A short story by Sarah Schofield, creatively responding to John Edward Moon’s Thesis ‘The Techniques of Trampolining (for Coach and Performer)

A special Study submitted as part of Physical Education Main Course at Edge Hill College of Education – March 1967.’

Figure 1 ‘Overhead Spotting Rig’, J Crowther, 1967

5.4 The Build up to the back somersault

… points to stress are hips forward, legs drive upwards, head back, arch position, look for bed for landing. (Moon, 1967: 56)

To your surprise, now you have left, you feel something approaching paralysis. Heaviness in your hands when you lift a knife to butter toast; weakness when tying the laces on your children’s school shoes. The word abandon often floats into your thoughts, like a mote circling in your eye.

You think about the stories he told you; how irritating your political ideas had become, how your friends were not your friends. How easily you lost things. He gave the stories such lift that you had begun to authenticate them.

The Front Drop:

Land as flat as possible. The head is held high enough to prevent nose getting caught in the holes of the web bed… Do not try to break your fall with the hands – this will only complicate things. (Moon, 1967: 37)

Once you are back from the school run the quiet is heavy. You stand in your children’s new bedroom and tighten the bolts on the rickety bunkbed. Scattered across the floor are the toys given by the woman at the centre. You bundle them into the drawers. The woman had handed them over in a splitting Bag for Life and reminded you it was not your fault in a way that suggested it might be your fault.

You ricochet through the narrow new corridors, resting in doorways. You land by the back window and stare out at the portion of grass and at the trampoline carcass embedded into the tangle of brambly nettles at the end of the garden.

You are late to work but Jan has covered for you. You take the returns trolley up in the lift and work your way down the floors, checking Dewey numbers and sliding the books back into their designated places. A student asks you where to find the books on animal behaviour. Another student asks you where to find the toilets. The morning is clammy and jarring and by lunchtime you are longing for the dry cool of the archive.

2.1.3 Unfolding

I prefer two or more people to unfold a trampoline. A person should never trampoline on his own and so this factor is solved. (Moon, 1967: 19)

… unlock the trampoline and (a) Hold the top leg firmly whilst lowering the bottom leg to the floor, (b) swing the frame into horizontal position and spread the leg sections (c) lift one leg section slightly off the ground whilst friends slide out the rollers, lower and spread the leg sections fully. (ii) If on your own, then after doing (b), trip the roller stand and pull the leg section (below chain) simultaneously. Do the same with the other stand. Mind your head and body don’t catch… sometimes the brace needs coaxing in and arm pressure on the rail may be needed. (Moon, 1967: 21)

You found the thesis in the archive a few days ago. You had opened the brown buff folder randomly, to a black line drawing of a trampoline with a square-rigged bar arcing over the top. From this bar, two pulleys suspended ropes that joined to a belt worn by a trampolinist dangling in mid-air. Their knees were tucked and arms raised as if hopeful for something to descend. You’d flipped to the front of the document and began reading from the start.

3. Introductory Bouncing

3.1 The Techniques of Bouncing

As physical educationalists we cannot always say that there is one set way of doing something. I am not saying that if you do what I say you will bounce well, but we do need to analyse the breakdown of the movements involved in bouncing. Feet should land about shoulder width apart with the body weight over the feet, the rest of the balance aided by the arms. The head will be kept erect, but the eyes will know where the trampoline is because focus will be at the end of the bed. Bouncing will be initiated by the flexion of legs from flat feet to extension of legs.

… control is always more important than height. I stress correct technique of bouncing with control because it is a difficult skill to bounce on the spot, and because so often those people who go straight onto somersaults lack height and basic control in bouncing. (Moon, 1967: 32)

Once the children are asleep, you go outside and have a closer look at the abandoned trampoline. The springs are rusted. The legs are crooked and corroded. The canvas sags and a hole frays a few inches from the circumference. So far you have put the children off – easier while the weather has been cool. But their eyes are persistently drawn to it and the evenings after school are lighter now and you know soon they will ask you again. Brambles weave across and around the trampoline bed so that it becomes an incarcerating fairy tale tower.

