Crossfit Asheville co-owner Shanna Duvall drafted into new professional sports league

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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shanna_duvall_phoenix_rise_2014Shanna Duvall, co-owner of Crossfit Asheville, was drafted on Thursday to play for a Phoenix-based team in a new professional sports league founded by a former CrossFit executive. CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program that’s been growing in popularity in recent years. The aim is to build “functional fitness.”

Duvall, who opened Crossfit Asheville with partners Cory Duvall and Randy Kite about five years, has been training for the National Pro Grid League’s first-ever draft all year long. She’s advanced through a series of tryouts to Thursday’s draft. Duvall will play for the Phoenix Rise, one of eight teams in the new league. She’s long dreamed of pursuing a career as a professional athlete, and this is a huge step in that direction.

Here’s more about the National Pro Grid League:

Grid is strategic team athletics racing in which two co-ed teams (five men and five women, one of each over 40 years old) compete head to head throughout a season. The two-hour matches have 11 races with fixed rules and unlimited substitutions. The races are easy to follow, yet filled with strategic opportunities. A team with a better strategy planned and executed could outperform a physically superior team in any given match. This is the nature of Grid.

Grid action is extremely fast. There is no pacing. Frequent substitutions mean athletes go as hard as they can, for as long as they can, before swapping players. The coach becomes as important a member of the team as any one of the players. As fans learn the rhythm of the races, they will get insights into each team’s strategic decision-making process.

The rosters will be final by August 1, and the first official professional Grid match takes place on Tuesday, August 19 when the Los Angeles Reign visit the New York Rhinos. That match (and every other regular season match) will be streamed live to our website.

And this Outside magazine piece is a great explainer about the CrossFit connection to the new professional sports league. A snippet: 

(Tony Budding, a former CrossFit coach,  first affiliate director and then media director) is modeling the NPFL after other national leagues including the NBA and NFL, complete with regional teams (think: New York plays Phoenix), a team revenue sharing model, and professional athletes.

That’s what has CrossFitters abuzz about the NPFL, rather than bemoaning Budding as a sell out: the league is attempting to professionalize functional fitness. Just as in other professional sports, team members will get paid to play. Right now, athletes who make one of eight regional teams stand to earn a minimum of $2,500 per match. That means an athlete who competes in all of this year’s six matches will pocket at least $15,000, regardless of their results.

“It gives us an opportunity to do what we love at a higher level,” CrossFit Games athlete, Katrin Davidsdottir, told the new league. In the CrossFit Games, only the top 10 individuals and top three teams in the final standings earn prize money. (Click here for more on how NPFL team selection works.)

As for the actual competition, the idea goes something like this: Two teams of 10 (five women and five men on each team) will go head to head on the “Grid,” a playing field the size of a basketball court that, Budding says, never changes and is easy to follow. Matches will consist of 11 races in which teams of five must perform a certain number of functional fitness exercises, such as deadlifts, rope climbs, and handstand pushups. One match will easily fit into a two-hour time slot, including 10 commercial breaks and personal interest stories, Budding says. And unlike, say, pro tennis matches, an NPFL match will never run long—guaranteed.

If this sounds like a grab at sponsorship money, ad dollars, and ticket sales, that’s because it is. “We are a spectator sport which means we exist for the fans,” Budding says. Like America’s most famous national leagues, the NPFL is extremely sponsor-friendly, and that’s something CrossFit, perhaps, is not.

I’ve been a member of Crossfit Asheville for several years, and have the utmost respect for the owners and the community they’ve built. I’m proud to count myself a member, and I’m really excited for Shanna.

Congratulations Shanna!!!

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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  1. Lisa Zahiya July 12, 2014

    Shanna is an inspiration. Congrats!

  2. Matt July 11, 2014

    As someone who has never enjoyed watching sports or engaging in competitive activities, this sounds as viable as any other spectator sport.

    What I like about it is how inclusive it is. It’s coed and requires at least one person in their 40s and the teams are small. And strategy is as important a component as fitness and skill. It’s more adventurous and easier to relate to then standard sports.

  3. Nate July 11, 2014

    Is it just a sign of how sedentary we’ve become as a culture that these folks seriously think that watching other people work out can be sold as a spectator sport?

  4. smiley July 10, 2014

    That’s wonderful for Shanna.
    Personally, I don’t see the “sport” or “league” aspect having much appeal to sport fans in general. Maybe if your a gym-rat, and I’m not using that term in a derogatory fashion, it would have the appeal that would make it a viable team sport in a competitive league. Good luck.


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