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The Battle Bunker East Coast Regionals 2023 - Some Good, A Lot of Bad

Rule changes and inconsistent judging took away from an excellent concept for a fitness competition. I (Joel Hayes) was not a participant in the event. My brother, and Co-owner of Trio Fitness Training, Luke Hayes, was one of the participants, as was one of the female athletes that we train. I wanted to review the numerous good aspects of this competition, as well as numerous bad. This isn't a finger pointing project, but rather a way to expose athletes in Hybrid competitions to what one of the biggest problems that the sport faces: Professionalism


The 1st event of the day was called, as I understood, "Yard Work". 19 male athletes in attendance donned 20lb weight vests. The workout was as follows (you can watch the full event from our live stream of it here - workout starts at 14:40 in the video)

*While wearing 20lb weight vest*

6 laps around a course (listed as 1 mile for 6 laps)

60 Push Presses with a 100lb Sandbag

120 Pushups

240 Squats

6 laps around the course (1 mile)

This was a very good event. Well organized. Well executed. If you watch the live stream on our Facebook page, or the Battle Bunker Youtube page, you will see some athletes performing exercises with improper form. This is to be expected in any competition, and it is up to the judges (there was 1 judge for every athlete - which was both important and necessary for accurate scoring) to call No-Reps and correct form for the athlete they are judging in order to maintain the integrity of the competition. Both the athletes and the judges were told what was, and was not, proper form. Everyone knew the standards. I admit, I spent almost no time watching the other athletes and their form. I was focused on seeing how Luke was performing. Because of this, I won't comment any further on form from this event for the men. It wouldn't be what I actually witnessed.

Luke ended up placing 9th (I never heard an official placement for this event, just the reverse order for the next event based on placement from the first event). Not an AMAZING placement, but 9th overall for the day was the minimum standard to move on to the Battle Bunker Championship, so it put Luke in an okay position moving forward.

The female athletes followed the male athletes for Yard Work. The only differences were the weights of the vests (14lbs) and the weights of the Brute Force Sandbags (70lbs). This event was the first taste of things going very poorly for the event.

Issue 1: Form - You can watch the footage from this event with our video HERE. You can hear us talking about it starting at 15:35 and on. While many of the female athletes were pushing hard and using proper form, several were doing absolutely, unquestionably wrong pushups. Eventually one of the spectators went and informed Hunter, but he went over, said a word or two, and walked away. They still continued with the wrong form - even worse, they had already completed more than 80 reps before anything was said.

Issue 2: While the athlete we work with was performing pushups, her judge completely stopped looking at her and was staring at the athlete beside her. Our athlete's fiancé started screaming at the judge to get his attention (you can see all of this started at 16:41 in the video). The fiancé went and told Hunter, and thanks to calling it out, the reps that were missed initially were rightfully given back to the athlete.

After Event 1, there was over an hour of down-time before the next event. Within this time, I assumed that event staff collected all of the points, totaled them up, double-checked the results, and finalized placements for Event 1.

Barbell Bench Press & Barbell Deadlift. Athletes had 60 seconds to complete as many reps on the Barbell Bench Press (Male - 185lbs, Female - 135lbs) and 60 seconds to complete as many reps of Barbell Deadlifts (Male - 315lbs, Female - 225lbs). Other than some issues with 2-3 female athletes lifting their hips high off the bench (you can see in this video) this event was the smoothest run, and followed rules as listed the closest. That being said, the massive arched back by the female athletes, with hips high off the bench, didn't draw any noticeable correction from any official, including Hunter, who was standing directly behind the bench for quite some time.

Event 3:

"Last Man Standing" was a disaster of planning, execution, and as a result, judging. The same course used for the laps in Event 1 was used for this event. The course was supposed to be 1/6 mile per lap. On 2 sides of the course, it was quite narrow for 19 athletes to go at a full-out forced them to be packed very tightly together. For competition purposes, that isn't a problem; simply another challenge of the event. However, for judging purposes, it was an obviously bad idea from the start.

The rules, as explained prior to the event were: It's an all out sprint. Every lap, the last 3 athletes to re-cross the start line would be eliminated. All other athletes would continue sprinting until a winner was determined (last one standing). Each lap, the athletes that were the last 3 to cross the line would all receive the same score since they all "failed" at the same time.

On lap 1, Luke was wrongly called off course by Hunter. The photo evidence below, taken from the Battle Bunker live stream, supports that.

As someone watching almost completely in line with the judges, I saw that Luke was not one of the back three, and 2 other observers said that they believed the same thing. Luke decided not to dispute what happened because there would be no real way to fix the issue beside redoing the entire event which was obviously not an option. Luke accepted the score they gave.

