Two years ago I heard about this new sport emerging called the National Pro Fitness League (now the National Pro GRID League). I wasn’t entirely sure what it was, but I was intrigued. The owner of the gym I had previous coached at was starting a team and suggested I try out. All I knew at that time was that this sport was going to pay athletes to workout and compete, something I had been paying someone else to let me do. Did it sound too good to be true? Yes. Did I want to be a part of it? Of course.
I went through the first year combine. It was a pretty cool experience, first the pro day in Los Angeles and then the combine in Las Vegas. I quickly fell in love with how fast and exciting it was to race on the GRID. We were lifting heavy weights and I got to showcase a lot of my gymnastics skills. I was a little shy during the combine and I didn’t talk to too many teams but I was hopeful that I would still get drafted. I sat in front of my computer the day of the draft waiting for my name to be called. I heard some of my friends names called as they got drafted to different teams. I waited and waited, and then the last name was called, and it wasn’t mine. I would not be drafted in the first year of the NPGL. It was a strange feeling. I was excited for my friends that had been drafted, but extremely disappointed that I was not. I decided I didn’t need GRID. I was just beginning my career as a competitive CrossFit athlete and I would continue to focus my energy on that.
Things popped here and there about GRID in my news feeds and on social media. I’d glance at them and continue to scroll. Then the San Francisco Fire (the team local to me) had a match in town and my friends on the team got me tickets. I decided I’d go to support and cheer them on. I was still disappointed that I hadn’t been drafted, but this was about supporting my friends. And I certainly hadn’t expected to have as much fun at the match as I did. I’d even brought my cousin who was visiting from Belgium along and she loved it. It was so exciting to watch live. And right then and there I decided I was going to get drafted next year. I was going to do whatever it took to prove I deserved a spot on a team. Rather than feel sorry for myself, I was going to get better.
In GRID there are three types of athletes; strength specialists, body weight specialists and generalists. I know that I’m a generalist, but I also have some special skills from my background as a gymnast and I’ve developed a good amount of strength through CrossFit and Weightlifting. So while I continued to focus on CrossFit throughout the year, I made sure to hone in on my skill work so that I could become (for lack of a better term) a generalist specialist.
The 2015 season rolled around and I signed up for the pro day. I’ll admit I was a little skeptical at first, but I think that was my fear of being rejected again. That’s no way to go about life though! A good friend of mine once told me “you can be disappointed but have no regrets”. So after the pro day in San Francisco I went to the combine in Baltimore. Another fun experience to say the least. And this time I had talked to three teams who were all hoping to draft me. I’d come in with a lot more confidence and I was anxious for the draft. In the first round the San Francisco Fire called my name. I was so excited. I had honestly just hoped that any team would pick me, but to be drafted by my local team with so many of my friends; that was pretty cool. I instantly received multiple texts congratulating me. It was a good feeling. I couldn’t wait for the season to begin.
So June rolled around and it was time to head to training camp with the team. We had a two-week training camp that would end with our first match of the season against the Phoenix Rise. About half the athletes on the team were returning from the previous year and about half of us were newbies. The team bunked us up in hotel rooms and shuttled us to and from practice every day. The first week was spent getting to know everyone. And everyone seemed to get along pretty well. Practice was fun. And after practice a lot of us would stick around the gym to train more. It was basically a dream come true. Someone was paying me to workout with a group of phenomenal athletes all day every day. And when we weren’t training? Well it was summer in California…so we spent a lot of time at the pool swimming, tanning, and playing a variety of outdoor sports. The epitome of a perfect day in my mind.
Although June was fun and it was exciting to win our first match against the Phoenix Rise in a nail biting finish, it wasn’t until we came back in August for the full season that people really started to open up. It was fun, and a bit crazy at times. Eleven of us would move into a house in the Diablo Hills and live together for six weeks while we trained and prepared for the next two matches and then the finals. 3 girls and 8 guys…in one house. We spent our days training and our evenings sitting outside by the pool drinking wine, eating lots of food and telling crazy stories. My teammates are awesome to say the least. We’d go out to the movies, lay out by the pool, train in the backyard. Whatever we did we had fun.
As my teammates opened up I became closer and closer to each and every one of them. Will, who I thought was shy and quiet back in June ended up being one of the funniest guys on the team, with some of the craziest stories from the past. Every night he’d convince us to ROMWod in the living room (stretch for a half hour) and we’d laugh the entire time. Candice and Adam were my wine-drinking buddies. I’m not going to admit to how many bottles we went through together. And when I wasn’t drinking at the house I was usually going out for a glass of wine or two with my teammate Chad who had just kicked my butt after practice. It was usually a lot of running and burpees because he knows they’re my favorite. And Eric, our team ninja, was always down to do something fun, or teach me new skills, or lift heavy weights with me. We got close. And it showed when we got out on the GRID against Miami and LA and won. We did it for our teammates who were working their asses off, and our coaches and staff who sacrificed a lot for us. We became a team of friends and we had each other’s back on and off the GRID.
I wish I could say that everything about the season was a high, but that would be a lie. With any sport, and pretty much anything in life for that matter, there are ups and downs. We had a lot of little things here and there going on that sort of started to accumulate in our last two weeks leading into the finals. 6 weeks is a long time for athletes to be away from their families, especially considering the distance some had travelled: Australia, Florida, Kentucky, Texas, North Carolina, Canada, etc. And sometimes if one person gets down or upset about something, they can bring others down with them. A few athletes got injured and then three days before our semi final match against the Phoenix Rise three of our guys came down with the stomach flu. We weren’t the team we’d been all season going into that match and it showed. Our loss in the semi finals was a bummer and not the way we’d wanted to finish our season.
But I’m not here to dwell on one match or one week of an entire season. This season was an incredible experience. I had no idea when I got drafted to this team that I would have this much fun. I didn’t expect to make so many friends. The whole experience vastly exceeded my expectations. Needless to say I’m excited for next year and for the growth of this new sport.
“Grid is the world’s first professional spectator sport with co-ed teams that compete in strategic athletics racing. It’s a mainstream sporting league that is fan, TV and sponsor friendly. Each two-hour match features two 14-person teams (7 men, 7 women, one of each being over 40 years old) going head to head in 11 fast races. Grid races are easy to follow and are played with pre-set rules and unlimited substitutions designed to force teams to strategize.” NPGL.com