My last experience of trampolining was at a slightly boozy birthday party a (depressing) number of years ago. You know the drill: everyone sits around on the thing, eventually a few people start jumping, it gets competitive, people are flung off in all directions and eventually someone ends up in a four-hour Sunday morning queue for A&E. Anyway, upon discovering that trampolining was not only a recognised sport but an Olympic one at that, my interest was piqued enough to arrive at Iffley one evening in eager anticipation of a cheeky bounce.
The first thing I noticed when I looked at the Iffley Sports Hall floor is that they’re not actually that big. Three metres by two metres sounds large enough, but when you’re suddenly in the air trying to land on it again, having just been fired off in a slightly arbitrary direction, it’s a different kettle of fish. I was told to get into a ‘happy bounce’, staying centred and under control on the cross in the middle of the trampoline.
Having watched innumerable graceful flips and spins it was with some trepidation that I attempted my first skill, a simple tuck jump. It wasn’t pretty, but I survived it, and with a few more goes I was approaching something like coordination. It became clear that core stability is hugely important, allowing you to execute these complicated manoeuvres in mid-air while maintaining full control of your body. Indeed, during the breaks between sessions, the more experienced trampoliners were engaged in some pretty intense strength drills to help in this respect.
Parallels with gymnastics are warranted here, as not only do many people transfer from one to the other, but the format of competition is very similar. You have a routine, constrained by the number of contacts with the mat from the start, which is then marked by technical difficulty and execution.
The dilemma is whether to play it safe for low difficulty marks or go big and then, potentially, home. There are also varying levels of competition, designed to encourage beginners to have a go. I was shown the basic level BUCS routine, which is fully prescribed, and I could nearly have managed by the end of the session, while the top level routine guidlines featured phrases like ‘at least two jumps of 450 degrees rotation’ and looked more like maths homework to my untrained eye.
As the session progressed I tried a few more things out with mixed success, but my bounce got happier and I did start to feel a lot more comfortable. I was told that flips and the like would have to wait, as although there is some padding alongside each trampoline, the floor is very solid and landing on your face is ill-advised. This disappointment aside, it was great fun. Everyone remembers how brilliant trampolines were as a kid, and that simple fact doesn’t change, so head on down and get some bounce back in your life.