I have never enjoyed sports. When I walk into my living room and find that my older brother has left Sky Sports on, I instinctively leap towards the remote control to drown out the noise. When I hear the details of the latest match creep into conversation, I find any way to divert the topic onto something more tolerable. When people casually ask me, ‘Did ya see that game last night?’ I typically just nod, grin and pray they don’t catch me out.
All through secondary school, I dreaded P.E. To most students, it was a brief escape from the mundanity of academics. For me, it was an agonizing hour of confusion and pain. I think the humiliation is aggravated by the fact that, unlike other subjects, your errors are totally exposed for everyone to see. There really is no hiding the fact you are completely physically incompetent when playing a hockey match.
What’s even worse is the shameful knowledge that your mere participation is a threat to your team’s triumph. It may sound dramatic, but to be fair, when you’re fifteen years old and social acceptance is everything, the fear of antagonising your entire class is a pretty heavy burden to carry.
Is Trampolining a Sport?
Needless to say, I was more than relieved to say goodbye to P.E. when I graduated school. Mildly scarred from the memories, I vowed to never relive the experience. When I began my studies at Trinity, I didn’t even flirt with the idea of joining a sport. I convinced myself that I was simply not cut out for it and that I’d be wasting everyone’s time by even attending the introductory lesson.
And there lies the problem – my understanding of sport was limited to basketball and hockey. I’d dismissed all the desserts, having only tasted the meringue. So, when my delightful friend decided to surprise me with the news that she had signed us up to try out a new sport, my natural reaction was pure fear. I envisioned us getting down and dirty with the rugby lads, frantically grappling in the mud and suffocating in the belly of the scrum. I became an overnight fan of George Hook, hoping to score some tips from him on how to deter my impending destruction. It turns out all my gruelling preparation was for nothing. My friend revealed to me that we would be joining trampolining, to which I instantly replied, ‘Is that even a sport’?
It’s almost like I’d been conditioned into believing a sport must have balls to be a sport, and if it didn’t, well, it was just pretending to be a sport. I recognise fully the lack of logic. Despite my shock that trampolining was considered a sport, it still posed a threat to me. For one, it was situated in the gym, a building I had vehemently avoided for my first two years of college. Secondly, I had little to no knowledge of it. Would I literally just be jumping or did they expect me to launch into backflips on the trampoline? My mind was plagued with uncertainty. I decided that the only way to alleviate this anxiety was to bite the bullet and force myself to go to the class.
Reopening old wounds
To be honest, I was crippled with nerves the evening before the big day. My sleep was disturbed by vivid nightmares of me breaking my legs, or even worse, my arms, and not being able to write this and share the joys of bouncing with the world. I woke up feeling so frazzled that I considered pulling out altogether. I had come to terms with the reality that I was not a sporty person – why reopen old wounds?
However, I was tired of being bound by this self-inflicted identity. I knew in my heart I’d regret it if I chickened out. I told my mother about my upcoming adventure over breakfast and it took me a good a few hours to convince her that I wasn’t lying. In fact, it wasn’t until she saw me leaving the house in sports gear, which I had resurrected from the depths of my laundry basket, that she finally believed me, at which point she almost broke down into tears of pride.
I arrived at the gym and found myself perplexed at my inability to get through the barrier. Was this a sign? Surely enough, my friend quickly diagnosed the problem – my student card hadn’t even been activated. Two and a half years in Trinity, and I hadn’t stepped foot inside the gym. After sorting out that little pickle, we proceeded towards our destination. Remarkably, my worries greatly subsided once I entered the hall.
I saw the majestic trampoline in all its glory and realised how absurd all my worrying was. It’s just a trampoline, Emma – they don’t bite. Not to mention, the atmosphere was relaxed and friendly. I was concerned I’d be lunging into a competitive, intense environment, but I soon discovered it was just a group of fun loving people, bouncing high and some doing some cool acrobatics. Once we had been introduced to everyone, Sinead, one of the long term club members, led a short warm up to get the blood flowing.
We did a few worship laps of the trampoline, followed by a series of stretches. I was slightly self-conscious of my struggle to straighten my legs as I reached for my toes, but luckily, nobody else was – they were all too busy laughing and chatting to notice my incapability.
After observing a few of the more adept members perform on the trampoline, it was finally my turn. In a bizarre moment of sheer optimism, I wondered if I’d take to it like a duck to water – master each technique instantly, invent unprecedented moves, take over the entire club…It didn’t take long for that dream to come crashing down. I struggled to execute the most elementary move, despite the reassurance and patience of the captain, Roisin.
As I continued to refine my jumping, I quickly developed an appreciation for trampolining as a sport which requires focus, discipline and perseverance. I was in awe of the talent unfolding before me. And while I may have been flopping and floundering around like a ragdoll, I found myself thoroughly enjoying the class. It helped a lot that there was no pressure on me, no pivotal moment when I could potentially cost the team the winning goal. There was no embarrassment or guilt if I slipped up. I had nothing to lose, and everything to gain.
One thing that I did not anticipate was the amount of socialising that went on. When I’d heard it was a two hour lesson, I felt my stomach weaken at the prospect of jumping continuously for so long. Thankfully, the class was broken up into breaks, which gave us an opportunity to cool down and bounce off one another instead. Some of the members were just there to have a good time and work out, while others were training for competitions.
Although everyone was at different levels, there was a strong sense of camaraderie and encouragement in the air. I was comforted and impressed to learn that a lot of the members had only joined in college. One of the more advanced girls, Pippa, revealed she hadn’t started until her second year. And there I was, thinking these kids had bounced their way out of the womb.
But it’s not all bouncing and making new friends. Listen up, my fellow singletons! The captain was telling us how they often spice things up by playing music and rolling out Twister while waiting for their turns. Twister: the only time it’s soberly acceptable to break into each other’s boundaries of personal space – who needs Tinder? Trampolining is sure to send your heart flipping.
But back to the sport. I can’t lie, I collapsed into a state of panic when my friend roped me into doing this. I desperately hoped she would forget all about it, and when she didn’t, I wracked my brains trying to conjure up a credible excuse. Funnily enough though, there was a tiny piece of me that wanted to go. I wanted to challenge myself and to confront this overwhelming fear of sport. And I’m so glad I did it.
Maybe G.A.A. or soccer isn’t for me, and that’s okay. But what’s not okay is blacklisting the entire spectrum of sport, just because I disliked one or two. I’d like to especially recant my incredibly ignorant position on trampolining. I strongly encourage anyone who is unfamiliar with the sport to check it out and surrender your bouncing virginity. Really, despite all the ups and downs, it was worth it. Whether you’re a novice or a competitive athlete, there’s something for everyone in this club.
As irrational as it is, I think many people don’t realise how daunting sport can be. In fact, there’s even name for the fear of sport. Seriously, it’s called athlimataphobia. And thanks to Tramp club, I am now proud to call myself a recovered athlimataphobic.
Want to become a ‘Tramp’? The club meets in Main Hall A on the 3rd floor of the Sports Centre, on Mondays from 5pm to 7pm, Wednesdays from 7.30pm to 10pm and Fridays from 5pm to 7pm. All levels are welcome, so don’t be afraid to stop by if you’re never trampolined before. The only thing you’ll need to bring is yourself and a thirst for bouncing. If you want to enquire further, you can email the club at [email protected] or contact them through their Facebook page, Trinity (Dublin University) Trampolining Club.