The dadcraft Life: Grant Clinton & (American) Ninja-enhanced Fatherhood

  by Chris Horst

How Grant Clinton dominates American Ninja Warrior and dominates at home.

Tell us about your family.

Lindsey and I have been married for 15 years. We have a 12-year old boy, Caden, and a 2.5-year-old girl, Brielle. There’s a big gap between our two kids! We actually got pregnant with Caden when we were on birth control. That was a surprise. Then, we had a gap of ten years—and we weren’t on birth control—when we were surprised with Brielle ten years later.

Lindsey and I met in college. I was on the gymnastics team for the University of Nebraska. She worked for HuskerVision—the sports media for the University of Nebraska. She drew the short straw and had men’s gymnastics assigned to her. The rest is history.

How did you get into American Ninja Warrior?

I grew up doing gymnastics. From age six through college. That’s all I knew. I trained roughly 25 hours a week since I was 12. Competitiveness is built into me. Gymnastics kept me out of a lot of trouble, I think. It was time-consuming. I went straight from school to gymnastics every night. That was great for building discipline. I wasn’t a great student, but gymnastics helped me get by.

After school, I transferred all that competitiveness into my work. I was new in the mortgage business and didn’t really stay in shape for the first decade of my career. I threw myself into my work. I worked 60-80 hours a week.

It’s so easy to get distracted and busy with life and work, and—because of that—you can miss your kids’ lives. I missed a lot of my son’s early years. I didn’t know the details of his life. Those are years I can’t get back. Thankfully, as Caden got older, I started to realize things had to change.

My son and his friends had been doing these parties at this gym called Iron Sports. He wanted me to come, but I resisted for a while. Finally, I caved and we went up there together. He did a parkour class with Drew Drechsel, a top competitor at American Ninja Warrior (ANW). I saw all this fun stuff around me. I didn’t want to just sit there so I asked what there was for adults.

I learned about this adult ninja warrior class. It had the same schedule as Caden’s class. After the first class, I realized it was exactly what I needed. Discovering this enabled me to be around people and use the skills God had given to me to compete. I submitted an ANW nomination video after training just for two months…and I was rejected that year.

The next year, I had a stroke. I was in the ICU for a week. I was released from my neurologist a few weeks before the submissions for the 2016 video was due. I submitted again and they liked it, and I became an ANW rookie at the age of 38 on Season 8 of American Ninja Warrior. I did well. I advanced to the City Finals and advanced to the Finals in Las Vegas.

How has competition like ANW made you a better dad?

My son, Caden, is a very high-level gymnast. He’s ranked second-in-the-nation for his age group and on the US National Team for his age. When he introduced me to ANW, it became such a great thing for us to do together. He’s really good at the ninja warrior stuff too, but he has to focus on gymnastics, obviously.

We go out to Iron Sports and train together. He gets a lot of questions from his classmates that watch the show. It’s something cool for him to talk about. We’re both competitors, and I’m looking forward to continuing to compete together.

What’s something fun that most people misunderstand about the real experience of ANW?

They only film at night and there are no practices. In Vegas last year, we had to check-in at 4:30 PM and I didn’t compete till 4:00 AM. I had been there for 12 hours. We get a walkthrough of the course, but we can’t touch anything on the obstacle course. We don’t get a test run. We get to watch one person run the obstacles and you get to ask questions about the rules.

We always ask: How has becoming a dad made you a better person?

It’s helped me realize it’s not just about me. Fatherhood is about sacrifice. You have to give up certain things to spend quality time with your kiddos. Just having them in your presence—quantity of time—isn’t nearly as good as quality time, making eye contact and joining them at their level.  

We always ask: What do you believe is your finest fathering skill?

I’m patient. I’m not a hothead. I don’t raise my voice with kids or my wife. That doesn’t mean we don’t have disagreements or conflict, but I control my temper. I bring a level-headedness to my family. I try and exercise James 1:19, which says we are to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.”  

We always ask: What’s one thing you’ve learned from your father?

The most important thing was the importance of affirmation. My dad praised me and told me how proud he was of me. He always shared with me that he loved me. He was never shy about that.  

We always ask: What is your favorite activity to do with your kids?

With Brielle, she loves to be a princess and loves to fly. She says to me, “fly high in the sky, daddy!” I hold her high up in a Superman position over my head and I take her all over the house. That’s my favorite thing to do with her right now.


Postscript: Not all dads are elite athletes, but all dads have a story to tell. Check out more of our interviews to meet a few of them.