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Playing with a purpose, the culture of ninja as a sport
By Marika White - Go Ninja Program

What is ninja and why do we love it? The popular television program American Ninja Warrior has captivated our culture as a sports entertainment show and is now penetrating the walls of our gymnastics facilities nationwide. You may be wondering what “ninja’ is and why kids and parents are so drawn to it.

The American Ninja Warrior craze follows adults and even college kids while they train and compete on adult sized jungle gyms as they jump, run, climb and swing their way to a timed finish. One of the captivating and relatable qualities of the show is watching a “regular” person train to compete on fitness and agility courses. Viewers young and old across the country tune in and think “Hey, I can do that!” The American Ninja Warrior show is celebrating a positive culture of fitness celebrities, and gymnastics facilities are the perfect landscape for this new way to play.

The sport of ninja is really a collaboration of movement. Gymnastics based ninja classes may include obstacle training, trampoline training, gymnastics and tumbling, fitness fundamentals, sport readiness training and even martial arts. Gymnasts from recreation class to competitive levels thrive in this hybrid movement based curriculum as they are familiar with the skills, drill stations, terminology and fun fitness components they have experienced through their gymnastics training.

Gym owners should incorporate ninja classes into their current programming and here’s why; gyms have the facility, the equipment, the space and the students.

Gymnastics, cheer and tumbling facilities offer kids a safe space to explore and experience movement. Gyms are staffed with trained educators, are climate controlled, insured and designed with families in mind. Safety, continuing education for staff and convenient locations make gym clubs a stand out choice for parents looking for a structured environment for their kids to learn ninja skills.

Gym clubs already have the equipment for successful ninja programs. Set courses on the floor with skill building mats, blocks and barrels you already own. Continue to use your equipment for gymnastics based ninja moves in a class environment for preschool through school age students. No warped wall or salmon ladder needed. Empower your coaches to combine sport readiness training and gymnastics with courses made from agility ladders, poly dots, cones, hoops, mats, spotting blocks, and other low level obstacles in your gym.

Every gym has the space for ninja classes, courses, workshops, ninja challenges or birthday parties. If your gym doesn’t have a designated space for daily programming, simply offer workshops, camps, clinics, homeschool programs, parents’ night out and birthday parties during slow day times or weekends. You don’t have to train for months or even weeks to enjoy the success of maneuvering through movements or courses. Parents enjoy watching their youngsters complete ninja class challenges and the feeling of accomplishment will bring kids back for more.

Your gym should be offering ninja classes to currently enrolled students, their siblings and their friends. Gymnastics based ninja classes don’t have to be about competition, perfection or performance; playing is a skill and kids have it figured out. Give kids an opportunity to put skills into practice by creating goal setting situations where they can achieve personal bests by getting faster, stronger and more agile. Boys and girls who don’t identify themselves as “gymnasts” are still doing gymnastics but they are doing it in their back yards, on the playground and on their trampolines. Get those kids back in your gym by offering exciting new skills, movement concepts and obstacle courses.