Trampoline & Tumbling at Houston National Invitational
by Bernadette Verzosa
Mason Jolink can’t help it. She squeezes in a tumble every chance she gets. “Instead of running up the stairs, she cartwheels up the stairs. She flips over the back of the sofa to sit in it. She does a flip into her bed when it’s time to go to sleep,” says her mom Christine Jolink.
To funnel her innate inversion talent and endless energy into a sport, ten-year-old Mason joined the Discover Gymnastics tumbling team. The fourth-grader is one of eight gymnasts on the new squad that competes in the power tumbling event of Trampoline and Tumbling tournaments. “It has helped her confidence. It taught her how to push herself, that when she sets her mind to it, she can do it. She wasn’t competitive in sports before, she was mostly in academic competitions,” says Jolink. “She likes being part of the team. They were all bouncy and excited when they got their uniforms.”
Discover Gymnastics, the gymnastics facility in the Heights, launched its tumbling team program last year. Coach Juan Jimenez created the curriculum to comply with USA Gymnastics standards. “When USA Gymnastics updated its tumbling guidelines, I realized we had kids in our classes that had the skills required to compete. I wanted to give them the option to take it to the next level and compete,” he says.
TRAMPOLINE & TUMBLING
Discover Gymnastics is among a growing number of training centers around the country that offer specialty trampoline or tumbling classes, often referred to by the acronym TNT.
Other places with established trampoline or tumbling programs in the Houston area include Basel’s Gymnastics in Spring and the Houston Gymnastics Center of the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center (ERJCC).
ERJCC Gymnastics Director Tim Erwin has observed a TNT resurgence in recent years. “It was a competitive event in the 1960s and 1970s but was phased out because of accidents and injuries,” Erwin recalls. “It started becoming popular again after USA Gymnastics issued guidelines so everyone can learn and teach basic skills safely. Then the trampoline became one of the gymnastics disciplines featured at the Olympics.”
The trampoline event made its Olympic debut at the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. The World Trampoline and Tumbling Championships are held annually except in Olympic years, and later this year, it will be held in Daytona Beach, Florida.
HOUSTON NATIONAL INVITATIONAL AT RELIANT ARENA
Erwin is also the founder of the prestigious Houston National Invitational (HNI) that features Trampoline and Tumbling. “I put my passion for coaching into promoting competitions. I used to coach gymnastics seven days a week. Gymnastics is one of the best activities a child can do physically and mentally for all around development,” he says.
The 2014 HNI is being held at Reliant Arena on Friday, January 31, Saturday, February 1 and Sunday, February 2. More than 3,000 gymnasts from across the United States and around the globe are competing. The rosters include elite gymnasts and Olympians such as Jonathan Horton, Oksana Chusovitina, Chris Brooks and Brandon Wynn. There are about 1,200 registered participants in the men’s division, 1,700 in the women’s division and 450 in TNT. The four TNT events are: power tumbling, individual trampoline, double-mini trampoline and synchronized trampoline.
Erwin created HNI 20 years ago. Over the decades, the competition has grown and evolved to the world-class event that it is today, drawing international champions and offering more than $50,000 in cash prizes. Erwin has seen many HNI participants go on to receive college scholarships and compete in the Olympics. “It’s rewarding and exciting to see young gymnasts become great athletes and great human beings who are huge contributors to society,” he says.
The Houston National Invitational is open to the public.