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Jumping for Joy


Published October 1, 2012 at 4:00 a.m.

In my house, anything with the slightest bounce is used as a trampoline. Couches, beds, cushions — my boys use all of the above for extra lift and a springy landing as they fling their bodies across the room. Yelling at them to stop has proven futile. Happily, there are places to go where they can leap vigorously and I can keep my cool. At Green Mountain Freestyle Center, jumping and flying through the air is not only allowed; it's mandatory.

GMFC is an indoor training facility primarily for snowboarders, skiers and skateboarders to practice jumps and aerial tricks. It's located inside Green Mountain Gymnastics in Williston. Burton posters and continuously looping snowboarding videos projected on giant screens feature professionals getting huge air or carving down impossibly steep slopes. In other words, the place has "cool" written all over it. For my two boys, it was a slice of heaven.

We visited GMFC on a Saturday evening for their Jump Start session. This is an hour-and-a-half mandatory introduction to the equipment, which includes warm-up drills and safety skills. You have to complete this training before you can attend one of the "open tramp" or coached sessions.

Mandatory safety might not sound like much fun, but it is. The class started with participants leaping, rolling and running their way through an obstacle course made with gym mats and Hula-Hoops. They learned to tuck their chins when rolling out of a fall and to be aware of their landing area. Then they moved on to the good stuff: flips.

Taking turns, each person ran along the approach track and sprang off the launch board, landing in a pit of foam. My kids didn't know how to do flips, but the class gave them some pointers. The instructors teach each new skill by breaking down the elements of the move. Students build confidence by mastering tricks progressively. My 10-year-old, Kieran, was doing front flips into the foam pit after just a few tries. His younger brother Wylie, at just 6, didn't quite get there, but he was happy to be jumping on bouncy surfaces without his mom yelling at him.

Once the kids mastered the basics and proved they had their safety skills down, they headed to the elevated trampoline area. This was the only part of the class I couldn't observe directly from the waiting area reserved for nonparticipants. Luckily, the camera mounted over the trampolines feeds live images to a flat-screen TV, so I was able to watch without leaving my seat.

Jumping on the trampolines teaches kids safe ways to spin in the air and how to control their bounces. Once he got comfortable with the movement, Kieran even strapped on one of the in-house snowboards to get the sensation of performing those pirouettes on the mountain.

I'm not really ready to see my babies flip through the air without a net to catch them, though. Until I am, they'll have to keep practicing — and GMFC sure beats the living room.

This article was originally published in Seven Days' monthly parenting magazine, Kids VT.

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