Lincoln Avenue Ninja Warriors Overcome Obstacles—Literally!
At Lincoln Avenue, students don’t have to look very far to experience fun and creative ways to grow in body, mind, and spirit. Thanks to their energizing Physical Education teacher, Coach Beth Bolger, the students have ample opportunities. One such recent opportunity was during Lincoln Avenue’s Second Annual Ninja Warrior Night Championship that included 138 student-participants—three of whom were Kindergarteners
For many years, to fulfill the gymnastics, tumbling objectives, Coach Bolger would prepare a Giant Obstacle Course that challenged her students' strength, endurance, and overall fitness. “Obstacle course races,” Coach Bolger explained, “are a fun and fantastic way to inspire all students to live a lifetime full of fitness.”
Last year, Coach Bolger and her coworker Matt Slinkosky switched it up and designed the Ninja Warrior Obstacles course to teach students how to overcome obstacles—“literally”—by basing the Physical Education unit of study on such popular TV shows as Wipe-Out, American Ninja Warrior, Ninja Warrior Junior & Titan.
“Matt Slinkosky and I created our version of an American Ninja Warrior Course. We made quad steps, rope swings, rolling log, warped wall, Tarzan ropes, cargo climb, jumping bars, salmon ladder, unstable bridge, devil steps, rope junction, cliff hanger, monkey pegs, etc.”
Coach Bolger was not bragging when she described this year’s course as “AWESOME!” Not only did the students test the course during their PE classes, “even some of the teachers and staff would come in during their class’ PE period and play.”
In preparation for this year’s culminating event, Coach Bolger ran clinics to give her students tips and suggestions on how to climb the different types of ropes. “We have six ropes ranging in difficulty. The students could qualify on ANY of the ropes [fully knotted ropes to ropes with no knots], no matter the difficulty level.”
The PE teachers also opened their doors for practice before school. “So many came that we had to give different grades specific clinic times so we can accommodate all students. Kids of all abilities came!”
Modified rope-climbing activities helped some students improve strength. Those students who had no problem climbing learned techniques such as Brake and Squat or Wrap and Lock. “It was wonderful watching the students challenge themselves, asking questions, and increasing their knowledge,” Coach Bolger stated, adding, “Sometimes students need a little push, an external reward. By giving the students an opportunity to rise to a goal and succeed, we are helping them reveal personal strengths and qualities they may not have noticed.”
While the competition was open to all students, only those competitors who climbed to the top of 24-foot length climbing rope qualified for the Second Annual Ninja Warrior Night Championship. “Last year we had 108 students out of 400 qualify, three of whom were Kindergarteners. This year we had 138 students qualify, three again were Kindergarteners!”
The Ninja Warrior Obstacles unit concluded with the Lincoln Avenue Ninja Warrior Competition and even those who didn’t qualify were given important roles. Some were scorekeepers, others judges, announcers, record keepers, timers, interviewers, and D. J’s. In addition, all the students were encouraged to create Ninja Warrior names and avatars and come to the competition in costume. “The students colored their hair, painted their faces, and dressed in costume from head to toe. Music was blasting, lights were glowing, and everyone was cheering for the other competitors. It was so loud in the gym that anyone who was in the building popped in just to see the action. It was easily, one of my favorite events to run.”
About the course and activities Coach Bolger reported:
“The course started with the rope climb and ended with the dreaded Warped Wall. We even created a buzzer [at the summit which] students were able to press when they beat the Warped Wall. You had to see the students all stand on top of the Warped Wall with their arms overhead victoriously. It was truly priceless!! These are memories they will never forget and will be able to reflect on later in life when they are challenged.
“…the competition was not about finding a winner. It was a celebration of the struggle of climbing the rope and, for some, the success of it. Students were able to share their ‘Rope War’ stories. How many times it took them to get up, how scared they were, why they continued, and what it meant to them. They were even showing off and comparing their hand calluses with pride.
“This event is not just about the physical benefits but the mental benefits as well. I want fitness to be fun and memorable! I want to inspire my students to constantly push themselves to be the best they can be and raise their bar of their own personal expectations. I want to try to give my students as many opportunities to grow and succeed. I want to empower them to increase their drive and performance. I want to offer my students the opportunity where they feel challenged and must learn to work for it. In order to qualify for our Lincoln Ave Ninja Warrior, I knew the task had to be challenging. Students learn a great deal through their struggles as well as their achievement. They need to learn to grow through adversity and not having everything so easy or handed to them. Ninja Warrior Night is a fantastic way to teach our students how to set goals, how to create a plan to accomplish the goal, the importance of practice, and how to learn from and push past failure.
“As parents and teachers,” Coach Bolger concluded, “we need to reward the struggle as well as the accomplishment. Most of life lessons are learned in the struggle—the greater the struggle the most meaningful the reward. This is important in fostering a growth mindset and not a fixed one. Students need to learn that we all struggle and that being an athlete is not a fixed trait few are born with but one we must work hard for and continue to nurture.”
Congratulations go to all the Lincoln Avenue Ninja Warriors who competed during the night competition! Also, a special thank you goes to all within the Lincoln Avenue community who gave assistance as volunteers or who provided encouragement by cheering on the warriors!