CHATHAM, NJ - The first time his mother took him to a playground as a youngster, it was obvious that Sawyer Shaw was going to climb.
"We'd go to the playground and he's climbing on the outside of the playground," Shaw's mother, Kelly Loofbourrow, said. "He'd be climbing around the sides of the playground and other mothers would look at him and wonder whose kid it was and why his parent wasn't getting him down. There is no keeping him from climbing."
Today, the Chatham Middle School 7th-Grader has found the perfect venue to test his climbing skills, along with his ability to balance himself while running through obstacles - he's become an American Ninja Warrior.
The 12-year-old has proven to be one of the top Ninja competitors for his age group in the nation. That's why he'll be appearing on the very first America Ninja Warrior Junior show on the Universal Kids, NBC youth channel 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13.
Sawyer Shaw is the Hawk Allstate Chatham Athlete of the Week.
Sawyer started out as a gymnast and then transitioned to Parkour free-running before attending a one-week Ninja camp at Chatham Centercourt during the summer of 2017.
"I went to the camp and liked it," Shaw said. "I wound up going to the camp for four weeks."
He's now part of the Chatham Centercourt team, which trains two times a week for two hours. Shaw, who has qualified for nationals, competes on weekends in National Ninja League events from August through February.
Below are two videos of Shaw in action, showing what Ninja competition looks like and the skill and agility it takes to compete
"He absolutely has found his home in obstacle course training and the Ninja Warrior sport," Loofbourrow said. "He’s always been athletic, but team sports of soccer, baseball and basketball just never seemed to keep his interest.
"He did Taekwondo, gymnastics, parkour and flag football for many years as well. But he’s completely invested and most passionate about bouldering and this new Ninja/Obstacle Course sport."
Shaw went through a growth spurt during the summer, gaining almost three inches in height. He now weighs about 100 pounds. He doesn't just like the Ninja sport, he lives it.
In his bedroom, there is a pegboard on the wall, which allows him to train by lifting himself off the ground and moving the pegs into the holes as he balances himself with one hand along the way. Just the hand-eye coordination to insert the pegs is challenging enough. Add to it the difficulty of hanging by one hand and it's easy to see why he is one of the top Ninja Warriors in the country.
In his spare time, Shaw put together a 3-D printer from a kit in a little more than one day, and has dabbled in other unusual skills, such as knife throwing.
Even when he thinks about watching TV, a common activity for any 12-year-old, it's different for Shaw. Pointing to the ceiling in the family room, he said: "I want to build an extension up there so you have to climb up a wall in order to watch TV. I just want to be able to climb around."
When it comes to his athletic ability, he inherited some of the genes from his mother, who was a competitive gymnast in her pre-mom years. Shaw noted that he was able to perform a Kipping Muscle Up on the rings and has turned his attention to the Salmon Ladder (see video above).
He's now returned to his gymnastics roots to help improve his balance and train for Ninja competition.
"I have to improve on getting through the obstacles more efficiently and pushing myself," he said. "Seeing how far I can really go to beat the obstacles faster."
Editor's note: The Hawk Allstate Chatham Athlete of the Week is sponsored by the John Hawk Agency. John and his team have been protecting local families and business owners for over 12 years. Call them at 973-635-9494 for a new auto, home, life and business insurance quote this week and if you mention the Hawk Allstate Chatham Athlete of the Week they will make a $20 contribution to the Chatham Booster Club! To learn more, visit the agency website.