What do you do when you’re a sports league and are not allowed to host events? When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, the Florida Grid League was about to start their 4th season…players had been signed, sponsors were supporting them, and plans were made. But as we all know, 2020 had different plans and we joined the tens of thousands of cancelled events and businesses thrown into upheaval that year.
Soon after, we watched as the US and the world became embroiled in unrest after the video of George Floyd’s death. We saw fighting, violence, and division overtake our country worse than we’ve seen in our lifetimes and we mourned the country we thought we knew.
But as summer brought lower numbers of COVID cases and we clarified how we wanted to help our fellow Americans we decided that the sport of GRID was needed more than ever. GRID inherently promotes equality, diversity and unity more than any other sport in history, and it is our vision to change the way society thinks about human capability, teamwork, and equality.
So we decided to host the As 1 Tournament in December – a weekend long ‘season’ where all 8 FGL teams would come together for the first time in history. We made careful adjustments to the schedule, our processes and requirements in order to keep everyone safe from COVID, and we designed a logo and brand around the tournament that communicated how we feel the world would ideally function – all of us, as one big team, working together towards a common goal.
In the months leading up to December, the tournament gained traction, attracting talent from all over the country and even internationally. Despite the risks, teams and players were excited to be able to have some semblance of normalcy and to work towards something important again – taking home the As 1 tournament championship with their team. Coaches were signing players, strategizing how to best perform in this new tournament style, and excitement was building.
Others took notice, and soon we had sponsors reaching out, wanting to be involved, and broadcast stations interested in bringing GRID to a larger audience. The pressure to make this event a success became more intense because we knew we had the largest audience ever.
And then we hit a wall….around Thanksgiving, COVID numbers were skyrocketing around the country again, and we began to have players and staff pull out. All teams and the league were scrambling to find enough people to participate in the event, which was frustrating because the interest level was at an all time high! Understandably, people were just nervous about the pandemic and putting themselves or their families at risk. The week before the event, both of our Chief Refs had to pull out because of exposure, and some teams still did not have enough players to field a full team.
But as with any other challenge we’ve ever faced, the entire FGL team pulled together and found a way. By the time the tournament weekend rolled around, we were ready to execute. And it. Was. Awesome.
The entire weekend was filled with energy, positive vibes, teamwork, incredible highs, tight races, devastating losses…basically the very best of team sports. We had not one, but TWO GRIDlocked matches, which was the first time in FGL history. Just about all the feedback from players, fans watching on the livestream, and staff was – this was the best event we’ve ever done. After so many challenges and so many nerves on whether or not we could (or should) pull this off, at the end of the weekend it was more clear than ever that GRID is the best sport in the world, and it is exactly what the world needs right now.
What was your favorite part of the As 1 Tournament?