The Prescription for Wellness Is Fun!

Driving Participation in Sport


  • Thomas Raimondi Ohio University
  • Heather Lawrence CrossFit, LLC
  • Norm O'Reilly University of Maine



Sport participation, CrossFit Games, Motivation, Physical Activity, virtual event, mass participation sporting event


Understanding individual behavioral choices and the role individual motivation plays for initial and sustained engagement in physical activity and sport is important to increasing participation rates (Bernard et al., 2005). Using Self-Determination Theory and Achievement Goal Theory framework, this research explored the role of motivation related to participation in sport and physical activity. Specifically, this study focused on the CrossFit® Games Open, a non-traditional virtual mass participation sporting event (MPSE). Prior research has established that non-elite MPSEs are effective events for beginning, but not sustaining, participation in sport and physical activity (Coleman & Sebire, 2016). A large sample (n = 4,325) of participants from the 2018 CrossFit Games Open was surveyed about tenure as a participant and the motivational extraneous factor of participation. The primary finding is that fun is a very important driver of wellness. Additionally, competency factors, as well as commitment to training, support previous outcomes of sport participation research and provide direction to practitioners.

Author Biographies

Thomas Raimondi, Ohio University

Thomas P. Raimondi III, PhD, (he/him/his) is the graduate program manager for the Department of Social and Public Health in the College of Health Sciences and Professions at Ohio University, where he completed his doctoral degree in higher education administration. His research agenda focuses on the professional quality of life related to compassion satisfaction, compassion fatigue, and emotional labor.

Heather Lawrence, CrossFit, LLC

Heather Lawrence, PhD, is the director of sport operations at CrossFit, LLC in Boulder, Colorado. Her academic and research interests include sport event impact and management, non-traditional sport development, and equity in sport.

Norm O'Reilly, University of Maine

Norm O’Reilly, PhD, is the dean of the Graduate School of Business and professor of marketing and sport management at the University of Maine. His research interests include sport business and sport participation.


Agini, S. & Di Stefano, M. (2020). Sport embraces virtual competition in face of covid crisis.

Financial Times. Retrieved from:

Almagro, B. J., Sáenz-López, P., Moreno-Murcia, J. A., & Spray, C. (2016). Motivational factors

in youth Spanish athletes: A qualitative focus drawing from self-determination theory and achievement goal perspectives. The Sport Psychologist, 29(1), 15-28

Browning, K. (2020). With pandemic keeping them apart, runners embrace virtual races. The

New York Times. Retrieved from:

Berger, I., O’Reilly, N., Parent, M., Seguin, B., and Hernandez, T. (2008). “Determinants of

Sport Participation Among Canadian Adolescents”, Sport Management Review, 11(3), 277-307.

Bernard, L. C., Mills, M., Swenson, L., & Walsh, R. P. (2005). An evolutionary theory of human

motivation. Genetic, Social, and General Psychology Monographs, 131(2), 129.184.

Buning, R. J., & Walker, M. (2016). Differentiating mass participant sport event consumers:

Traditional versus non-traditional events. Sport Marketing Quarterly, 25(1), 47-58.

Claudino, J. G., Gabbett, T. J., Bourgeois, F., Souza, H. S., Miranda, R. C., Mezencio, B.,

Soncin, R., Filho, C. A. C., Bottaro, M., Hernandez, A. J., Amadio, A. C., & Serrao, J. C. (2018). CrossFit overview: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Sport Medicine-Open, 4(11), 1-14.

Coleman, R. & Ramchandani, G. (2010). The hidden benefits of non-elite mass participation

sports events: An economic perspective. International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship, 12(1), p. 24-36.

Coleman, S. J. & Sebire, S. J. (2016). Do people’s goals for mass participation sporting events

matter? A self-determination theory perspective. Journal of Public Health, 39(4), 202-

Crofts, C., Schofield, G., & Dickson, G. (2012). Women-only mass participation sporting events:

Does participation facilitate changes in physical activity? Annals of Leisure Research, 15(2), 148-159.

CrossFit (2020a).

CrossFit (2020b).

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2008). Self-determination theory: A macrotheory of human

motivation, development, and health. Canadian Psychology, 49(3), 182-185.

Davies, M. J., Colman, L., & Babkes Stellino, M. (2016). The relationship between basic

psychology, need satisfaction, behavioral regulation, and participation in CrossFit. Journal of Sport Behavior, 39(3), 239-254.

Dierdra, B., Feito, Y., Prather, C. (2017) Motivational factors in CrossFit training participation.

Health Behavior and Policy Review, 4(6), 539-550.DOI:

Eather, N., Morgan, J. P., & Lubans, D. R. (2015). Improving health-related fitness in

adolescents: The CrossFit teens randomized controlled trial. Journal of Sports Sciences,

(3), 209-223.

Feito, Y., Brown, C., Box, A., Heinrich, K. M., & Petruzzello, S. J. (2018). An investigation into

how motivational factors differed among individuals engaging in CrossFit training. SAGE Open, 1-8, doi: 10.1177/2158244018803139

Fisher, J., Sales, A., Carlson, L.,& Steele, J. (2016). A comparison of the motivational factors

between CrossFit participants and other resistance exercise modalities: A pilot study. The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, DOI: 10.23736/S0022-4707.16.06434-3 (2020). History of the games. Retrieved from:

Garcia, A. C., & Students of So285 Section 1. (2014). Understanding high school students’

sports participation. Sport Science Review, 24(3-4) 121-114. DOI: 10.1515/ssr-2015-0012

Glassman, G. (2002). What is fitness? The CrossFit Journal, 1-11. Retrieved from:

Hersh, P. (2020). Virtual figure skating competition offers glimpse of sport’s possible future.

