Challenges for Ninja Warriors who Train All Year for One Event

How can Young Athletes Learn from Ninja Warriors?

Lisa here from Youth Sports Psychology and Kids Sports Psychology.

This week, along with my 10-yr-old, I was an audience member for American Ninja Warrior, where I witnessed astonishing feats and plenty of fails.

Ninjas have specific challenges in sports: It’s an individual sport, so they often train alone. They have to be self-motivated and are often self-taught.

What’s more, they get one shot a year to perform and often fail on one of the obstacles after training hard all year.

How do they handle these mental-game challenges? To understand, I listened to some interviews with well- known ninjas.

One strategy for coping with the solitude of the sport is to train with other ninjas. Some participate in Team Ninja Warrior on teams that compete against other teams.

What’s more, there’s a sense of community among ninjas that helps them build confidence.

Says Tiana Webberley, “It’s a competition but we’re not trying to knock each other down. We overcome the obstacles as a group.”

During Webberley’s first season, she fell on the third obstacle. How did she cope with that fall?

“You can let it take you down or use it as fuel for fire for the next one. I have to work harder for next time,” she says.

Grant McCartney, the popular “Island Ninja,” who is 6’ 2” and weighs 190 pounds–taller and heavier than most ninjas–says that as part of the larger community, he tries to learn from ninjas who are smaller.

“It’s a mental place. I learn from people smaller sized,” he says.

Both ninjas focus on being as positive as possible and setting goals for themselves.

Says Webberley, “I just want to get past what I haven’t accomplished yet.”

The ninjas have great tips for young athletes in all sports.

  1. Be positive and supportive with teammates.
  2. Be part of a supportive community.
  3. Don’t allow one competition to define you.
  4. Be open to learning from others.
  5. And use falls to push yourself to learn and work even harder.

Help your young athletes feel confident and enjoy youth sports!

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Young athletes and their parents and coaches tell us that sports kids often struggle with these pregame mental game challenges:

  • They fail to take charge of their confidence before the compete
  • They don’t trust in their skills when they go from practice to competition
  • They hang on to mistakes and dwell in them in competition
  • They worry too much about what others think about their performance
  • They feel pressure to excel from expectations they feel from others
  • They focus too much on the outcome instead of the process
  • They tighten up and play safe when they feel pressure to succeed
  • They interpret pregame jitters as harmful to their performance

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