How Trampolining & Cheerleading Helped My Confidence During My Semester Abroad
Before I came to Dublin to study abroad, I imagined that I would spend most weekends relaxing in cute cafes, spending time outdoors, or heading out to pubs with new friends. But on a Sunday afternoon about two months after my arrival, I found myself flying head over heels above a trampoline at Trinity College, praying I would stick my landing and smoothly rebound into my next jump. Joining the trampoline team at University College Dublin had started out as desperate attempt to make even one new friend, but sometime before that first competition at Trinity, I fell in love with the team and the sport.
Competitive trampolining is not a popular sport at American universities, so I haven’t bounced in nearly a year.
During my first two weeks in Dublin, I struggled to figure out where I would fit in at UCD. Finding my niche at an international university of 30,000 students was a daunting task, and I thought that joining one of the many societies or sports teams might be the solution. My friend Robin and I had done gymnastics before college, and when we saw that UCD had an active trampoline club, we figured it would be close enough to our old sport that we might just find our place there.
But at our first practice, we were so intimidated by the skilled athletes throwing high-flying moves that we hesitated to even go near the trampolines. Finally, one of the coaches noticed us hanging back and encouraged us to give it a try.
I shakily mounted the trampoline and gave my best attempt at a warm up. These were nothing like backyard trampolines back home–I was bouncing so high that I could barely control my body! We spent the rest of practice working on basic jumps that I thought I had already mastered in my gymnastics days. I figured I would never be able to conquer front somersaults or layouts again, and the thought of competing never crossed my mind. But I enjoyed the challenge of trying something new, and after attending a few more practices, Robin and I began to gain confidence on the trampoline, and made friends with some fellow beginners.
After bouncing high, trusting myself, and flipping backwards, taking risks isn’t so scary anymore: I know that I’ll (usually) land on my feet.
Eventually, we moved up to sticking our somersaults and learning simple routines. It was a long process that involved plenty of face plants, but once we were able to complete intermediate routines, we became interested in competing. Every year, UCD had an annual competition against Trinity College, and that spring, we got to be part of the rivalry. My only goal was to avoid falling off the trampoline and have fun with my team. Although neither of us placed, we were so proud of how far we’d come since our first day that it didn’t matter.
After UCD’s win against Trinity, Robin and I set our sights on the last big competition of the season. The Irish Student Trampoline Open was a four-day event taking place in Cork, where students could compete in various trampoline and gymnastics events. Registration had technically closed for trampolinists and gymnasts, but ISTO had just opened a new division with open slots: cheerleading.
I had never cheered before, but Robin had. Another friend of ours got an entire squad together and began planning a fun routine, and once again, I pushed myself completely out of my comfort zone. Getting everyone together to practice proved impossible, so we worked on different parts of the routine in small groups, hoping it would somehow come together by the time we competed.
ISTO was a whirlwind of last-minute bus tickets, cramped hostel beds, long nights out, and glittery cheer bows. When we were called up to cheer, we were all nervous: this would be the first time that we all performed the routine together. Miraculously, we stuck every move, and when our music ended, we danced and jumped around the floor, hugging and congratulating each other.
I couldn’t believe we had pulled it off, and I couldn’t believe that this was my life: cheering at the biggest Irish trampoline competition with new friends from all over the world. Three months before, it would’ve sounded absurd, but now, I felt at home with this team.
Joining UCD’s trampoline team was the best decision I made during my time abroad. I miss my friends on the team, the atmosphere, and tumbling around in the air, surprising myself by accomplishing skills I never thought I could. Sadly, competitive trampolining is not a popular sport at American universities, so I haven’t bounced in nearly a year. But this is what made my time in Dublin so special: I had the opportunity to pursue a sport I never would’ve been able to try in America. And after bouncing high, trusting myself, and flipping backwards, taking risks isn’t so scary anymore: I know that I’ll (usually) land on my feet.