NBC Sports. Retrieved from:

Hoare, E., Stavreski, B., Jennings, G.L., Kingwell, B. A. (2017). Exploring motivation and

barriers to physical activity among active and inactive Australian adults. Sports 5(47). 1-8.

Kilpatrick, M., Hebert, E., Bartholomew, J. (2005). College student’s motivation for physical

activity: Differentiating men’s and women’s motives for sport participation and exercise. Journal of American College Health, 54(2), 87-94.

Kondric, M., Sindik, J., Furjan-Mandic, G., & Schiefler, B. (2013). Participation and student’s

physical activity among sport students in three countries. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 12(1), 10-18.

Lim, S. Y., Warner, S., Dixon, M., Berg, B., Kim, C., & Newhouse-Bailey, M. (2011). Sport

participation across national contexts: A multilevel investigation of individual and systemic influences on adult sport participation. European Sport Management Quarterly, 11(3), 197-224.

Martin, N. J. (2020). Fostering motivation: Understanding the role coaches play in youth sport.

Strategies, 33(1), 20-27. DOI: 10.1080/08924562.2019.1680328

Molanorouzi, K., Khoo, S., & Morris, T. (2015). Motives for adult participation in physical

activity: Type of activity, age, and gender. BMC Public Health, 15(66), 1-12. DOI


Nicholls, J.G. (1989). The competitive ethos and democratic education. Harvard University Press

Partridge, J. A., Knapp, B. A., & Massengale, B. D. (2014). An investigation of motivational

variables in CrossFit facilities Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 28(6), 1714-1721.

Penny, B. (2020). Skaters relish in the ability to work toward a goal again with the sport’s first

virtual competition. US Figure Skating Fan Zone. Retrieved from:

Poynton, T.A., DeFouw, E.R., & Morizio, L.J. (2019). A Systematic Review of Online Response

Rates in Four Counseling Journals, Journal of Counseling & Development, 97(1), 33-42.

Reiner, M., Niermann, C., Jekauc, D., Woll, A. (2013). Long term health benefits of physical

activity-a systematic review of longitudinal studies. BMC Public Health, 13(813), 2-9.

Rhodes, R., Berry T., Spence, J.C., Faulkner, G., Latimer-Cheung, A.E., O’Reilly, N., Tremblay,

M.S., and Vanderloo, L. (2019). “Application of the Multi-Process Action Control Framework to Understand Parental Support of Child and Youth Physical Activity, Sleep and Screen Time Behaviours”, Applied Psychology, Health & Well-Being, 11(2), 223-239.

Roberts, K.C., Xiaoquan, Y., Carson, V., Chaput, J.P., Janssen, I., & Tremblay, M.S. (2017).

Meeting the Canadian 24-hour movement guidelines for children and youth. Health Reports, 28, 3–7.

Running USA (2020a). Running USA member events impacted by covid-19. Retrieved from:

Running USA (2020b). A dedicated runner’s perspective on virtual events. Retrieved from:

Saxena, S., Van Ommeren, M., Tang, K. C., Armstrong, T. P. (2005). Mental health benefits of

physical activity. Journal of Mental Health, 14(5), 445-451.

Staurowsky, E. J., DeSousa, M. J., Miller, K. E., Sabo, D., Shakib, S., Theberge, N., Veliz, P.,

Weaver, A., & Williams, N. (2015). Her Life Depends On It III: Sport, Physical Activity, and the Health and Well-Being of American Girls and Women. East Meadow, NY: Women’s Sports Foundation.

Thivel, D., Tremblay, A., Genin, P. M., Panahi, S., Rivière, D., & Duclos, M. (2018). Physical Activity, Inactivity, and Sedentary Behaviors: Definitions and Implications in Occupational Health. Frontiers in Public Health, 6, 288.

Weiss, M. R. (2019). Youth sport motivation and participation: Paradigms, perspectives and

practicalities. Kinesiology Review, 8, 162-170.

Whiteman-Sandland, J., Hawkins, J., & Clayton, D. (2016, August 23). The role of social capital

and community belongingness for exercise adherence: An exploratory study of the CrossFit gym model. Journal of Health Psychology, 30, 1–12. doi:10.


William, R. D. (2014). The relationship between youth sport specialization, reasons for

participation, and youth sport participation motivations: A retrospective study. Journal of Sport Behavior, 37(3), 286-305.

Woolf, J., & Lawrence, H. (2017). Social identity and athlete identity among CrossFit members:

An exploratory study on the CrossFit Games Open. Managing Sport and Leisure, 22(3), 166-180, DOI: 10.1080/23750472.2017.1415770

Yan, J. H., and McCullagh, P. (2004). Cultural influence on youth’s motivation of participation

physical activity. Journal of Sport Behavior, 27(4), 378-390.

Woods, J. A., Hutchinson, N. T., Powers, S. K., Roberts, W. O., Gomez-Cabrera, M. C., Radak, Z., … Ji, L. L. (2020). The COVID-19 pandemic and physical activity. Sports Medicine and Health Science, 2(2), 55–64.


Additional Files





Research Articles