Marisa de los Santos exceeded expectations and demonstrated versatility as a first-year member of the Miami Surge, earning her the honor of 2016 NPGL Rookie of the Year. De los Santos, who has a background in competitive gymnastics, was signed by the Surge primarily as a body-weight specialist, but from the outset, she began to surprise her coaches with performances that went beyond those skills for which she was hired.
“Honestly, I feel really strongly about Marisa, but I hadn't at first,” said Steve Platek, the Surge head coach. “I truly thought she was a gymnast, and that was it. Then day after day at training camp and practice, Marisa would say, ‘Coach, is there any way I could test…’ ”
After having executed her assigned body-weight tests, she would quite literally ask for more, and with each step on up the ladder, proved herself to the shock and awe of her coaching staff.
“First it was weighted pistols,” Platek said. “Then overhead squats, then one-arm overhead squats then, well you get the point. And time after time, my assistant coach and I, and the team were blown away by her abilities outside the gymnastics movements.”
De los Santos proved her mettle on the GRID time and time again, from running through deadlifts and weighted pistols in Race 1 against Phoenix, to handstand push-ups in Race 4 against San Francisco, where she executed 30 reps before Fire veteran Courtney Walker knew what hit her. But the determination to excel did not stop.
“I remember she asked if she could test the overhead squats on one of the Triads,” Platek said. “I thought, ‘Ok whatever, I've got the lineup set,’ then she was the fastest. Back to the drawing board. She continually kept impressing us.”
According to Platek, when de los Santos was on the GRID, she performed with the confidence and poise of a veteran. While other rookies within the league sometimes struggled to shake off nerves, de los Santos immediately assimilated into the role of confident GRID player. She knew her assignments, she worked hard and was always in the game mentally. She understood, intuitively, the speed of GRID — something to which some rookies take a while to adapt.
Mather Wiswall, team operator of the Surge, was equally as impressed by de los Santos’ ability to assimilate and learn.
“When we first signed Marisa, she didn't have backward rolls-to-support, back uprise, double-touch and so on,” Wiswall said. “We did see, however, speed, muscular endurance for big sets, an ability to pick up movements quickly.”
That foresight paid off big, as she continued to demonstrate ability to do anything that was asked of her, constantly revealing new facets of herself, making herself an indispensable asset to the team.
“She has become one of the most proficient on the team at the high-level (body-weight) movements and I can only imagine what another year of practice and training for GRID will do for her physical capabilities next year and beyond,” Wiswall said
For her part, de los Santos never saw this coming. Rather, she just did the work she was assigned.
“I really wasn't expecting to win this,” she said, “but it made me feel really good! I'm glad I could make my coaches, my friends and family proud.”
As for what she feels she brings to the team overall, she is characteristically energetic.
“I feel like I can really bring a lot of energy to the Surge,” she said. “I'm really passionate about everything I do and I give everything my all. Honestly, I just love making people happy, so I hope I can do that, as well.”
GRID is a sport featuring two teams racing head-to-head to complete a series of weightlifting, body-weight and other athletic elements. GRID teams must possess intense speed, explosive strength, deep strategy and precise teamwork to complete the races in the fastest possible time.
The National Pro GRID League (NPGL) is the world’s first professional co-ed team sports league. Each two-hour match features two 14-person teams (7 women, 7 men) going head-to-head in 11 races. The NPGL teams: Los Angeles Reign, New York Rhinos, Boston Iron, DC Brawlers, Phoenix Rise, Miami Surge, San Francisco Fire and Baltimore Anthem. Visit NPGL.com for more information and follow National Pro GRID League on Facebook, @TheGridLeague on Twitter, @GridLeague on Instagram.