Updated: Thursday, May 22, 2014, 5:30 AM
This summer, a new professional sports league will make its debut. The National Pro Fitness League (NPFL) will feature co-ed teams of athletes competing in various human performance races.
Sports Doc contributor Cassie Haynes is Director of Team Development for the NPFL, and recently explained the structure and features of the new league.
The basics: The league is headquartered in Santa Cruz, Calif. The first season of the NPFL will start in the last week of August and last for six weeks. The league’s eight franchises will compete in a total of 12 matches during that time, with the season culminating in the first-ever championship match on Sunday, October 5.
The teams: Franchises are located in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Miami, Washington D.C., Boston, New York… and of course, right here in Philadelphia. Haynes expects that the league will expand as early as the 2015 season.
The athletes: Each team will be comprised of 20 athletes, with 14 of those competitors making up the competition roster. During a match, 10 players from each side (five men, five women) will be active.
Of the 10 athletes on the match day roster, each team must activate two Master’s athletes (one male, one female)—meaning an athlete age 40 or older. Most teams carry two males and two females who qualify for the Master’s division.
To choose the teams, the league hosted a series of combine-type events throughout the country. Men and women ‘tried out’ on Fridays or Saturdays, and the standouts returned for team-based activities on Sundays. A final series of tryouts will take place in mid-June, with the league first’s Draft to follow in July.
Competition: A typical match will involve 11 individual races—each scored separately—that last anywhere from 3-10 minutes. Each race will have a different format, with variables including the number and gender of athletes, plus modalities required to complete the activity. “The first race might have two women, two men, and consist of pistols, snatches and double-unders,” explains Haynes. “The movements are functional, ranging from weightlifting to highly-skilled gymnastics.”
Matches are built for television, meaning that a two-hour time slot would see roughly 60 minutes of competitions, 30 minutes of commercials, and another 30 minutes of storytelling. “That [storytelling] is going to be a pretty significant piece of our presence,” says Haynes. “Magazine-type pieces on who these athletes are, their background stories, highlighting specific personalities and individuals.”
Coverage: Rumor has it that the NPFL will agree to a television coverage deal in the coming weeks. But that’s only one part of the plan to spread the word about the league and gets fans engaged.
“We’re very driven with respect to media,” claims Haynes. “The fun thing about creating a sport in this era is the ability to build our league around technology.”
Haynes compared NPFL’s structure to that of older, more established professional sports leagues. For all their history and tradition, the NFL and MLB were around way before gaming and user experience ever became factors. “For us, it’s always been that way,” summarizes Haynes. “So for us, to be able to build our league around technology and fan engagement has been a great experience.”
Additionally, the league ‘s tech partners are helping to revolutionize scoring for each event. “We’re taking a lot of the subjectivity of judging and human error out of the equation,” Haynes says. “Not just scoring, not just counting reps, but over time, we’ll see solutions that can gauge the depth of a squat, the chin clearing the bar on a pull-up.”
As the NPFL’s debut draws closer, more information will be available at www.NPFL.com. The league’s schedule has yet to be formally announced, but Haynes expects to have that information available sooner rather than later.
“Yes,” she answered when asked if there would be events in Philadelphia this season. “For sure.” Read more Sports Doc for Sports Medicine and Fitness.
Read full story: Introducing the National Pro Fitness League