The relationship between Grid League and Crossfit
I am going to describe from my perspective how I see the relationship between CrossFit and Grid League as it has been in the past, how it currently is now, how I hope it to be in the future, and I will end with my personal feelings about CrossFit.
In 2014, the head of media at CrossFit and #3 behind Glassman and Castro, Tony Budding, left CrossFit to start the “National Pro Fitness League” which was the original name for what is now the Grid League. Because of how it all went down there was initial, well-understood tension between organizations.
Tony then left the following year and the original version of the Grid League went downhill.
In 2017, the current model of Grid League (which is very different than its original version in many ways) was started in Florida on a very small scale. My guess is that no one at CrossFit HQ even knew it existed for a time after that and any reason for tension was long gone.
In 2022 Grid League had well over 300 million views on short-form content and over 700k match views. While those numbers aren’t near the CrossFit Game’s numbers yet, CrossFit certainly now knows this version of Grid League exists.
We don’t have much information on how they feel about Grid League as we only hear second-hand from friends also close to HQ. In recent years the Games has incorporated some of the movements that have become associated with Grid League such as the free-standing hand stand pushup and the pullover from this year. While it is very cool to see them used on the Games stage, those movements have been around for a long time and we can’t take credit for originating them. If they incorporated a triple touch or a pistol thruster, that is a different story.
On our side, we have always been open about our support of CrossFit and how we don’t see ourselves as direct competition. We are not a training methodology or lifestyle, we are a team sport first. We don’t even consider the sport necessarily about “fitness” as the required overall fitness to play GRID is very dependent on the role the player has on the team. Much like American Football… body type, and total fitness can vary a lot from player to player.
That said, we do see ourselves as a way to express many of the skills that are developed in CrossFit in an additional competitive form. This is why you see a lot of CrossFitters that also play Grid League. Similarly, you also see a lot of CrossFitters compete in Olympic Weightlifting. Many Grid League players come from gymnastics or Oly lifting. To us, this type of crossover is healthy for all sports involved.
To demonstrate how we hope it plays out, I again want to bring up the historic relationship between Olympic Weightlifting and CrossFit.
Weightlifting has grown dramatically in the US in recent years. In 2012 there were 11,000 USA Weightlifting members and that tripled in less than 10 years to 30,000+ in 2021. Many feel that CrossFit had a big role in helping that growth as it exposed a huge number of people to the finer details of the sport. Some of USA Weightlifting’s biggest stars such as Mattie Rogers and Wes Kitts (as I understand it) were first exposed to Olympic Weightlifting through CrossFit.
We think we will have a similar impact on CrossFit as we grow by exposing more people to the value and inspiration of the skills that are developed in a CrossFit gym.
Grid League was designed with the spectator in mind. It is easy to follow and exciting to watch. Because of that, it has a broad appeal outside of just participants and the numbers are proving that. Grid League livestream viewership has nearly tripled from 2022 to 2023 and the number of participants has stayed the same (by design).
We see this as a big win for CrossFit too. No one will stop watching the Games because Grid League exists and it may even build the connection stronger by maintaining attention through the year on some of the same skills. When someone comes to us wanting to play Grid League but doesn’t have the base level of skill to do so, we send them to a CrossFit gym first.
So, our hope is that CrossFit also sees this potential and we end up supporting each other as we both grow, building stronger sports/organizations because of it, and ultimately a healthier and stronger human race.
My personal feelings on CrossFit
I can easily say my life is tremendously better because of CrossFit. The connection I have with my nutrition, my fitness, my health, and even my mental potential is all much much stronger because I dove deep into the teachings. I watched the workout of the day videos religiously every single day for years and when a film crew came to my gym (CrossFit 215) to film one I was so hyped about being in the background of the video. Those years shaped a lot of who I am today and I would not be living in Florida, with my family, and building Grid League with my sister if it wasn’t for CrossFit. I still utilize it for fitness today, 13 years in, albeit at a home gym now so I can spend more time working on Grid League. I am grateful for the role it has played in my life and want nothing more than to see it have a similar impact on millions and millions more. When that happens, we live in a better world. Full stop.
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Article by Mather Wiswall
Grid League Commissioner
Mather Wiswall is a lifelong designer and marketer. He has over 10 years of experience in running sports competitions.
Articles by Mather are generally about rule updates or the business behind the Grid League.