It all started with a lazy afternoon of daddy–daughter TV time.
Gavin MacCall and his daughter, Lylah, who was just 4 years old at the time, sat in their living room in Northglenn, Colorado, on a summer day in 2015. They had the TV tuned to NBC to watch American Ninja Warrior.
Before MacCall knew what was happening, his daughter was emulating in the on-screen action.
“She moved this one green chair we have and just jumped from the back over the front of it,” MacCall told People. “I never told her how to do it. I never showed her how to do it. She just kind of ran up, put her arms on, hopped herself up and over.”
That was the humble beginning of Lylah’s dominance of the Junior Ninja Warrior competition. To be fair, Lylah is the only competitor in the Junior Ninja Warrior circuit. Her dad made the whole thing up, just for her. But dominance in an imaginary sport is still enough to boost this little girl’s confidence and create a strong bond between father and daughter.
Soon enough, MacCall was thinking bigger.
MacCall looked around his living room.
In each common, everyday object, he began to see Ninja Warrior obstacles emerging.
With nothing but ingenuity and a little duct tape, MacCall transformed his home into one long Ninja Warrior course. Lylah absolutely loved it.
MacCall decided to build a bigger, better Ninja Warrior course in his very own backyard.
As a divorced dad, MacCall doesn’t have a lot of cash lying around to buy building materials. Just as he did for his indoor course, MacCall relied on his ingenuity to build an impressive obstacle course for his athletic daughter.
“I was scouring Craigslist and just keeping an eye out for free materials,” he said. “Where I work I got probably 25 pallets that I used throughout the course just as free material.”
In the end, the obstacle course ended up being incredibly affordable.
Lylah’s favorite might be the “cargo climb,” a rope net that she hauls herself up in order to dash across the rooftops of MacCall’s backyard sheds.
MacCall recorded his daughter dashing through this elaborate course, cheered on by an audience of stuffed animals and toys. When he posted the clip to Reddit, he got more than a million comments. They were overwhelmingly positive.
From the response of the online community, MacCall realized that he was doing something much greater than creating a fun afternoon for his daughter. He was building her confidence; he was showing her how much he loved her.
The comments on his Reddit post helped MacCall see his Junior Ninja Warrior project in a new, more loving light.
“I can’t get through them all,” he said. “I sat there one night for two hours and read comments, one after the other. I was in tears. This is crazy how this is inspiring people to want to do this themselves.”
MacCall is currently at work building an even more challenging obstacle course for his growing daughter. A successful GoFundMe account collected more than $1,000 to pay for the project. MacCall is loving every minute of it, and his daughter loves pitting herself against her father’s creations.
“I’ve never really studied how to be a dad,” MacCall said. “A lot of the [Reddit] comments were about what this course is doing—teaching her confidence and being able to learn to try again and do those types of things and not be scared to try something that looks dangerous and difficult.”
These lessons will help this Junior Nina Warrior with everything she goes through in life, and it’s all thanks to the loving attention of a creative dad.