Addendum to the first three sections:

At this point it will be seen that there may be travelling (say in the backdrop), there may be insufficient speed of rotation (say in ½ turntable) and so we need to study the theories of bodies in motion, not only from a safety point, but to an understanding of all the trampolining movement VIA an application of fundamental principles. Indeed we cannot go on to an understanding of the rest of the movements involving rotations and twists without knowing the relevant biomechanics and theory. (Moon, 1967: 41)

You stand in the ragged grass in the small back yard and grasp the metal frame. You pull it, although you know your heart is not in it because you are imagining that the brambles are gripping tightly and pulling back – an opposing force. They are well established. There is muscularity to their thick barbed canes. You pull again, putting your weight behind it. But it will not budge so you return to the house. You drink a cup of watery tea and stare through the window. You know you will have to try again when you’re feeling stronger. It is dangerous and you can’t simply leave it there. You will have to unpiece it. At least you still have your small toolkit; not the good one, but the pink one he gave you for Christmas one year. The one you kept in the kitchen for speedy little jobs like toy battery replacements. So you’ll be able to loosen the leg joints with your pink-handled hammer and twist off the crumbling springs with the pink-handled pliers. Without a car to take it to the tip you will have to sneak it bit by bit each week into the bin. You could put bits in other people’s bins late at night.

Some days it is as much as you can do to carry out one small task, before methodically considering and undertaking the next. This, then this, then this… You can break a day down in this way. You go slowly, but, by moving gracefully on to the next task, you do not allow yourself to stop. On rare days you approach this with a mania that sends you spinning around the house, tidying, folding, vacuuming up the children’s toes and making them shriek, baking complicated suppers from the Waste Less scheme. You ride those days with a euphoria that leaves you sunken by the evening time. And you sit on the sofa, picking out your split ends and dropping them into a fine nest on the floor.

So when you wake on Sunday with this manic energy fizzing under your skin you go back into the garden and tug again at the metal frame. It moves a little and the flaking chrome shards pierce your skin. You go back to the house and return wearing wellies and a pair of marigolds you found under the sink. You use kitchen scissors to cut through the six-foot brambles, snipping and slaying round both sides, loosening the green tangle holding it in place. Rapunzel, you think. The thought spikes tenderness and you feel the frame shift. 

3.5 Sequence Work

One theme underlying this study is that the ultimate aim in the work is sequence. At this stage very elementary bounces following one after the other can be made up. For example, the sequence: tuck jump, ½ pirouette, front drop, pike jump, knees bounce, seat drop, straddle jump to check. Quality work at the early stages is to be demanded with a good finish to the work. (Moon, 1967: 40)

The children have watched you all day, beating and chopping at the wilding. You pause to bathe them and put them to bed. And then you return to the garden. The scissors are blunt and your knuckles are blisters. Your arms are scratched and bloodied. You push and pull and wiggle the frame. All of a sudden it gives and it moves with you into the small centre of the lawn. You catch your breath then walk around it slowly. Now free on solid ground, the legs seem a little squarer. You crawl underneath and poke at the frayed hole in the canvas. Under here, it smells of crushed grass and leaf mould. You stretch out, the cool of the evening seeping into you from the damp ground. Through the hole, you see a tiny portion of stars. It feels like you could be dead and you cry in terror and relief.

(e) There can be a ‘carry over’ value to similar situations; for example, the relocation of the body when in an awkward situation e.g. upside down; or if falling backwards when not in contact with the ground then a person can land more safely by initiating a ½ twist in the air.’ (Moon, 1967: 14)

You return from work the next day with two hungry children and you open a tin of beans and sausages. While the children eat, you stand at the window and look out at the trampoline; a derelict spaceship dominating the scrubby patch of grass.

