With everyone getting wrapped up in the CrossFit Games and the Olympics, the National Pro Grid League has been quietly waiting in the wings for its turn to make some noise in 2016.
Entering into its third year, we’re all still waiting to see if GRID will make it in the long term. It seems like there’s been a noticeable downtick in media coverage, and so far this year, and the decision to squeeze the entire season into 10 days has left some wondering what’s going on behind the scenes.
However, all of this could be a strategic play on the NPGL’s part given everything else that’s going on in strength and fitness this summer. The NPGL waited to announce their shoe partnership with Nike until after the hullabaloo from the CrossFit Games died down and just before the hullabaloo from the Olympic Games began. The season itself begins on Wednesday August 17…the day after weightlifting wraps up in Rio.
Even though the season is condensed into 10 days, fans are still going to get the same number of matches as they did in previous seasons. Unlike last year, in which some qualifying matches weren’t streamed live, leading to athletes streaming the matches from the sidelines via Periscope, all of the 2016 matches will be streamed on NPGL.com. Even though all of the events will be held at the Utah Valley Convention Center in Provo, Utah, tickets haven’t been released, so we don’t know what it will cost to watch in person.
The League has also announced a few new match formats, including the final match —Timpanogos — named after the Utah Valley peak. The new format also introduces some new movements, including a man-maker style “Deck Press,” back squats in the Mirror race (holy pain cave), and a sled drag handstand walk. This format yet again favors the super strong, which if years past are any indication, means that the winner of the match will be whichever team can cycle through the 365 lb cleans.
Our biggest question, though, is whether or not the NPGL will address the issue regarding the bonus flag Races 7 and 11. Currently, the coach can throw the bonus flag before any race, and if his/her team wins the race, the team gets an extra point. If the team that threw the bonus flag loses, though, the other team gets the point, so teams need to be confident that they will dominate in order to throw the flag.
This is all well and good, except when it comes down to Race 7 and Race 11. Race 7 is always a strength ladder, and an additional point is available for the team whose women lift the most. Going into a race, we usually know which team is the strongest. There are rarely any surprises when it comes to Race 7.
Additionally, the final event is already worth three points instead of the usual two. If a team throws the bonus flag on either Race 7 or 11, they get four points instead of three. GRID tends to be a pretty close scoring match as it is, and a 4 point race can make up 25% of a team’s final score. Sure, it’s fun to have an element of surprise and anticipation thrown into the mix, but we’ve seen teams strategize to guarantee themselves the Race 11 win (and therefore the overall win) while obviously underperforming in the rest of the match.
This scenario was particularly apparent in the 2015 semi-finals match between the DC Brawlers and the New York Rhinos. The Brawlers threw the bonus flag on Race 7, dominated, and no one was surprised. They also won Race 11. Overall, the Rhinos won six races, and the Brawlers won five. The Rhinos won more events, though the Brawlers won overall because the rules allowed them to gain extra points on a race that already had extra points available. All within the rules, but that can be confusing for fans who might not know every intricacy of scoring.
Similar scenarios played out with teams throwing the bonus flag on the last race as well, and at one point officials considered removing the bonus flag from Race 11, but ultimately left the rule in.
Regardless, it’s always fun to see our favorite athletes get an opportunity to show off all their hard work. Alexandra LaChance has recovered from injury and is getting herself back into GRID shape. We haven’t seen her at full capacity in a while, so she’s definitely one to watch. Andrew Rape remains underrated with his ability to move crazy weight and complete high skill gymnastics with ease. The LA Reign and the Baltimore Anthem have both overhauled there rosters, so it will be interesting to see if any new stars emerge from those teams.
We’d also recommend grabbing a couple friends and trying some races or finding a local, amateur GRID team. The specifics and speed of GRID can make it overwhelming to follow, but it’s one of those things where once you actually try it, it all starts to make sense. It’s also extremely fun, and it brings a new type of competitiveness and strategy to working out. For more information on playing GRID at your own gym, download the app or head to GridLeague.com.
Featured Image: NPGL (@gridleague)