Elizabeth E. Price, and Alexander Etz.


Girls on the Run of Sonoma County
PO Box 9036
Santa Rosa, CA 95405