Today, in the archive, you looked again at Moon’s thesis. You find the precise, technical language compelling in a way you can’t define.

The children ask to play out before bedtime, so you all go into the garden. When you look more closely at your trampoline, The canvas seems less saggy, perhaps tightened by the sunlight. Under the kitchen sink you find cleaning products. They have foreign names and toxic symbols. You choose one and it makes your eyes water when you spray it onto the canvas and, as you swipe the cloth back and forth, the skin on your palms begins to tingle.

Also under the sink, when you rummage a little further, is a roll of duct tape, which rips away from itself with a satisfying zip. You crawl underneath the trampoline, tear a strip and smooth it to the fissure in the fabric. Then you lean over the bed to press a piece on the top. You hold the two together, testing the adhesion.

4.3 Angular Momentum and Rotation

ANGULAR MOMENTUM is the term to describe rotation both at take off and in a somersault. The torque turning moment of force (Force x ⊥ ) of say pushing the perimeter of a wheel will create off-centre thrust (ECCENTRIC THRUST) and so produce angular momentum. ROTATION is a motion about an axis… (Moon, 1967: 45)

You know the trampoline is predictably beneath you. You stand squarely, adjusting your balance. You recall conversations with mums at children’s parties where they’d laugh about the impossibility of ever bouncing after childbirth. You are grateful that you seem to have dodged that maternal bullet. But still you are tentative, and you do not lift your feet far off the canvas. You tread its circumference, following the integrity of the heavy nylon stitching. You lie on your stomach and test the mettle of each spring.

5.6 More Theory

The radius of gyration is the same as the moment of inertia (i.e., distance of mass from the centre of rotation) and is measured by mass x radius squared. This can thus affect the angular velocity of the body mass. The human body is such an awkward shape really that it can have a strange distribution of body mass. (Moon, 1967: 60)

You watch your children on the trampoline, and picture watermelon heads smashing together, bloodied tea towels and an A&E waiting room. You imagine the nurses’ disapproval and the negotiation on the phone when he finds out what’s happened. You reach for the back door, hold the handle until your heart stops somersaulting and the metal begins to warm and it feels a bit like a stiff handshake. You return to the dishes in the sink, avert your eyes and listen to their squeals of joy.

2.3 Safety

Before going on the trampoline check the following: (a) that there is a minimum of 16ʹ from your head to the ceiling. See that there are no beams etc. that could be dangerous. (b) that there are no obstructions beneath the bed or to the sides – in particular keep the roller stands well clear of the trampoline. (c) Articles that are likely to cause injury i.e., watches and jewellery must not be worn. Long hair should be tied back appropriately. (Moon, 1967: 27)

When the children are asleep you go into the close dusky garden and climb onto the canvas. You sit there cross legged, very still. Neither in the air nor on the ground. The canvas trembles.

8. Theory Applied – Feet to feet fliffes

The fliffus or the fliffis is a double somersault with twist or twists. Trampoline nomenclature usually calls the plural of fliffus, fliffes…


I remember one person who had a very good baby fliffus and he did this movement  quite successfully…


I don’t know whether these two 2 ½ twisting fliffes have been successfully done or recorded but they are in the realm of possibility (Moon, 1967: 89)

You are in the archive and you know you should be back on the library floor by now. But the controlled cool inside the sealed door feels good. You imagine slipping, paper thin and in need of careful handling, between the rolling shelves. You suspect they realise this is why you are here, when they handed you the cotton gloves and showed you where the book support cushions were on your first day. Your task today is to sort through a donated box of cinema club programmes, keeping just two of each and binning the rest. A student comes in to drop something off. She watches you for a moment and then asks if she can have the discarded programmes. You ask what for. She shrugs and says origami? Maybe a collage. She is so light and open. It prickles unexpectedly and you want to say something cutting; something patronising. But instead you gather the rejected sheets and hand them over. You say you’d like to see what she comes up with. She smiles and when she leaves your heart feels a little lighter.

