As crazy as it sounds, despite me spending almost my entire time at University attending one club or another, there are still hundreds I’m yet to even think about trying. One of these would have been Cardiff University Trampoline Club, although it didn’t actually occur to me that trampolining is a sport. In fact, when I got there it seemed that neither did any other boys here – trampoline club appears to be almost entirely girls, and when I attended there were no guys at all.
At the start of the session, the members got out three huge trampolines and a load of safety mats that go in-between the trampolines (or beds as they say, so that I don’t repeatedly use the word trampoline!). They get straight into queuing up to bounce and do tricks. There doesn’t seem to be much of a warm-up required for a sport like this- most of the girls seem to do it almost every day of the week anyway!
I talked to communications secretary Jess Cox-Martin in between jumping sessions. First, I asked her whether she thought I would be fit enough to pull off some jumps without getting tired out. She explained that when I first got on the bed I might have a slightly painful back, due to not using my core muscles properly. The thought of core muscles reminded me of an exchange between me and my old Talybont flatmates, where we were challenging each other to do sit-ups: “Use your stomach muscles,” they told me, and I had never even realized my stomach was meant to have muscles! Jess did say though, that it was more than possible to get a trick learned in the small amount of time I had to try it.
As we talked and watched the beginners’ group practice on our trampoline, behind them we could see the two more advanced groups practicing. They were a real sight to behold, doing spins and flips that I would never have thought possible. In trampolining, everyone is graded the same way whether they’re a little kid or an Olympic athlete- and those girls at the back of my view were definitely working their way up the grading scale. It would have been worth going just to watch them!
That’s not to say the tricks were right every time. To prevent too much bouncing, the jumpers seem to have one of their friends slide a mat underneath them mid-jump, to stop them jumping again. I asked Jess about more general safety matters, and whether the club tends to get many accidents. She said that it’s a lot harder to fall off the bed than you might think, and that the worst injury she’s ever seen was a black eye. The girl that got the black eye was a medic, and didn’t so much as bat an eyelid about it!
As I stepped on to the trampoline for the first time, I felt a little self-conscious. I was in an elevated position and there were several dozen girls looking up at me – “please don’t let this go wrong” I told myself. Jess reassured me though, that everyone starts out like this. I was eased into it by being shown how to make my “contacts” (jumps) with my arms out as I jump and pulling them back in as I land, then quickly bend my knees for the next jump.
Now that I was more confident, Jess and one of the captains, Rachel Woodman, decided to teach me a trick. They said that somersaults are really easy to do, and asked whether I could do a forward roll, which I can. Then they grabbed hold of my hands and used their free hand to hold my shoulder, proceeding to jump at the same time I did. On the count of three, Rachel instructed me to “stick my arse out like I was slamming a door” and tuck my knees in, in an attempt to flip forwards. For me, having the confidence to do the flip at all was quite remarkable- but I suspect I was being helped along by their hands on my shoulders. This time round though I was unable to complete the somersault properly and land on my feet.
We took a break from the attempts to do a full somersault for a short while, and I went back to discussing things about the club with Jess. I asked her about the kind of people who join, to which she said that they get a lot of second years, like me, joining the club who say that they wish they started joining clubs like this one sooner. They also get a lot of people who have never done much bouncing before- for whom there is a special beginners’ session on Fridays, alongside the Tuesday and Thursday training. For those who aren’t sure about joining and committing fully, you can still come along and pay just £1.50 an hour to jump. I asked about competing, as this is, after all, a competitive sport. She said that they like to get the new members into trying a competition as soon as possible- though nothing quite as scary as full BUCS events. The club also likes to have regular socials; about once a month, sometimes as part of a competition and most recently they did this in Bath. The club’s social secretary is actually a guy, so that proves that it’s not all girls!
Back on the trampoline, for the final time: Jess and Rachel held my shoulders and hands once again as Rachel counted to three. On three, I went heels-over-head and landed on my feet, at last! It was an amazing feeling to be able to do a trick like that, and I could really see why all the others enjoy this sport so much. In fact, I told Jess and Rachel before I headed off that I think I might be coming back for more…
If you would like to know any more about Cardiff University Trampoline Club, be sure to get in contact with them via Twitter, @CardiffTramp.