The Odd Reward System of Team Ninja Warrior

I love American Ninja Warrior and its various spinoffs, but I question the scoring system in Team Ninja Warrior (TNW). I might be missing something, so I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Unlike ANW, TNW is comprised of a series of head-to-head races. Each team has 3 members, and they each take turns racing against members of another team.

An episode of TNW looks like this:

  • Race 1: Team A competes against Team B.
  • Race 2: Team C competes against Team D.
  • Knockout 1: The winner of Race 1 competes against the loser of Race 2.
  • Knockout 2: The winner of Race 2 competes against the loser of Race 1.
  • Final: The winners of Knockouts 1 and 2 compete in a single race.

There are two other important notes:

  1. All of the teams are pretty evenly matched. Each team has 2 men and 1 woman, and they all have similar skill levels.
  2. Any version of Ninja Warrior is grueling, and these races are back to back on the same day.

Perhaps you can see the oddity of this competition structure. Basically, there’s almost no incentive to win the first race other than getting practice on the course for the knockout stage. The only win you need is at the knockout stage.

In fact, I would wager that it might actually be a better strategy to not compete at all in the first race. Let the other teams exhaust themselves as you save your strength for the knockout stage.

However, I’ve never seen a team do that, probably for contractual reasons (or maybe pride). So as long as someone doesn’t take advantage of the loophole, TNW probably won’t change anything.

What do you think? Is there any reason at all to try during the first race?