Justin Bergh Promotes Community and Equality as Crossfit's General Manager
Jun 29, 2023
by Lauren Piskothy, '20
For Flagler alumnus Justin Bergh, ‘04, sports have always been about community. Bergh has had a deep appreciation for sports, long before he became General Manager of CrossFit in 2022.
In high school he played baseball and was drafted by the Atlanta Braves, but ultimately had dreams of becoming a fitness instructor. However, while at Flagler he realized his passion for professional sports and went on to study Sport Management while also playing on the baseball team.
To Bergh, earning the title of General Manager and representing Flagler College’s Sport Management program has meant a great deal.
“The GM title is something that's meant a lot to me. I'm very proud of that and for the impact that hopefully it has on Flagler and our alumni reputation as well. I think it's a terrific program and I'm very proud to represent it whenever I can,” Bergh said. However, the journey to becoming General Manager wasn’t a straight path. After receiving his degree, he found himself on the road working for a sports technology company, on the way to fulfilling his dream career, but at the same time, missing the comradery he felt playing on the Flagler Baseball team.
“I had trained my entire life and always played team sports,” said Bergh. “Leaving college and not having those teammates felt dissonant to me. So, after about three years of being on the road a lot, I started dropping into CrossFit gyms.”
“I would make it a point to go there and drop into one of those gyms, then go along with the rest of my work week,” he said. “After falling into a bunch of those gyms, I fell in love with it because I felt like I was playing a team sport, and as a natural introvert … these people were super welcoming.”
It was this familiarity of a team sport atmosphere that inspired Bergh to take a course on CrossFit and continue to explore the potential CrossFit had to offer.
“That's when I kind of swallowed the hook and decided that this could be a really cool opportunity,” he said. “CrossFit gyms had changed the traditional fitness model where instead of having giant gyms with a lot of machines and self-constructed equipment, CrossFit gyms were small, and they paid their coaches much better, and were profitable.”
Combining all of his interests, the interpersonal aspect of team sports with the opportunity to become involved with professional sports, Bergh fell further in love with CrossFit and opened an affiliate just an hour outside of St. Augustine in Jacksonville, Florida in 2008, which he owned for a decade.
He would later find himself working on CrossFit’s seminar staff, traveling the globe and instructing other fitness instructors as a part of CrossFit’s education program, and eventually becoming heavily involved in growth of the CrossFit Games, an annual athletic competition using a variety of workouts including weightlifting,conditioning and other athletic events.
The CrossFit games had only one competition when Bergh first started managing all aspects of the sport. In 2022 the games have become hugely successful. He has been instrumental in the growth of the sport that now has hundreds of competitions that are broadcasted on CBS and reach nearly 300 million homes outside of the United States. In full circle nature, Bergh found himself at the forefront of a professional sport, just like he’d hoped to be when he was studying Sport Management at Flagler.
One of Bergh’s proudest achievements as GM has been the gender equality of the sport.
“We're the only sport that I'm aware of that since existence 16 years ago, that has equally paid men and women and has provided exactly equal media opportunity for men and women,” he said. “Men and Women get the same amount of airtime on CBS, on all of our digital, and the streaming properties are rated number one. Amazon, Apple and Netflix documentaries are all exactly split down the middle as well. We’re kind of trend setters in that regard and CrossFit's really been kind of pioneering that.”
As the first General Manager of CrossFit to come from the Sport Management program, he’s proud to represent Flagler.
“It’s been really cool to have that basis that I learned at Flagler from some great instructors, as something that I could springboard off of and use frequently in my day-to-day job,” said Bergh.
In fact, he applies the lessons he learned at Flagler regularly across all his responsibilities as the General Manager of CrossFit and the CrossFit games.
“I use almost every single course that I went through in the Sport Management program at Flagler on a weekly, if not daily basis,” he said. “From facility design, risk management, the legal aspects of what we do in contract review, risk mitigation, all the way up to the sociological import importance of sport as a way for people to gather, to develop their own identities, and to progress and take agency over their own lives”.
As for the future of CrossFit, Bergh hopes to continue to make Flagler proud and promote community within the sport so that others can find CrossFit the way he did. “I think the future for CrossFit is to use all of those unique strengths better than anybody has used any of them individually,” he said.
To Bergh, connecting people passionate about fitness to their local CrossFit gym and finding a coach that works well with them is at the forefront of CrossFit’s growth and impact.
“The idea, is to use sport for its highest and best purpose here at CrossFit and do things in ways that'll serve more people learning about and trying CrossFit in the future.”Tagged As