Culture shift

Shift Team team rises to the top of intramural basketball


Intramural basketball was a relaxed environment at Central Michigan University until one team came along and changed it all — that team was the Shift Team. 

Director of Competitive Sports and Intramurals, Scott George, was there to witness Shift Team's road to success.

"(Shift Team is) one of the best teams in our largest league — which is men's basketball," George said. "With this being one our largest leagues, it is very hard for a team to even win one title let alone three."

Shift Team was the first team in any intramural sport to win three straight titles after claiming the basketball title this past season. 

Led by three-year captain, senior Xavier Priest, Shift Team went on a 30-0 run to establish themselves at the top of the intramural basketball world — but it came from simple beginnings.

Getting the band together

Priest and a few of his friends joined the intramural league in 2014 with the sole purpose of playing for fun.

“I started the team three years ago with a few core people because we had lost the year before," Priest said. “Before I got this team together, it was more of me playing with my friends and just having fun.”

Priest and his first-year team went undefeated and make the playoffs in its first season, but was knocked off in the first round. After the loss, Priest knew his team was good, but was still lacking a few key components.

“That first year we lost in the first game," Priest said. "We were the better team, but we were lacking the basketball IQ and the other team beat us because of that."

Following the loss, Priest said he knew he would have to strategize to be able win it all.

“We won our first title in 2015," he said. "Most of the core that was staying wanted to be able to go back and win it again the second year in a row."

Priest went to work on recruiting people for his team next year in hopes of repeating. One of his new recruits was Eric Carter. 

Like Priest, Carter was focused on playing basketball to stay in shape and have fun.

“It was all about hooping and being active at first,” Carter said. “After my team lost that first year, Xavier came up to me and asked about playing for him next year. I said yes, and the rest is history.”

Culture Shift

Competition levels were not always as high as they currently are in the basketball league. 

"A lot of people know who shift team is because of their dominance on the court and their style of play and this has really brought the level of competition up here," George said.

Priest noticed this when he went to recruit players for the team.

“After that first title, I went up to some people asking if they wanted to play with us, and they would answer back saying that they’d rather play against us and try to beat us,” Priest said.

This is when Priest and Carter started to see the culture of intramurals shift.

“Things went from let’s just chill and play together to let’s win and let’s compete with Shift Team,” Carter said.

With this change in culture came a change in uniforms for members of Shift Team.

“We use to just wear the pennies that were supplied and then we got tired of wearing them because of the sweat that piled up in them,” said Priest. “We decided to make your own logo and our own uniform.”

By doing this, more and more teams started wearing their own colors and uniforms changing the culture and allowing less and less teams to wear the uniforms provided by the intramural program. Teams who wanted to compete with Shift Team would follow suit and do the same.

"Shift Team was not the first team to wear their own uniforms," George said. "(They) did become the first team to create their own logo and change it as they won more titles."

After their second title in 2016 the pressure was on to do what no team had ever done before and that was win their third in a row with the same core of players. 

“Coming into the season we knew people were going to be coming for us every game,” Carter said.

Priest said when he became the club sports intern in 2016 more and more people noticed who he was and knew the exposure was going to bring more fight from other teams who wanted to beat them.

“When teams found out there was a staff member on the team, that's when I knew that it was going to get blown up and we were going to get everyone’s best shot,” Priest said. “We definitely had a target on our back, but we came and brought and walked out as three-team champions.”

Leaving a legacy

Priest and Carter are graduating before the next basketball season and believe this is the end of an era.

“Some people want to keep the name going, but since most of the team is gone after this year I think it is time to retire the Shift Team name and keep the legacy at 30-0,” Priest said.

Priest and Carter may be done, but they had one thing to say to all the future CMU intramural participants and students.

“Leave your legacy,” Priest said. 

Carter shared Priest's sentiment. 

“No matter what, academically, in recreation or anything. Whatever your passion is leave your legacy no matter what,” he said. 

Shift Team may be done, but their impact will be felt for years to come.