It Takes Grit and Determination to Reach American Ninja Warrior
By: Jennings Fort, AT&T Insider
Earlier this year, Michael Poston stood in the starting platform at the filming of NBC’s American Ninja Warrior TV show in Daytona Beach, Florida.
It’s the pinnacle of the sport of obstacle course competition. Competitors run, swing, grab and jump in an extreme challenge of athletic skill and brute strength. And it’s in front of millions of people.
Michael, an IT specialist at Cricket Wireless, was in great shape and was ready. But this wasn’t always the case.
His appearance on the show was a comeback from years of physical challenges and disappointments and a victory of sheer determination.
In his youth, Michael had always been athletic, playing baseball, football, softball and running track. But by age 18, he began to have back pain. It turned out he had a combination of scoliosis and a herniated disk. Even though he dealt with pain daily, he didn’t want surgery. He toughed it out for more than a decade.
“My spine was like the letter ‘S’,” he said. “And eventually, it got to the point where I couldn’t even pick up my 9-year-old daughter. I was ready for surgery.”
He had a disk replacement and the doctor gave him the discouraging news that he couldn’t run anymore. But during 3 months off from work, he was determined to stay active. So he started walking and searched for a sport that wouldn’t hurt his back. Then he discovered rock climbing.
“I found something I was good at and strengthened my core,” he said, “which was what my doctor wanted.”
Meanwhile, there were more challenges. First, he needed shoulder surgery. Then he started having kidney stones. Over a 3-year period, he had 1 about every 3 months. When he had 2 at once, one in each kidney, emergency surgery was needed. They found 25 stones.
But after his recovery, he kept rock climbing. Then, one night, he turned on the television and saw a show about obstacle courses.
“I turned to my wife and said, ‘That looks awesome. I have to do it.’”
His first try
He found out about a walk-on process for the show and decided to go for it. So in 2015, he went to Orlando where the next season would be filmed. But unfortunately, he learned that only the first 15 people would be considered. Some had camped out for weeks. Looking at the long line of hopefuls, he knew it wasn’t his time.
But he kept training, finding a gym that specialized in obstacle courses.
The next year, he was ready to try again in Atlanta, close to home. He claimed his place weeks before the event – No. 13 in line.
But the show had an unbreakable rule that walk-ons couldn’t be late on the day of filming. Unfortunately, on that day, traffic was extremely heavy. He was 5 minutes late and his place in line went from 13 to 31. He wouldn’t get in. The show producer encouraged him to try for the next walk-on in Oklahoma City.
So later, he drove 14 hours to Oklahoma to wait in line. But again, he was too late – number 22. Then, if that wasn’t bad enough, a tornado warning shut down production.
“I was devastated,” he said. “I had waited in line a total of 5 weeks.”
But he did get to test the course for the first time. And it motivated him to amp up his training to 5 days a week.
So this year, in Daytona, he was ready. He filmed a submission video telling his story. He got to the walk-on site early and was No. 5 in line. He would finally get his shot.
Standing at the starting platform, in bright, Cricket-green shoes, socks, shirt and shorts, he knew he’d made it.
“I was partly terrified but excited that everything I worked for years was standing right in front of me.”
How did he do? We’ll all have to watch the show to find out.
“You can’t live on cruise control”
In a real way, he’d won before he even got there.
“One thing I’ve learned is that you have to have a support system, not just in sports but throughout life. My family has been so supportive. And I’ve made some great friends in ninja sports. We’re a close community.”
His Cricket teammates are major cheerleaders.
“Michael’s got amazing determination,” said Chas Hall, his director. “We’re proud of everything he’s accomplished. We’re behind him all the way.”
Just as Michael encourages his fellow athletes, he wants to bring the same positive attitude and determination to his team at work. Life is always about conquering obstacles.
“I believe that you can’t live on cruise control,” he said. “You can come back from challenges. Everyone can make changes, do the things they love and be healthier. Do it with full passion.”