Up in the air

The Kingston Aeros Trampoline Club takes gymnastics to another level

The Kingston Aeros competitve team spends up to 12 hours a week practicing.
The Kingston Aeros competitve team spends up to 12 hours a week practicing.
Trampoline is a sport that can accomodate athletes of all ages.
Trampoline is a sport that can accomodate athletes of all ages.

I’m told most competitive trampolinists aspire to be like their Olympian idols. After just an hour of the basics, so do I.

It was hard to contain my excitement when I arrived at the Kingston Aeros Trampoline Club, located uptown at the Kingston Gospel Temple along Princess St., to see the competitive team flipping and jumping high into the ceiling rafters.

The relatively new sport has gained popularity since it became an Olympic event in 2000, and increased with Canada’s success at the games.

“The sport’s been around forever, I guess this club started in 1973 in the basement of Queen’s,” Melinda Cockburn, the Aeros head recreational coach, said. “Trampoline in Kingston started then, [but] the sport had been around another 20 years before that.”

Team Canada’s coach, David Ross, ArtSci ’73, brought trampoline to Queen’s and the Kingston community when he was a physics student at the University.

He coached trampolinist Rosie MacLennan, the only Canadian athlete to bring home a gold from the 2012 London games.

Cockburn said that MacLennan’s gold medal inspired so many young athletes that the club’s enrolment tripled last year.

Having only ever jumped on a backyard trampoline, I was antsy to learn some basics of the sport.

“To start trampoline, especially as an adult, you almost have to regress to a childhood state and just have fun with it,” Cockburn said.

As I climbed up onto the trampoline and Cockburn coached me through my first moves, I could feel my stomach lurch with excitement through every jump. The regulation trampolines proved to be exponentially bouncier than any backyard trampoline.

“There’s kind of ... some misconceptions about the sport because people hear the word trampoline and they think backyard trampoline; they think scary, dangerous,” Cockburn said. “There’s obviously risks with any sport.”

Although my many fumbles have landed me with bruises and rug burn scrapes on my hands, knees and elbows, I’m not deterred from picking myself back up, propelled by the elation the jumping’s given me.

While she’s coaching me on the basics, Cockburn occasionally calls out to the competitive team practicing behind me. She explains that they usually coach the athletes by joking with them.

“They push each other in a good way ... it’s very supportive in terms of athlete interaction,” she said. “As for disappointment with athletes ... they set goals for themselves that are a little bit too high, but we help them with that. The mental well-being of our athletes is very important to us.”

With her encouragement, Cockburn teaches me through progressions how to perform a “twist jump” which turns in the air, a “seat drop,” landing in a seated position, a “front drop” which felt like a belly flop, and a “back drop” landing on my back — while all retuning to a standing position.

By the end of an hour spent on the trampoline, I’ve learned how to nearly consistently perform and land “swivel hips,” a “seat drop” with a twist in the air to land seated in the opposite direction. I’ve also managed to work up a sweat.

“It’s a great way to burn calories,” Graeme Huffman, the Aeros competitive head coach, said. “It’s just you’re jumping, you’re having fun, you don’t notice it. But you spend half an hour on a trampoline and it’s about the equivalent of running ten miles, so it’s really, really good cardio.”

Huffman said that the sport is 75 per cent mental and only 25 per cent physical once an athlete’s established a physical base — coaching is for primarily positive reinforcement.

“As far as I’m concerned if you’re not having fun with doing this, then you shouldn’t be doing it,” he said. “It’s not something like hockey where there’s a whole ton of money out there to be made ... There’s something wrong with it if you can’t be 20 feet up in the air having fun.”

The Kingston Aeros Trampoline Club is transferring to a new location near the Kingston Centre at Princess St. and Bath Rd. in a week’s time. Huffman said he hopes this will propel trampoline into a larger role in the community.

“We’ve run a Queen’s trampoline club until about two years ago when we came to this facility and we couldn’t do it, but we’re hoping to start that again next year when we’re in the new gym,” he said.

“Queen’s hasn’t had the opportunity to jump while we’ve been in this facility, but when we move, hopefully Queen’s can jump there and I’d like to be a part of that,” Sean Ho, Sci ’14, said.

Ho has been competing with the Kingston Aeros for nine years, and has kept up his involvement while completing his engineering physics degree. He said he hopes to eventually pursue a career with a circus like Cirque du Soleil.

“I didn’t actually like [trampoline] at first, but Graeme convinced me to stay on and now I’m kind of addicted to it,” Ho said.

Ho said the flexible trampoline schedule allows for him to balance competitive athletics with his studies.

“I can skip it when I need to study. [During] midterms I’m not here very often,” he said, “but it keeps me in shape, it’s a really good time to get away from everything, so I think it works out very well.”

As the youngest national judge in Canada, Ho said that trampoline has had a large impact on his life, as he’s involved in all aspects of the sport including training, coaching and judging.

Ho said he’s been judging since he was 16 years old, and received his national certification this summer.

“It’s very fulfilling letting coaches and athletes know what they can do to improve and I think ... being a judge helps you develop these athletes even better than just developing your own kids in your club,” he said.

While judging for sports like figure skating and gymnastics can be controversial, Ho said that judging for trampoline is regulated to keep it objective.

“The community’s really tightly knit I can go to pretty much any city in Ontario and have a place to stay which is nice,” he said. “It helps that way, and I’m really glad that I joined trampoline. I don’t see myself ever really not being a part of the community, at least not for the next couple decades.”

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