28-year-old American Ninja Warrior athlete Josh Levin, of Sunnyvale, remembers rock climbing from an early age.
“It was very instinctual for me,” said Levin. “When I was maybe 2 or 3 years old, before I was doing a lot of other activities, I was climbing around the house, climbing trees, tabletops, lampposts.”
According to Levin, “it ended up becoming such a huge fascination” that his parents decided to find an indoor rock climbing place so he would not hurt himself.
“At that time, I was incredibly shy and I wasn’t comfortable being around other kids my own age,” said Levin.
Fortunately, a coach named Stacey helped him to “gain skills and confidence” through private lessons.
“Through working with her I realized I could do things I previously thought I couldn’t do – to develop skill and strength, and therefore confidence in my own abilities,” he said.
Levin is also an engineering teacher at Synapse School, a K-8 private school. According to Levin, rock climbing and engineering are not as different as they may appear.
“The cool thing about engineering for me was that it’s not only a job and way of studying, but it’s also a problem-solving mentality,” said Levin. “The cool thing about the sports I’ve been able to get into – rock climbing and American Ninja Warrior – is that they’re not only physical activities but mental pursuits as well.”
“It’s all about solving problems and collaborating with others and figuring out how to collaborate together to overcome really big obstacles, utilizing critical thinking skills,” Levin continued.
“I think for me, the balance of having both has been a really cool opportunity,” Levin added.
For the near future, Levin currently devotes his attention not only to rock climbing but to Synapse School.
“One of the big things I’m working with at this school is developing an engineering program, in terms of trying to connect big picture ideas in engineering,” said Levin. “This term we’re working on a project that brings together Buddhist mindfulness teachings from the Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh,” said Levin.
Levin, who has lived in Sunnyvale nearly all his life, feels a strong connection to his community.
“The connection for me means a lot, knowing that where I come from is an incredibly unique place, both for being in the center of Silicon Valley, and also a crossroads of California life,” said Levin. “The people I went to high school with came from very different walks of life, from being in the tech industry to having just immigrated to the United States very recently. So, it’s an incredible crossroads of people and culture and values.
“Having that ability to come to terms with my own privilege, as someone who grew up somewhere like Sunnyvale has been like an incredible journey,” continued Levin. “To grow up here, and go out and travel, and compete for the U.S. national rock climbing team for many years and to come back, has been a really eye-opening experience.”
Levin’s parents have been active volunteers at Sunnyvale Community Services, an organization that provides essential services and food for needy families.
Like his parents, Levin is also active in community work, whether through trail cleanings or education.
To Levin, the act of inclusion for those who must climb something beyond rocks is especially important.
“One thing that’s been important to me is working with students at Students for Success at Fremont High School, which is an after-school, peer-to-peer tutoring program dedicated to reducing the gap between students who had English as a second language or were the first in their families to apply to college,” Levin said.