10 Things About Trampolines

Like most of the world, my family is staying home and distancing ourselves from non-essential spaces, activities, etc. I have two sons. If they can’t play with their friends at school or have playdates at the park, they need to get their energy out somehow. Plus, they are young and while we have talked about the virus and the reason we have to stay home right now, I don’t want them to live in fear.

Just as the virus was ramping up in the United States, my younger son had a birthday. I found a mini-trampoline that could be used indoors (a major plus considering the epic amount of rain this winter), but I could also toss it out in the yard and let them turn it into a dinosaur nest, part of an obstacle course, and flying superhero training pad, or whatever else their little imaginations could produce. It’s not the same as a big trampoline, but it fit in my budget at the time and it has provided them with a blessed amount of stimulation.

Despite its size and ease of use indoors, it has become an outside toy for two reasons. The first is that they like to have it there to be part of their imaginary games of dinosaur, superhero, American Ninja Warrior contestant, etc. The second is that somehow when indoors the idea of using it to propel oneself against a wall as hard and fast as possible seemed like a capital idea.

Still, they have loved every second of having it around and for that I’m grateful. They are already campaigning to get a bigger one. My husband is against it for a plethora of safety reasons. I can’t blame him, but I also have to remind him that most of the common injuries on a trampoline are caused by things our generation did on purpose when we were young. Elder millennials are the reason they now sell nets to go around the outside of backyard trampolines. We tried to bounce each other off on purpose. It was great fun.

Anyway, it got me to thinking, where did this ridiculous and fun contraption even come from? And ta-da, a 10 Things post is born.

Here are 10 things you might not know about trampolines:

  1. Long before the modern trampoline, the Inupiat (I hope that is the correct term, please forgive and correct me if it is not), a group of Alaskan Natives, would toss dancers into the air from taught walrus skin as part of the whaling festival in the spring.
  2. There is also evidence of this type of activity–involuntarily bouncing a person from a cloth tightly held by a group of people–being used as a type of punishment in Europe before it became a tool used by firemen to catch people who jumped from burning buildings.
  3. In the early 19th and 20th centuries, circus performers used springboards sometimes called trampolines and “bouncing beds” in acrobatic routines and comedic performances.
  4. What we know as the modern trampoline is an invention credited to George Nissen and his University of Iowa gymnastics coach Larry Griswald. Nissen is said to have first gotten the idea as a teenager watching acrobats use their safety net as a part of their routine at the circus to wow the audience. At some point, he even took apart his bedframe at home trying to create a smaller-scale replica of the bouncing safety net. When he was in college, his gymnastics coach helped him create a new prototype and in 1934 they filed for a patent. They named their invention a trampoline–a purposely anglicized version of el trampolín, a Spanish term for a diving board.
  5. Trampoline was originally trademarked. The product’s generic name was a “rebound tumbler”. However, when the term trampoline lost its trademark, the term became synonymous with the generic product.
  6. During World War II, the United States Navy began using trampolines as a training activity for pilots. The rebound tumbler was a way for the pilots to get a more accurate feel of orienting themselves in midair, a skill often needed during air fights and bombing raids. It was also one of the tools first used by the newly developing space program after the war ended.
  7. As far back as 1959 and into the 1970s, outdoor trampoline parks popped up across North America. George Nissen often spoke out against this type of use, little supervision or training and with practically no safety regulations, of his invention, but could do little to stop it. He believed in the power of his invention as a training tool, exercise equipment, and even a platform for sports, but thought that safety should always be a primary concern.
  8. In 1962 trampolining was officially recognized as a sport by the International Gymnastics Federation. It was introduced as an Olympic event in 2000 in Australia. George Nissen was there to witness the moment.
  9. He was also, at 94 years of age, able to “test” the trampolines at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He died two years later in 2010, but his daughter–who now runs a trampolining academy in California–says it was a true highlight and an unforgettable moment for him.
  10. Competition trampolines are made with slightly different materials than the recreational backyard version. A competition trampoline can help an athlete reach heights of approximately 33 feet (10 meters). Recreational trampolines can be expected to serve up about 1/3 of that height. Thank goodness.

It should also be noted that the added nets around the outside of a trampoline haven’t actually caused a big decrease in the number of trampoline-related emergency room visits. Kids will find a way to hurt themselves.

So if you have a backyard trampoline, or just a backyard to play in, get out in the fresh air and have some fun. If your stay-at-home orders are more stringent and don’t allow outside play, or perhaps you don’t have an outside play space, nobody is going to judge you for the amount of screen time you allow your child right now.

Remember, during this time you are not homeschooling your child. You are providing educational triage. You are not simply parenting. You are parenting through a global pandemic, something the What to Expect series never prepared any of us for. Cut yourself some slack, and cut your kids some slack too. Most of them don’t know how to appropriately express their fear or anxiety. Reach out if you need help or your kids need help. There are teletherapists that can consult with you over the phone, there are food banks to help those without a paycheck right now, there are organizations that exist to help you. Let those of us who want to reach out a hand do so. Please. Like the old song says, no one can fill those of your needs that you won’t let show.

We’re all in this together no matter how far apart we are.

Happy Good Friday, everyone.

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