It started off as a way to bond with his children but it turned into a three-year physical and mental journey toward becoming an American Ninja Warrior for 40-year old Fort Plain art teacher, Geoff Snyder.
Always fitness-minded, Geoff and his son began building their own Ninja courses in their backyard after watching the television show that features a live-action obstacle course.
“It started with a peg-board in my backyard,” explains Geoff. “This gave me and my kids a way to bond and offered an outlet for me.”
Soon the obstacles became more challenging and he and his kids would go to the playground and practice some of the feats they were watching on the evening show. This turned into traveling and competing at Ninja competitions for both him and his children. He also worked with the high school technology teacher, Kreig Heroth, to build obstacle courses for the elementary physical education program.
Last year, he was one of over 70,000 people who apply to compete for the title of American Ninja Warrior each year. He was turned down. “It was the best thing that could happen,” said Geoff. “It pushed me to work harder.”
Working hard is not new to Geoff who was born with a heart defect and received a pacemaker at the age of 16. “I’ve never allowed that to be a limitation for me. If it wasn’t for my pacemaker, I wouldn’t be able to do any of this.”
Last week, as he was packing up at the end of school day, he got the phone call. Geoff will travel to Cleveland May 7-9 to become one of the 600 selected applicants in this year’s competition.
Geoff will get a walk-through of the course prior to the competition, but won’t get a chance to try any of the elements until go time, where contestants will run the course from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m., not knowing when they’ll compete during the night.
“That’s when it will hit me,” he said. “When my toes are on the line and they start counting down.”
With his children and five of his co-workers cheering him on, he will no doubt have fans back in Fort Plain who will eagerly await the Season 9 premiere of American Ninja Warrior in hopes of catching of glimpse of their hometown hero.
If Geoff makes it through the first two rounds in Cleveland, he’ll be invited to compete in the four-stage course in Las Vegas later this summer.
The American Ninja Warrior series began in 2009 and promises $500,000 to the first American champion.
But according to Geoff, “Anything from here on out is just icing on the cake. I’m so much better off than when I began this journey, both physically and mentally.”