2.3.3 Spotter Pushing

When the performer lands on the trampoline bed and bounces backwards like this, then the spotter can push the performer back safely onto the bed. Note the principle of pushing – one leg in front of the other for weight bearing, spine erect, and moving towards the unfortunate performer, not away from him. Sometimes the spotter will have to catch the performer – for example, when he is going to land on the pads or floor, or is dropping from a height. Arms will be ready to catch the person and wrists supinated so that the spotter can absorb the person’s momentum to a safe landing. The spotter should always have one foot in front of the other so that the forward and backward movement can be expedited. (Moon, 1967: 30)

The woman who lives next door is mowing her lawn in flip flops. She leans into the machine, occasionally nudging it with her hip, kicking bright plastic toys out of the way as she goes. She cuts the engine, then tightens the headscarf around her head. She turns and smiles at you. You did not realise she was aware of your presence over the fence. She says something about the weather. You open your mouth and you look at her feet. The words that sit in your throat are his words and so you swallow them away.

5.7 Double Bouncing

This is a good way of warming up, but remember to bounce alternately or you may ‘kip’ your friend. Limit the bounces to simple ones and it becomes a good test of whether you can do them in a small space. (Moon, 1967: 61)

In the food bank parcel you collect today there is a barely out-of-date packet mix for millionaire shortbread. You stare at it for a while and then find mixing bowls and a hand whisk in one of the drawers. You call the children into the kitchen and sit down round the table to bake.

6.3 More Sequence Ideas

An eight bounce routine could be (a) full twist back (b) barani (c) back somersault (d) lazy back (e) ½ twist to stand (f) barani (g) full twist back (h) Rudolf. (Moon, 1967: 73)

The woman next door wheels her mower along the back ginnel and leaves it in your garden. You mow a halo round the trampoline then you wheel the mower back through into her garden and leave a Tupperware box of millionaire shortbread resting on the hot engine.

7.8 More Sequence Ideas

First ten bounce routine: (a) 1 ¾ front somersault (b) ballout barani (c) back somersault (layout) (d) back somersault with full twist (e) barani (f) back somersault (tuck) (g) lazy back somersault (h) back cody (i) back somersault (layout) (j) back with full twist. (Moon, 1967: 83)

You will go to the old house next week to collect some personal items, if they’re still there. The woman from the centre is going to go with you. The woman next door has lent you a couple of suitcases.

5.5 Improving Bouncing

Bouncing should be controlled, of a good height, but some people will now need to work on improving the bouncing. To gain more height, one has to remember Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction… Thus one needs to put more drive into the bed to get more reaction from it. (Moon, 1967: 60)

You hold the last of the sun on your face as it dips behind the houses opposite. Earthy smoke drifts from one of the gardens, laughter catches on the breeze. The ground is solid and yet somehow it waits to jolt you. A trembling stillness. And you desire to move, swing like a pendulum, find a new rhythm. You climb onto the trampoline and press your toes into the fabric until your calves cramp and twitch.

4.1 Centre of Gravity

There are many axes ‘in’ a body which all intersect at that body’s centre of gravity. The centre of gravity is where the centre of body weight is concentrated in relation to the gravitational pull towards the earth’s centre… remember that the centre of gravity depends upon the disposition of the body at a certain moment and so the centre of gravity can lie outside a person. (Moon, 1967: 42)

You climb onto the canvas and you stand for a moment. Rudolf, barani, half-twist, fliffus. The sequences roll through your mind before you let go. And then you bend your knees and throw yourself into the air.

Sarah Schofield


MOON, J. E., 1967. The Techniques of Trampolining (for Coach and Performer)

A special Study submitted as part of Physical Education Main Course at Edge Hill College of Education. Edge Hill Archive Collection. [Accessed April – June 2022].