After the women had finished the final event, everyone waited 90 minutes to hear the final results. I would like to strongly interject my opinion here: If you take 90 minutes to finalize scores in a competition with 35 athletes, and in which scores from the first 2 events should have been finalized already, the scores you announce HAD BETTER BE RIGHT. In the end, Hunter announced that Luke finished in 9th place overall for the day, which qualified him to go to the championship event. He was obviously very relieved to hear that, despite the absolute mess from the final event. He had done enough to earn a spot. His placement was announced in front of all of the athletes, and on the Battle Bunker live stream.

Fast forward 2 days. Battle Bunker staff, Austin, called Luke and informed him that he was no longer in the Top 9 for two reasons. 1: After the final event was over, they changed how they would score the event. 2: Luke's score had been improperly written on his score sheet by his judge, and they hadn't noticed the issue in their 90 minutes of scoring after the event. Austin was quoted as saying, via text message:

"The only thing we have changed is the scoring method - not the placements." and "The issue was presented to me by head judge - Matt Stevens. So as we looked into it we noticed that two athletes had the score of 9, you and Jack Driscoll. Your score was written wrong on the score sheet which reflected a lower score for overall."

He then went on to say that they would be moving forward with their decision. Battle Bunker chose to change their scoring after an event in order to "fix" an issue caused by their own team, and not caught in the 90 minutes it took them to put scores together. Not only that, but when presented with the evidence of their massive mistake on Event 3, they have so far chosen to do nothing about it. All of the screenshots above were shared with Austin.

This brings us to the heart of the problem...and this has been a problem in many small sports as they grow, but somehow races can't seem to learn from the lessons of others. This was a result of a huge lack of professionalism. A professional head referee would have immediately called out No-Reps on athletes, and told the judges to get their acts together. A head referee exists to explain rules in detail, and enforce rules as explained.

There was a severe lack of professionalism for the planning of Event 3. If staff had pre-tested their event, they would have known that the chances of making correct calls, 3 athletes at a time, at a full sprint, in a tight corridor would cause mistakes. They set themselves up for failure. They could have started eliminations after 2 laps to spread the field out, and that would almost assuredly have eliminated the issue. The could have run the athletes in 2 separate groups and taken the top 1 or 2 from each for a final standoff. They could have increased the width of the course (since the distance was irrelevant) to keep athletes from bunching up as much and make proper calls easier. They could have taken multiple steps to ensure that all possibilities for mistakes were as unlikely as possible. They did not do so. Instead, it seems they chose to simply make it as dramatic as possible...sacrificing the integrity of the event.

There was a significant lack of professionalism for the scoring. To take 90 minutes to tally scores that should have been 2/3 complete already is ridiculous. I don't know how many people they had working on it, but it appeared as though staff, and non-staff were involved - as at least one person not working for Battle Bunker (to my knowledge) was explaining and defending scores immediately after the scores were announced when questions were coming up at that time.

Finally, as of right now, a severe lack of professionalism in their willingness to try to work with an athlete that was robbed of an opportunity. I competed in a Savage Race in Pennsylvania years ago. That day, there was a big issue with course markings and dozens of Pro athletes ended up off course. At the end of the day, Savage Race ownership ended up giving all Pro racers a voucher for a free race to make it up to them. That is a professional way to handle a mistake. It doesn't change or fix what already happened, but it shows that the company values the athletes who support their business. That is professional. I'm not advocating for Battle Bunker to give Luke some free entry or whatever, I'm simply stating that they have done nothing to show professionalism or take accountability for multiple mistakes that they made. That type of issue can, and should, erode people's confidence in the company - just look at Spartan Race's LONG-standing mistakes with their top athletes.

I speak for myself, and a lot of other athletes I know who love these types of fitness competitions: We want better. We want professionalism. We want thought and consideration to go into the details - ESPECIALLY when placement can mean contention for thousands of dollars at a Championship. We especially expect this level of professionalism from athletes who have competed in big events and know how things can go wrong.

Battle Bunker, Do better. Really. Find someone who can put together a simple and accurate scoring system and follow it. Find someone who can enforce rules and hold standards. Find staff who pre-test events and look for any and all potential issues that could come up, and plan to eliminate those issues in advance. Do better.

As Luke told Austin, no one is going to take you seriously if you can't fix your mistakes.

I give the workouts and overall concept of the event a 10/10. Absolutely great.

I give the judging at the event a 5/10. Some of the judges were locked in and great.

I give the execution and planning of the event a 1/10.

Let's hope Hybrid competitions can follow more along the lines of Hyrox and Savage Race professionally, and less along the lines of Spartan.

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