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Secret Sauce for Ninja Warrior Success

There's a reason Warrior Playground in Longmont has been around for almost 9 years now, through Covid-19 and a move to a new facility, and that reason is Owner and Founder Sam Banola.


If you know Sam, you know he is too humble to claim this accolade, yet since it is true, I will claim it for him. In an era when 60% of small businesses fail, Sam has poured blood, sweat and tears (all quite literally) into creating a space where kids and adults can experience the magic and joy of play and self-confidence, and the business model has stuck.


Sam has been in the fitness industry his entire life, with a Masters in Exercise Science and decades of personal training under his belt. If it takes 10,000 hours to become a master of your trade, then at 30 years running (an astonishing 62,000 hours), Sam is a true Master, in the largest sense of the word. He labors over the curriculum that is taught in our youth ninja warrior program, ensuring it meets not just correct ninja skill-progression, but whole-person, whole-body athletic development, from the ground up. You'll see drills here you don't see elsewhere, like circle games of multiple-ball toss for hand eye coordination, or over-box movement sequences for body awareness. Stability and mobility exercises that come before power and performance drills. Sam has insanely deep knowledge about intelligent exercise training protocols, and ensures our athletes are taught the very best.


Running a business is not for the faint of heart. Sam is up before dawn working, and works late into the night quite frequently. He works weekends, on road trips, on airplanes, on vacations. It absolutely never, ever stops, He works while he drinks morning coffee, he works (in his head) while in the shower. He works this much because he LOVES it that much. It's not his job, it is his life and it is his heart.


He is insatiable for progress, of the business and of himself. He devours podcasts and books about personal growth. He's always watching professional development content and forwarding the coaching team copious links to videos about coaching strategy, movement patterns and personal betterment. With such a high value on personal growth, it's easy to see how that transfers into how Warrior Playground is structured and ran.


Although now 50, Sam is a giant kid at heart, getting wildly excited about the obstacles he designs (and then gets to play on). He plays everywhere, is always making obstacles out of natural surroundings, and is constantly jumping off things. He's as enthusiastic as a 6 year old on their birthday, about everything movement and obstacle related.


Sam is also amazingly creative. He is (very) frequently awoken in the middle of the night with new ideas and design plans, and comes up with things most people couldn't possibly conceive. He has been a woodworker for several decades, and gets incredibly excited looking at trees and envisioning all the things he could build for the facility.


He also has the biggest heart of anyone I've ever met. He cares so, so deeply for every single person inside the gym, as much as he cares for strangers at the grocery store. He knows all the kids' names at the facility, asks how they are doing, and genuinely wants to know the answer. He is an incredible father and human, modeling the values of selflessness and kindness to all.


Warrior Playground is a place where positive vibes and community come first. Where teaching growth mindset, failing forward, and self-compassion are just as (if not more) important than the physical curriculum. A place where participants can get back to their roots of just moving; swinging, running, jumping.... feeling alive. Having fun.


And all of this comes from Sam. The way he has structured the business. The lessons he imparts on his coaching staff. The methods he uses to connect with our youth. He is involved in every aspect of every moment at the facility, and the depth of knowledge, experience and joy that he brings so clearly sets Warrior Playground apart from its competitors.




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