So, You Want To Be A Trampolinist?

Competitive GymnastI admit that I was taken aback when I realized that trampolining was an Olympic sport. The research I’ve done let me know that trampolines were originally intended to be used competitively by their designer, but I really had no idea that they actually were to this day and at that level.

It’s safe to assume that you, like the many champions that represent their countries internationally, are interested in becoming a trampolinist. Like any sport, it takes a lot of work, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t within reach. Rather, with the right coaching, the right equipment, and enough dedication, it is entirely possible to become a competitive trampolinist.

Why Acrobats Started Trampolining

The inventor of the modern trampoline, George Nissen, was a three-time NCAA gymnastics champion in college and invented the first modern rebounder with his coach Larry Griswold to help with his training. He had been inspired by circus acrobats that would bounce off of their safety net and do additional tricks.

Nissen and Griswold started touring at carnivals to sell the device. One of the marketing gimmicks they came up with was a competitive sport called Spaceball which involved two people bouncing on attached trampolines and attempting to force a ball through a hole in the wall between them. It didn’t take off, but was the first attempt at a competitive application of the sport.

In the 1950s another form of competition started taking off, but this was much more of an acrobatic performance-based sport that quickly grew a following both in the US and internationally. 1958 had the first televised National Championships in England with an international governing body being approved in 1965 and the first European Championship conducted in 1968. Interest in the sport waned in the United States in the 1970s due to injuries sustained from backyard trampolines, but it continued to be a huge sport in Russia, Belarus, the Ukraine, and many other European countries until it was finally added to the Olympics in 2000.
Sport Format

The international format that was eventually approved allows for a number of different types of trampolining, though the most popular is the Individual.

The idea is that there are four positions: Feet, Seat, Front, and Back. All routines must start and end on feet with ten “bed” touches in between. When the competitor jumps in the air, they can make a number of different shapes with their body — tucked, piked, and straight — and are also allowed to move in various ways including rotating, twisting, and somersaulting. They are awarded one to ten points by a team of five judges with points being subtracted for incomplete moves and added for degree of difficulty. In most cases, the top and bottom score is thrown out to limit judge bias.

Once all of the scores have been tallied, the highest score wins.

How to Get into Competitive Trampolining

So you now understand how the sport is played and what you’ll have to do. How do you go about learning this and breaking into the competition circuit?

Your first bet it to try and find a gym that focuses on that sort of sport. Not all gymnastics centers have trainers that are specialists in competitive trampoline, so look around and try and find one that will be able to accommodate you. Understand that even if you do sincerely want to get involved in this, it will take a lot of hard work and you may not find a trainer who is willing to work with you.

Once you have found somebody and spent potentially years practicing, learning, and competing locally or even within your gym, you can start looking into the larger competitions that are associated with the US Trampoline and Tumbling Association and seeing what you need to do to qualify for a State or Regional competition. From there, it’s a matter of working your way up over time to National, World, and eventually Olympic play.
Conditioning and Lifestyle

If you’re looking into becoming a trampolinist competitively, there are a few things you’re going to have to get used to.

First of all, you need to work out daily, and not just on the trampoline. Competitors do regular cardio and weight training like any other athlete, though they will end up with a lot of focus placed on their thighs, calves, and especially their core.

They also tend to eat high protein diets that can be used to build muscles that are constantly being broken down by extreme workouts. Occasionally they will have high carb days to build up energy for competitions or particularly intense workouts.

If this still sounds like something you’d be interested in, get to it right away. Who knows, you may be the next Olympic Trampolining champion!

Rick Mason