The Gillingham Jumpers Trampoline Club was founded on 17th November 1979 with four coaches (two of whom are directors of the Club and still coaching). Since then the club has introduced many new bouncers to trampolining and has produced competitors from County, regional and National Champions through to the 2004 Olympic Finalist Gary Smith .
One of those founder members is Martin Laws. He's an accomplished trampolinist, a International Performance qualified coach, an international judge and a professionally qualified sports massage therapist and Psychologist. Just to top it off, he was also an Executive Director of the British Trampoline Federation for over 10 years, Director and founder of the Kent Institute for Sport and also chair of the Kent Forum for sport. Martin has received a few recognitions of his work, including Kent Coach of the year 1993, Special award for services to Kent sport 1995, and lifetime contribution to Kent sport in 2004, BTF services to sport 1991 and the BTF award for excellence 1996, British Gymnastics distinguished judge and Master Coach. Martin has been the driving force behind the club and its achievements, although if you ask him, he will always talk about a team of people.
As the numbers grew, the club organised the members into four groups, based on levels of experience and ability. New members start in Preliminary Groups and once they've learnt the basic moves and safety procedures, they can move up to the Elementary Groups which are divided into Bronze, Silver and Gold. As members progress, more trampolining combinations are introduced, such as front and back somersaults, and by the time they get into the Intermediate Group, they start learning more complicated moves and routines. In the Advanced Group, members regularly compete at the top level, both nationally and internationally. Nowadays there are over 16 different levels within the club from toddler to international, from adult to special needs, there is no doubt that overall Jumpers has become the most successful club in Great Britain to date.
So you can start with a simple bounce and end up doing multiple twists and somersaults - but whatever the level, Jumpers provide excellent coaching and support.
Considerable proportions of our members have become exceptional trampolinists. The Club boasts World Age Group winners, World Record Holders, National, Regional and County Champions and 2004 Olympic Finalist Gary Smith. The Club grew so large, it was not able to meet normal training and competition needs at the old Black Lion site, which is a multi-sports centre and limits further dedication to the sport. The need became obvious, they needed a place of their own, a place to call their home.
The club newsletter, Jumpers, has been around for the majority of the seventeen years and is therefore able to help in identifying some of the milestones in the club's existence. Looking at the first edition of our newsletter (then Jumpers Herald), it is interesting to note that by the end of the first year there were 25 members and 21 on the waiting list. Since that time the waiting list has continued to be a feature of the club, with ever more people being attracted. Over the years the number of members has continued to grow and now exceeds 700. In that first edition there is also a mention of the fact that the club was raising funds to buy its first trampoline. That first fund raising activity was a success and has lead to many more. The new Jumpers Rebound Centre boasts 15 trampolines, 2 double minitramps a sprung tumble track and a foam pit.
By 1986, the standard of performance had improved to a level where we were able to enter a pair in the synchro event at the World Age Group Competition in France. The pair, Zoe Finn and Samantha Vandome, were placed third in this competition.
In the 1988 event, Ben Colgate won the gold medal in the synchro. In 1990 and 1992 he also came away with gold medals, this time in the individual event.
In 1992, Rebecca Jefford won a bronze medal in the Synchronised World Age Groups in New Zealand. This was with her partner Andrea Soonius from Coventry.
In 1998, a new breed of international performers earned their wings, in the form of Katherine Driscoll and Gary Smith: They represented their country at the Austrailian World Age Games extremely well and came back with valuable experience to help them push towards future international stardom.
1999 showed a rise in Gillingham Jumpers Impact when we had a team of 5 Gillingham Jumpers selected to represent their country at the South African World Age Games: Gary Smith, Matthew Swaffer, Dominic Swaffer, Katherine Driscoll and Natalie O Connor
Shortly after these games into 2000, Katherine Driscoll and Natalie O Connor switched clubs but this did not affect our productivity and by the next World Age Games in Denmark in 2001, we had added another Jumpers Elite to the list of international representation in the form of Lorraine Cave Brown. She joined the Swaffer Brothers for another successful outing. It is important to also know at this point that Gary Smith had moved upwards to represent Great Britain at Senior Level.
2003 was another good year for Gillingham Jumpers as we added even more names to the international fold and welcomed Matthew Swaffer into senior representation. Along with Gary Smith ,Dominic Swaffer and Lorraine Cave Brown came new faces: Nathan Benham and Thomas Foreman. Gillingham Jumpers were now gaining a solid reputation for providing a wealth of solid international performers.
