Trampolines

Written by Donald Sparacin
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The very nature of bouncing for fun is evident by simply watching a child bounce on their bed. We tell them to stop, but they never seem to want to stop. Perhaps there is a bouncing gene somewhere in our DNA? Trampolines provide a safer alternative to what the children will do anyway. When properly supervised, children can find a tremendous release for their seemingly endless energy on trampolines.

A Brief History of Trampolines

It is commonly believed that trampolines got their name from a French trapeze artist named Du Trampoline. He envisioned using the trapeze catch net as way of propulsion and landing. Over many experimentations and revisions, he developed what most believe to be the first official trampolines. His work was expanded upon in the early 1930s by George Nissen as a diving and tumbling aid, and created a smaller sized version of Du Trampoline's device in his garage.

It is also believed that the Eskimos used to use walrus skins in much the same manner as did fireman. They would gather round the skin and hold it taught to throw people into the air and catch them. Perhaps this is true; perhaps it is legend. Either way, visitors to Anchorage, Alaska will find postcards depicting this early version of a trampoline.

The next historical information available on trampolines was that is was used in Navy flight school during WW2. The Navy felt that by having its trainees use the trampolines they could better understand differences in bodily orientation as they would during flight. Astronaut training also used trampolines for much the same purpose. Besides helping with orientation, trampolines offered a tremendous way to aid in aerobic conditioning that the trainees enjoyed far more than calisthenics.

Trampolines in Tournaments

As with any sport, early practitioners of trampolines began to develop ways to demonstrate who was better than whom in competition. While it is still uncertain as to the first time people competed against each other on trampolines, the first televised trampoline competition took place in 1958. World Championships didn't come along until 1964, and the actual International Trampoline Federation began a year later. World Championships occurred every two years, and in-between Europe held their own trampoline championship competitions.

During the early days of world competition, the Americans seemed to dominate. This was due in large part to many schools offering trampolines in gym classes. Yet because many students were working on the trampolines unsupervised and frequently without a spotter, many injuries began to occur. As is the case in the United States, injuries equate to lawsuits, and lawsuits equate to removal of the offending device. Thus, the trampoline was deemed unsafe for most schools and the American dominance in the sport waned. What a pity for subsequent students that the foolishness of some caused a great sport to go into decline.

Trampolines Today

Trampolines can be a wonderfully enjoyable way for people of all ages to get fit and have fun doing it. They aid in developing balance, agility, and timing for the young. They help the old to exercise aerobically in a way that is far less stressful on the bones than jogging on hard pavement. And best of all, it really doesn't take a great deal of skill for virtually anyone to enjoy using them. Trampolines are a fun, natural way to remember your youth, or for the young to play their way to better bodies.


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