Little did Tyrell King know that a birthday party would lead to competing amongst some of the best tumblers and trampoline athletes in the nation in the 51st annual United States Trampoline and Tumbling Association National Championships this past week at the RP Funding Center.
It’s the first time the event is being held at the RP Funding Center with more than 140 teams from across the United States competing in more than 4,000 events, including tumbling, trampoline and double-mini trampoline.
While King was introduced to sports such as baseball, soccer and enjoyed doing front flips on the trampoline as a child in his native country of Guatemala, it wasn’t until he moved to Orlando with his family that King thought of the notion of competing on the trampoline at a high level for the first time.
But he started as a soccer player and competed in Taekwondo. King through social activities eventually made friends before going to Reflex Gymnastics for a friend’s birthday party. The interest in the trampoline blossomed into a passion and an eventual tangible goal to achieve when he saw different kids in action at the age of 11.
“We saw the trampoline and the tumbling program and decided to enroll me in it and I just honestly fell in love with it,” King said. “I really enjoyed it, and kept moving on, and six years later, I’m here as an athlete.”
In that six-year stretch to become one of the best trampolinists in the nation at the age of 16, a lot steps and arduous hard work needed to be completed.
One discipline taught in Taekwondo made the transition easy from Korean traditional martial arts to jumping on a trampoline. In Taekwondo, the art of focusing on the next task is a key principle in the discipline. So, when King was taught the basics of jumping on a trampoline, the process was seamless.
“I ended up channeling that into the gymnastics, so I was super focused, and I listened to everything the coaches said, and I performed in the same way. I made all the corrections and I moved up really fast because of it, so that just really propelled me,” King said. “I’d say my coaches are definitely the biggest thing in helping me move up, just talking with me, explaining things to me and helping me comprehend the skills on how to do them.”
While King was using the coaches of Reflex Gymnastics to incrementally get better on the trampoline and as a tumbler, he was trying to decide which sport to choose. During the period of learning the sport, King was still playing soccer while also having an interest in baseball and football.
King, however, was at a fork in the road. He was old enough that his parents needed to sign him up for competitive soccer or he could choose the trampoline. King, though, was so successful on the trampoline and as a tumbler that the sport chose him.
King in different trampoline and tumbling classes, with the help of Reflex Gymnastics head coach Richard Masters — the gym’s co-owner and also the team director — would vigorously fine-tune his skill set until eventually he was at the top. Flipping wasn’t an issue as that move was natural for King but twisting needed to be worked on. Thanks to Masters assisting in twisting, King kept advancing to higher classes until he got to the level of team competition — the class that competes around the nation.
And for the past four years King has been competing at a high level. He’s in the national competition this week at the RP Funding Center because he placed first in trampoline, double-mini trampoline and tumbling at the state-level event held at Reflex Gymnastics in early August of 2021.
King said weightlifting helped him become top dog at the state level.
“(I’m) just gaining more power. I’ve started weightlifting and that’s helped me to push for higher skills,” King said.
Through the national event competing amongst 15- and 16-year-olds, King accomplished some personal goals. He’s been able to execute the triple backflip for the first time, full-outs and a double backflip with a full twist on the second flip.
Those skills will be needed if King wants to make the Olympics. Building strength, adhering to dietary plans and bolstering his trampoline skill set won’t be an inkling of work for King because he is a fervent admirer of the sport.
“I think the big thing about enjoying a sport for me is the speed and power of everything,” King said. “Originally when I first started, it was fun. … But as I got better, as I got stronger, just the feeling of being able to push really, really hard into the skills and feel the power through all of them. And get the height, it really feels like you’re flying out there. It’s just really fun to be in the air doing all that stuff.”