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Written by Janelle Kopa
Sarah Schoback, the Ninja of the North, has blown into The Ninjababes Podcast on the Northern Breeze: her signature dance. American Ninja Warrior season 9 and 10, Team Ninja Warrior season 2, Ninja vs Ninja, NNL World Finals, and 2016 and 2017 OCR World Championships, are a few of the places that have had this powerful ninja dominate their courses. A true role model of strength, Sarah is a woman who has tremendously inspired me in the gym and in life. With an open and loving heart, she has personally welcomed me into her Obstacle Academy ninja family in Minnesota, which has been one of the biggest blessings in my life. I am beyond thankful for her commitment to loving others so selflessly, and for creating a ninja community that invites you to become the best version of yourself. As a devoted mom and wife, dedicated athlete, and a determined gym owner, she is a wise woman who truly does it all. Sarah is passionately living out a limitless life and encouraging us to do the same.
Some of the most beautiful moments I have witnessed is Sarah’s intentionality to inspire her two daughters by the way she lives and positively encourages them. Sarah’s ninja career began with a desire to deepen her bond with her 6-year-old daughter, Briella. This active mother-daughter bond also extended to her 4-year-old daughter, Adeline. It is Sarah’s goal to help her girls see the beauty in being strong. If her daughters want to be strong, she will support them in any way she can so that they can reach their dreams. Thankfully, our society is starting to put more emphasis on women being strong, and less shame in it. However, women embracing their strength is still a work in progress within our society. “We need to throw out the stereotypes of what women are supposed to be and start embracing who you are.” We can teach our children that girls and women can be strong and incredible athletes, and that their strength is not a reflection of someone else’s ability. It is going to take hard work to continue to fight against the imbalance of strength with gender stereotypes, but, with incredible role models like Sarah, we can do it.
While Sarah is a model of strength to her daughters, she also expresses this value to her women in the ninja classes she coaches. “Be the best you” is a main focus of the ninja community she has created at Obstacle Academy. She wants to eliminate an air of competition between athletes so that she can create a sisterhood of intrinsically motivated competitors. “If you push yourself to be the best you then you will always push the hardest that you can. But if you are just pushing yourself to beat the person right behind you or beat the person right ahead of you, you will always stop yourself right there.” To focus on being the best you, Sarah suggests finding and focusing on your own limits so that you can work hard to surpass them. It is human nature to despise failing, however, intentionally failing is an imperative aspect of athletic growth in obstacle training.
No one is going to know how far or how hard they can truly push themselves until they reach the point of failure. That failure, such as failing on an obstacle, then shows you where your current limit is. This is not the point to be discouraged, but actually encouraged! This limit is now your next goal! For example, if you can make a 6-foot lache, push yourself to try an 8-foot lache, even if you aren’t 100% confident you’ll make it. If you don’t make it, the 8-foot lache can be an exciting new goal for you. Sarah also reminds us that no one is judging our failures, but when people see you fail, they know you are determined to find your limits. Then, when you make your next goal, everyone sees and can share in your success. “We all have our own struggles and are going through life at a completely different perspective. So even when you are looking at the course, you don’t want to look at how another person looks at an obstacle because you don’t know what battles they’re dealing with and you want to push yourself to your own limit.” Sarah’s wisdom in finding personal limitations has inspired me to intentionally fail and push myself to find my own limits so that I can work towards surpassing them to someday become limitless.
While pushing yourself to your limits, Sarah reminds us to keep the fun in our training. “Never lose the fun side. As soon as you get too serious and stop having fun with it, your mental side will take over.” This is one of the reasons that Sarah has encompassed her signature Northern Breeze dance into her obstacle training and competition preparation. Right before you compete, Sarah suggests finding something fun you like to do, such as dancing, that takes your mind off of obstacles. You should already have your visualized plan in mind, so taking a minute to relax your mental side with something fun will help settle competition nerves.
Sarah’s limitless spirit has encouraged me to push past my own boundaries to achieve any dream I have. She is living proof that strength is beautiful, and that beauty is limitless.