When I first started thinking about opening a ninja warrior gym, it was purely due to the excitement and love of the sport. As ideas, concepts and time moved on, plans changed. I decided that I wanted to do this for the kids and for various reasons. Several years ago, I worked with groups of troubled teens and foster kids. During this time, I learned a lot about the types of issues that children are faced with and how they dealt with those issues. Unfortunately, these issues may be in public, in sports, in school, or even at home. It seems that growing up these days can be more difficult than what it once was. Therefore, I strongly believe that our youth need to be as strong as they can be, both body and mind. So it became my vision to take what I know and have learned and apply it to a youth group that is willing to participate and give their best effort. With that effort, and the help of our structured youth program, they will become stronger in many ways. I love this following article and especially the end results.
Almost a year ago, forty individual youth walked into Obstacle Academy with no idea what to expect. They were put through a series of movements, some were basic and required no strength, some were slightly more complicated. The data they earned on each event, coupled with their strength and natural tendency to move, funneled them into one of four groups. These groups are the Obstacle Academy Youth Ninja Teams -- the most rewarding and exciting venture of our professional careers. Over the course of 10 months, the mass of youth became friends, training partners, and more. They grew together as a team, and to us, they became individuals. The mass of youth took individual form, on a level where we care about their emotional well-being. How they're doing in school is now important, we are interested in their hobbies, their friendships, and as always, their athletic process in this intensely-developing sport.
Each team has two practices per week. The first of the practices is a split-format. The class is divided across two important elements of movement. They drill the specifics on posture and execution of two different obstacle lines or concepts. Halfway through, they switch, and when both concepts are exhausted, they move on to strength and conditioning. Their second weekly practice is competition preparation and coursework. This prepares the youth to be competitive under pressure. They will run full timed courses centered around the movements they learned earlier in the week. This serves not only to showcase the movements they have learned but allows them to slowly pick away at the concept of performing under pressure. Each competition they run, they become more comfortable stepping up and tackling stress. The stress of competing is huge, but in sections, they chip away and find a mental process to move through delicate, and difficult sequences, with the eyes of the viewers upon them.
Each month, we hold an in-house competition. This is a magnified version of a course day. The crowd is larger, the cameras are rolling, and the full pressure is on. These competitions include the movements they learned throughout the month, filled with sequences they have never seen, and it is up to the athletes to use what they know about obstacles and movement to navigate the course. The youth have learned over the last ten months how important it is to break a course into sections and analyze exactly how an obstacle should be done, with an opening for creativity, that always blows us away. Every time the athletes step up to compete under pressure, we see a change in who they are. They become more confident, stronger, and more intelligent with their movement.
In the days shortly after the competitions, we run the athletes though physical testing. The testing is a set of calisthenics and measures of athletic capability. Their scores are measured and documented, and then handed out to the athletes every four to six weeks. One of the most rewarding aspects of the program has been to look over their athletic improvements from participation in the Ninja Team program. Some of their athletic scores have more than tripled! We have youth who showed up to the program incapable of a single pull-up, and are now completing twenty-plus, perfectly executed, pull-ups in under one minute.
The athletic improvements are important; in the origins, that was the specific goal of this program. While the kids are here to be competitive in the sport, the program has unexpectedly evolved in ways we never anticipated – we’ve witnessed genuine character improvements in these kids that has changed the way we operate, communicate, and run the Ninja Team program, and the gym. It has changed the way they speak to each other and interact; how they treat their parents and siblings; improved their behavior at school and their discipline in their homework habits; older team members mentoring and coaching younger team members; and built up impressive levels of self-confidence all while never losing sight of their humility. All around, we have watched this program develop into something so much more than an athletic program for an emerging sport. These kids and their parents have become our friends, and the absolute lifeline of our professional career. We have discovered a new level of purpose as Coaches and a motivation that frankly didn’t exist before the program and all the families. This is what community looks and feels like. We are only able to find success as a business as a result of the dedication of the youth and parents – this incredible community we are honored and proud to be participants in is the direct result of the commitment that you all have shown us as coaches and as a gym. This is only after our inaugural season of Ninja Team – imagine where these kids and this program will go in the years to come. These kids are the next generation of competitive ninja warrior athletes and the future is bright.
Thank you for letting us be a part of all your lives, families and this community.