Where Ryerson comes to bounce

Ryerson has a new face for aerial acrobatics, and it is the same as the old one, as Bill Spurrell reforms the trampoline club he started way back in 1976.

Jennifer Jakob

Jennifer Jakob, a fourth-year theatre production students gets some airtime with Bill Spurrell looking on. Photograph by Yeugenia Kleiner

[C]all this Flight Club, where airplanes, corkscrews, and seat bombs are eventual goals, and where bouncing five or ten feet skyward is commonplace.

There are no rules against talking about this club, and here in a sectioned-off third of Upper Kerr Hall Gym, the number of people standing – some might say guarding – around the perimeter of the rectangular, double-spring trampoline suggests that the word is getting out.

The twenty or so people have all come to learn how to bounce from Bill Spurrell. At fifty-seven, Spurell is re-forming the trampoline club he began with his friend Tom Gallagher thirty-six years ago at Ryerson, but which folded in 1990.

”I can’t imagine we would have had this many people show up tonight if [trampoline] had not been in the news and stuff,” says the former Canadian national trampoline team coach.
Trampoline in Canada had been in the news during the run-up to the new school year after Canadian Rosie MacLennan won Olympic gold on London’s trampolines, giving the sport a higher profile.
“I didn’t know that was going to happen when I contacted the school about getting the club running, but certainly it’s brought trampoline to the forefront,” explains Spurrell, who contacted Ryerson Athletics in the summer about the possibility of starting a team.

A few months on, the Ryerson Trampoline Club is now an officially recognized recreational club at the university, and Spurrell has his sights set on performing shows in the new year, maybe even a repeat performance of the trampoline show his club put on in front of Toronto’s City Hall in 1985.
“When people know they are going to be performing for an audience, all of a sudden, people are really excited about learning new things, starting to point their toes, making their routine look perfect.”

Holding performances will be key for the team says Spurrell, because it will bring in much needed funds, and help motivate them in the face of less competitive tournaments than the original club had attended.
The reason for going to less competitions is not because Spurell thinks his new charges are not up for it, in fact, he points out five bouncers whom he says could be on the competitive circuit were they to train hard enough. Rather, education demands more time in the classroom than on the trampoline for students, making it hard for some to attend the planned two practices a week. “The nature of academics at Ryerson is very demanding, a lot of people are only going to be able to come once a week,” says Spurrell.

He is also not getting any younger, and though he was more than able to hold his own on the trampoline during the session, Spurrell does not see himself travelling with the team to competitions every weekend like he used to, “but if people are interested in competition I can help them get to that direction as well.”

Part of the reason the club folded twenty-two years ago is because Spurrell was spending too much time at the trampoline, and not enough at home.
“There were a lot of things going on in my life at the time,” explains Spurrell. He was, at one time, coaching both the Canadian national, and Ontario provincial teams, along with his Ryerson club, all while organizing a World Cup meet.
“My daughter was born and I was never at home, I was always travelling at competitions, so I just needed to take a bit of a sabbatical.”

His daughter now grown up, Spurrell decided it was time to get back into coaching, so for the past three years he has been building up bouncers at the Circus School, where aspiring trapeze artists, tumblers and other high-flying acts come to learn.
Having whet his coaching appetite, Spurrell believed the next logical step was to re-start his Ryerson Trampoline Club in order to foster a new generation of bouncers.
“When I first got to Ryerson I started diving, because I was a gymnast at the time and when I found out Ryerson didn’t have a gymnastics team I was devastated.”

Thanks to Spurrell, Ryerson students who want to bounce will not have to settle for diving or gymnastics. Diving prepared Spurrell for a transition into trampoline, but at the session it is clear that bouncers come from many different acrobatic backgrounds. The Ryerson Trampoline club aims to make high-flyers of them all.