2015 Grid League Prospectus: Are You In?
CrossFit punishes the specialist. Grid rewards them.
It has long been an axiom in the CrossFit world that you must be fluent in all domains in order to succeed. As we saw when Olympic weightlifter Ilya Ilyin did “Isabel,” strength alone is insufficient to be a successful CrossFit athlete.
Put a barbell in gymnast Gabby Douglas’ hands and ask her to perform a max overhead squat in an eight-minute time cap and it’s a pretty safe bet she’s not going to go to CrossFit Games regionals. But get her on the rings? Forget about it.
Turning Fans Into Athletes
So where do you go when you love functional fitness and you have specialties? You go to the Grid.
When I was broadcasting one of the Grid matches last year, I made this prediction: “I will guarantee you that there are athletes sitting at home watching this right now who will be competing in this league next year.”
That prophecy has already been fulfilled with the DC Brawlers signing Becca Day, a heretofore relative unknown who burst onto the Grid scene by submitting a #FanAppreciationFriday video of herself cleaning 305lbs.
The Brawlers nabbed her in the first 2015 season signing. With that kind of strength, she is poised to be a star.
Given the changes in the CrossFit Regional selection process this year, many of the athletes who may be extremely good in one or two domains but will miss the cut to regionals will likely seek out Grid. And, with a total of seven Grid Pro Days scheduled between this week and the end of March, these athletes will come in droves. The next Grid stars are waiting to be born.
The Universal Appeal of Grid
But Grid is not just for CrossFitters anymore. While initially the sport culled its personnel from the CrossFit community, as its creators predicted, Grid has quickly morphed into a perfect outlet for athletes of all kinds. The Baltimore Anthem just signed Olympic silver medalist Dmitry Klokov, one of the strongest weightlifters in the world, and former NFL star Willis McGahee is attending the LA Pro Day (where aspiring Grid athletes test in front of the scouts) and is being heavily recruited by some teams. The worldwide community of athletes has taken notice.
As I write this, athletes are submitting their Grid Scores and getting invitations to the Pro Days, the first of which happens this weekend (January 31-Feb 1 in Boston). All of the teams have roster slots to fill, some of them have many. Phoenix, for example, released nine athletes, and the new teams, Baltimore and Carolina, are looking to fill entire eighteen-person rosters.
"Some huge names who were set adrift by their teams in the free agency process."
And while athletes still need to have transferrable skills - Taylar Stallings did do muscle ups in Grid matches - the sport is becoming the home to the specialist. Meaning, you may have one particular segment of functional fitness that is directly in your wheelhouse - muscle ups and handstand walks, for example - but your strength is middle-of-the-pack. In Grid, it doesn’t matter. You might still get picked up by a team.
The Specialist Spectrum
Think of the general make-up of a Grid team as a spectrum. In CrossFit, you need to dominate the entire spectrum with zero holes in your game. In Grid, you need only dominate a single point on that spectrum.
New York’s Irving Hernandez falls squarely on the bodyweight side of the spectrum. His double unders are blinding and he can knock out seventy or more unbroken chest-to-bar pull ups. Phoenix’s Val Calhoun sits on that end of the spectrum, as well, but slightly to the right as she has proven her utility elsewhere on the Grid. Taylar Stallings, DC’s powerhouse from 2014, sits on the far end. But she is slightly nudged into the utility mix, as she is not just strong but versatile.
But Marcus Hendren is a utility man without a doubt. So if you’re a guy like Hendren, an all-around player, you can see that the talent pool (and your direct competition in getting a slot on a team) is deeper. Why? Because while utility players are good at everything, they are often not amazing at anything. You can plug-and-play them up and down the grid, but at clutch time you need someone who can destroy deficit handstand push ups, freestanding handstand push ups, and extremely heavy snatches.
You need specialists.
Is This Your Year to Shine?
In 2014, we saw so many highly talented CrossFit athletes who couldn’t seem to get a foothold on the Grid because they were edged out by specialists. Danielle Sidell, Tommy Hackenbruck, Christy Adkins. All dominant CrossFitters whose place on the Grid was never fully established because of the likes of specialists like Lindsay Menery, Irving Hernandez, and Valerie Calhoun, and Danny Nichols. Some huge names who were set adrift by their teams in the free agency process.
"So where do you go when you love functional fitness and you have specialties? You go to the Grid."
The upshot? If you specialize, then you have found your calling on the Grid. The teams are still developing and Pro Days and combines are all out in front of us. Want to be on the Grid in 2015? It’s not too late to make your move.
Photo 1 courtesy of Grid - NPGL.