Local Teen Elijah Browning Inspires Young Athletes

Elijah Browning shares what is possible through hard work and the support of his mom Renee Browning

By Heather Griffin, Publisher November 4, 2021

When Elijah Browning, 16, of Thompson's Station, TN got a call from a Los Angeles area code in February 2020, he knew it was something big. The call was from Matt Iseman, host of the popular competition show American Ninja Warrior, inviting Elijah to be one of the first teens to ever compete on the show. 

Elijah had been dreaming of competing on American Ninja Warrior since he was five-years-old. At nine, he'd begun competing all over the country in various ninja warrior leagues including appearing on American Ninja Warrior Junior

In 2020, however, Elijah had no idea how close he was to that dream that started when he was so young. Until recently, the minimum age requirement to compete on American Ninja Warrior was 19. 

Then, covid happened and teens were cut from the lineup in order to limit the number of people on set. Despite the setback, the highly motivated Elijah continued to mentally and physically prepare himself for the next competition, not even knowing if or when the show would call him back. You can probably guess what happened next.

Season 13 of American Ninja Warrior was the first season since the show began in 2009 to include minors into the competition. Out of 400 competitors chosen, 32 were teenagers. Elijah was one of 18 teens who made it to the final round in Las Vegas, NV and one of only four teens to finish in the top 10 overall -- a huge accomplishment not only for such a young athlete, but also for a first-time competitor on the show.


I was fortunate enough to sit down with Elijah and his mom, Renee Browning, and talk to them about their experiences during filming and the opportunities that have come out of his success as a ninja warrior. 

What was it like getting that first call from Matt Iseman?

EB: My legs were shaking. I could barely speak. It wasn’t even in the realm of my imagination. I never imagined in a million years they would drop the age limit. I couldn’t sleep that night.

When teens are competing against adults, who would you say has a bigger advantage?

EB: Teens have an advantage in the sense that they’ve grown up in the sport. Advantages for the adults, though, is they can put on muscle. And they can physically be stronger than us [teens]. Ninja is one of those sports, we can get into so many technical terms, where we’re technically “endurance power athletes." So endurance you can build at any age, whereas strength you build when you’re a little bit older. So, I don't know. I'd say it's probably 50/50.

What was Vegas like?

RB: I’ve never been so tired in my life [laughs]. It was amazing and such an incredible experience. But it was more than just the lack of sleep. It was the intensity of the whole process.

EB: When I think back on it, I still get nervous because it’s just so nerve-wracking. I ran stage one at like 3 a.m. At one point, you’re like "Is it going to affect performance being up that late?" and it ended up not because of adrenaline and stuff but - maybe I pumped out a little faster than I would have if it wasn't the middle of the night.

How many hats did you lose during the competition?

EB: [laughs] It fell off in qualifying, so that’s one. It fell off in semis on corkscrew. And then I fell in a different hat. So I’m just going to go off the hats that got wet, so that’s three. And then it stayed on in stage one. It was the first buzzer I ever hit when my hat didn’t fall. Stage two it fell off, so that’s four hats.

How has your mom supported your career as a ninja warrior?

EB: She’s my "momager" [laughs]. She does everything really. From a young age she believed in me and what I was capable of. When you’re a 9 or 10 year old boy, you switch what you want to do a lot, but she could tell that I’ve always loved ninja warrior, so once I got good enough, we just started traveling and competing all the time. She’s always been so supportive of anything I’ve wanted to do. I climbed the Target building and she was supportive of that. I started a business and she was supportive of it. I wanted to be on American Ninja Junior and she was supportive of it. I knew she always wanted the best for me and always wanted to support me so knowing that you feel like you can do anything.

RB: I never doubted he could do it. He puts his mind to something and he doesn’t let go. He works really hard.

What advice would you give to young kids who are passionate about ninja warrior and want to get serious with it?

RB: I feel like if you really want to do ninja, you have to compete. There’s that synergy and that pushing each other and knowing where you are, knowing where you stand. What has propelled my boys is the competition piece, not just the training. The training is valuable but you can get stagnant in that too. But if you’re competing, it constantly drives you. And the whole point of ninja is facing obstacles you’ve never touched before. 

EB: If I had never competed, I probably would have stopped doing ninja because it just would have gotten boring, but since we competed and I made so many friends because of ninja, I might not even be the businessman I am today. I might not even be a business man at all. Because of ninja and all the relationships and people I've met, that’s why I have the businesses I do today.

A Family of Entrepreneurs

Elijah works hard, not just at ninja warrior, but also his own personal coaching business as well as a ninja rig building company he runs with his grandfather, Boss Ninja Builds LLC. Elijah's grandfather, who has been building for over 40 years, has taught Elijah to do the same. Together, they build ninja warrior rigs in backyards, garages, or wherever a person has the space.

The Brownings also host birthday parties in their backyard where party-goers can run the massive homemade obstacle course. Even, Elijah's younger brother, Julian, has picked up the entrepreneurial spirit of the family. He designs greeting cards and also helps out with the building company with Elijah and their grandfather.

The Brownings are even working to bring the competitive world of ninja warriors to Middle Tennessee by hosting backyard competitions. Their next competition is coming up on Sunday, November 14, 2021 at their Thompson's Station residence. Guests will need to sign a waiver. Potential competitors can contact Renee Browning for more information. Find out more here.

Do you have a child who is ninja warrior obsessed? 

Join Shining Light Gymnastics for their final Ninja Warrior Boot Camp Led By NBC's American Ninja Warrior, ELIJAH "THE BOSS" BROWNING!

 This event is an action packed two hours of fun and a chance to train and learn with Elijah. The cost is $60 per child, ages 4 years - 14 years old. Participants will receive an SLG - "The Boss" Ninja Warrior t-shirt! 

We look forward to awarding a medal to those ninjas that have attended all three camps. 

Interested in more?

Come for a free trial of one of our most popular classes, Ninja Warrior and Tiny Ninja. 

These classes are for active kids ages 4-16. We train your athlete by developing strength, agility, and balance, while teaching proper form. 

Shining Light Gymnastics is located in Spring Hill, TN. | 931-486-0410

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