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The Dispatch

The student news site of James Bowie High School

The Dispatch

The student news site of James Bowie High School

The Dispatch

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Jayden White jumping for glory

The sophomore is ready to compete in the show American Ninja Warrior
Photo Courtesy of Jayden White
SWINGIN’ AROUND: Sophomore Jayden White swinging from one bar to another in preparation for his appearance on American Ninja Warrior. White trains most of his time at Move Sport Austin in order to reach his best before his competitions.

Despite being defined as anything that requires physical exertion in order to best an opponent, the general scope of sports is widely limited to mainstream competitions like football and basketball. As a result, many athletes are not recognized for their interest in less traditional sports.

Unbeknownst to many, sophomore Jayden White is one example of an extremely gifted athlete flying under the radar. Recently competing in the 2024 airing of American Ninja Warrior, the sophomore was first attracted to the sport due to its uniqueness in comparison to other sports.

“A big appealing part of this sport for a lot of people is that you never know what you’re going to face,” White said. “In a lot of other sports you know what is going to happen at games and tournaments and things like that. At Ninja, it’s new every single competition. There’s new obstacles, new courses, and it’s fun to get to run a lot of different courses and be surprised with what you face.”

After the first American Ninja Warrior gym opened in Austin in 2018, White was able to access professional equipment to help him train more efficiently. As a student-athlete though, White is not always able to take advantage of this equipment, as he is forced to balance his training regime with his school and extracurricular commitments.

He made it this far through his own motivation and hard work, and he truly amazes me with all his drive.

— Aleita White, Jayden's mom

“I definitely have a lot of things going on with school and theater here and then I try to find time to train,” White said. “It’s really nice to still continue training because it’s like my break from all the stresses of school when I’m at the gym.”

As an ever-growing sport, American Ninja Warrior has gained popularity since its creation, but it still lacks the widespread following characteristic of other sports. Because of this, White’s mother, Aleita White, praises Jayden for his personal desire to pursue his passion.

“Besides having a coach for a short time when Jayden first started, he has reached the competitive level he is at now through self-teaching and training,” Aleita said. “He made it this far through his own motivation and hard work, and he truly amazes me with all his drive.”

As previously mentioned by Jayden, American Ninja Warrior is unlike many sports in the manner that each course is different. This variability tests contestants’ mental aptitude to adapt to different obstacles.

“It’s actually very much a variety of emotions because in any course, anything can happen,” Jayden said. “Sometimes I’ll do better than I thought I would do and I’ll be pretty happy with it. Other times I won’t exactly get to the point where I wanted to or won’t exactly get as fast at times I wanted to, and it’s a little disappointing, but a big part of Ninja is just to make sure you keep your head up because everyone has their struggles and every competition works out differently.”

In many sports there is a large emphasis on performing the basic skills at the highest level. Jayden points out the application of this idea in American Ninja Warrior, as well as the persistence needed to improve.

“Once I get a new skill, there’s a moment of feeling so accomplished with what skill I was working on,” Jayden said. “A big part of that Ninja though is to remember to keep working on that particular skill because you want it to become second nature. Consistency is definitely a really big part of it.”

An individual sport, American Ninja Warrior is structured for athletes to compete one at a time. This often results in waiting, and Jayden explains the nerves and emotions that set in, as a contestant readies for their run.

“I usually try not to think too much about how the other athletes are doing,” Jayden said. “Obviously in the back of my mind, I look at what I’ve seen people do before me, because it’s good to know what obstacles I need to get through, and I do get a little nervous. I just make sure to take deep breaths and remind myself that when I’m in my run to focus on and just go for it in the smoothest way possible.”

Originally requiring contestants to be 21 years old, American Ninja Warrior recently reduced the minimum age to 15. This rule change made Jayden eligible for regional qualifiers in Los Angeles in March of 2023.

“I think a big mistake I made in preparing for it is that I focused a lot more on physical preparation rather than mental,” Jayden said. “ I think next time I will try to be much more mentally prepared. It’s good to constantly remind myself, even though it is a TV show, it’s all about me and how I do and not to focus on everyone watching.”

Even though the sophomore did not perform the way he would’ve liked to in Los Angeles, Jayden exceeded many expectations to reach regional qualifiers in the first place.

“Jayden found a sport he is truly passionate about, keeps him physically active, and can continue far into adulthood,” Aleita said. “I’ve always encouraged and modeled physical fitness as a key aspect of good health in my kids. I’m so grateful Jayden found this unique activity that brings him so much joy and confidence.”

Sophomore Eli Cabello, a close friend to Jayden builds on Aleita’s comments and describes the impact competing in American Ninja Warrior has had on Jayden and his peers.

“Jayden is so inspiring because he never gives up,” Cabello said. “When he gets discouraged he always bounces back, and I think Ninja has helped him a lot with that. It has boosted his confidence in general and really made him grow as a person.”

Competing at such a young age, Jayden is grateful for the opportunity to compete against some of the best athletes in the country. The experience provided by the regional qualifiers in Los Angeles reinforced Jayden’s desire to continue his unique trade.

“It was just absolutely the coolest thing I’ve ever done in my journey,” Jayden said. “Stepping up to that start line knowing that I got there after so many years of training, regardless of how it went, it was an incredible experience and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

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