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Tyler Yamauchi practices the art of balance on and off the course

Father, physical therapist, coach, and elite Ninja.

Michael Hickey/NBC

As a gymnast, Tyler Yamauchi is well versed in balance, both in competition and in the adaptability needed to find the space for sports in his personal life. American Ninja Warrior’s 10th season was Tyler’s fourth time on the show. Over those years, he’s become known for his nickname as the “Muscle Ball.” Tyler has expanded his accomplishments with almost every appearance. In season seven, Tyler made a quick exit from the Orlando Qualifiers. The next year, he cleared the Qualifying course and made it to Stage One in Vegas, where he timed out on the Warped Wall.

Undeterred, he returned again in season nine. There, at 5’1”, he became the shortest competitor to ever finish Stage One at the National Finals. He put up a brave fight against Wingnut Alley on Stage Two and was one of many competitors to fall there.

Tyler’s indomitable energy on the course is only highlighted by his busy personal life. He’s a husband and has two small children. He’s a physical therapist who also opened a Ninja gym where he also coaches. And he’s always aiming for his next goal.

Tyler spoke to us before his runs in season 10 to tell us more about his versatility in how he manages his life and takes on the obstacles.

Ryan Tuttle/NBC

Balancing a full life and Ninja Warrior

“My private physical therapy practice has been doing better. We started a little Ninja gym and it’s been getting more consistent. We’re maybe even looking to expand a little bit. That means I need to expand my hours. Things have been kind of changing on that front.

With my wife working, she potentially might change jobs so she’s not working nights. My oldest one will be in kindergarten next year. My wife understands that I like it. I enjoy it and she sees the good in it. But it takes time away from family sometimes because I have to train or I’m out working a little bit more.”

Michael Hickey/NBC

Adapting obstacles to his style

“Usually balance is the one I’m analyzing the most. I feel like I have above average balance but my legs are also shorter. Usually when I watch testers, or I watch people do a balance obstacle, I have to take into account that I probably wouldn’t do it that way. I have to kind of find my own way.

I think the most important thing I do is make sure that mentally I am comfortable with it before I get to it. As in I have a game plan. If I get up on the course and I don’t know what I’m going to do on that obstacle, then I’ve already failed it, you know? Otherwise you’re just chucking it and hoping and praying. To be consistent, you gotta find a plan. Then you have to have a potential escape plan. It has to be fluid, but you have to have an idea of what you want.”

David Becker/NBC

Building on every season

“Literally every day has something to do with Ninja Warrior because I have the gym and I can make my way out there and train for it. This year, season 10, and every year I’ve gotten stronger. This year, and I told Ethan (Swanson) this too, if I didn’t think I could win then I wouldn’t compete. I still think I can beat the show. If not maybe be the last Ninja standing. But I have to train super hard because there’s a lot of strong people. That keeps me going in Ninja Warrior. That’s pushing me to reach this limit for this season. I’m curious to see how much stronger I am.

Ethan asked me, ‘How do you feel?’ Probably 10-15% stronger than last year. He was like, ‘That’s actually a lot more.’ It is. It is a lot more. I was strong before. 10-15% is a lot. I’m curious what the courses have to bring.”

Expectations vs reality

I don’t want to put a high expectation, as in I’m going to hit six buzzers. First step is obviously make it back to Vegas. That’s in my wheelhouse. I’d like to hit a finals buzzer. I’d like to get a (City Finals) patch. I’ve never gotten one. I feel like I’m strong enough to get one. We’ll see what the course has to offer. It’s a little tricky this year. You can make a little mistake and it doesn’t matter how strong you are. You might fall in the water.”

Season 10 reinforced this message for Tyler. He made a strong showing in both the Indianapolis Qualifiers and City Finals, returning to the National Finals, although without a buzzer. The Double Dipper on Stage One proved to be trap for many elite Ninjas, Tyler being one of them. But part of being a versatile athlete is never settling for a set back. And it looks like the Muscle Ball is aiming for season 11.