2004 will always be a very special year for Gillingham Jumpers and Great Britain in terms of trampoline, as it was this year in which Gillingham’s own Gary Smith competed and finalled in the Athens Olympic Games. Years and Years of hard work and determination helped Gary to achieve his 7th place.
If there were any doubts over Gillingham Jumpers ability to produce more International performers they were silenced in 2005 as we totalled 12 performers representing their country with 6 at senior and 6 at Junior levels. Along with the already mentioned names we had new faces at Senior: Jason Plowman, Chris Fordham, Michael Scott Beaulieu, Asha Bayliss and Nikki Petit. Junior level included new faces: Mitchell Benham, Asha Phillip and Cherrelle and Adeva Bryan. It was a very successful competition with Michael Scott Beaulieu making the final in senior DMT.
2007 cam around and the next world championships was in Canada, Even though Gillingham Jumpers had produced only 9 performers this time we had 6 attending senior and not only did Michael repeat his heroics of two years before by making finals again. The Senior DMT team managed to finish in 3rd Place. After several years competing for Gillingham Jumpers and Great Britain Gary Smith announced that this was his last competition as he will now be following a career into the circus for the world famous “cirque du solieli “
2008 came along and with it the European Championships in Odense. Jumpers had a team of 8 selected, 4 from Senior and 4 from Junior. (Matthew and Dominic Swaffer, Jason Plowman, Coreen John, Thomas Foreman, Mark Pennell, Adeva Bryan and Robyn Osborne)
2009 saw a team of 5 people travel to Russia to take part in the World Championships in Russia with 2 more selected for the World Age Group Games. (Senior – Matthew and Dominic Swaffer, Jason Plowman, Adeva Bryan and Robyn Osborne – Junior - Daina Rose and Georgina Varley) Daina Rose competed in Trampoline Individual and Synchronised, gaining a silver medal with her synchro partner Louise Whitters from East Kilbride.
2010 had not only a European Championships in Bulgaria but a World Championships in France. Jumper’s members selected included Matthew Swaffer, Robyn Osborne, Coreen John, Daina Rose, Rhys Gray and Jess Smith. Of all these people, extremely notable performances include Robyn Osborne achieving a European Silver Medal and Rhys Gray achieving a European Bronze Medal.
Matthew Swaffer has now represented his country at 9 World or European Championships. Matthew embodies the spirit of what it is to be a long term successful athlete enjoying success from a young age right up until and continuing past his 30th birthday.
The Club has also achieved international recognition with two world record holders, one of which is still held to this day (number of somersaults in one minute - 84 by Dominic Swaffer on Record Breakers).
Club members have also appeared on the television in adverts, and pop videos.
One thing which has not changed over the years is the passion, time and dedication which members and coaches have put into the sport. All of our qualified coaches have continued to work on a voluntary basis, to ensure that costs are kept down, and to enable the sport to be made available to all.
As the club has grown there have been a number of reorganisations, and currently the members are grouped according to their ability, moving up into the next group as they pass a proficiency award under British Gymnastics Award Schemes.
Although the dream of having their own Training Centre started back in 1979, it was a few years later that the Jumpers launched a massive appeal for funds, rather aptly called Bounce 2000. But they didn't have to wait until the year 2000 to build the centre. Gillingham Borough Council gave their blessing to the project in June 1991 and at that time probably nobody (except Martin) ever realised that only five years later the new centre would be up and running.
The hard work of the club has been recognised by many organisations, including Gillingham Borough Council, Kent County Council, The Foundation for Sport and the Arts, The British Trampoline Federation, Sportsmatch, Sport England The Kent Playing Fields Association and British Gymnastics. All of them have made substantial grants or interest free loans to the club.
In 1995 the club made a successful application for National Lottery Funds and won a lottery grant of more than £700,000. This grant, together with all other monies, enabled it to build the very first purpose-built centre in Europe at a cost of over £1.2m.
The builders of the Centre were FB Ellmer of Barnes. The Quantity Surveyors were OI Associates. The Rebound Centre was constructed in a remarkable 26 weeks, and an incredible £28 under budget!
The Rebound Centre is now open seven days a week. It's not only the headquarters of the Gillingham Jumpers. It's also aiming to be the training centre of the UK, attracting trampolinists from all over the country. The centre has been granted County, Regional and National centre of excellence status.
More information on the Rebound Centre and the facilities available.