Trampoline History Timeline

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Now that we have a picture of trampoline and gymnastics both now and in the time before, it is time to look at the middle, to see how we got from one place to the other.   The 1950s and 1960s were a time of upheaval for the gymnastics world, with a lot of wrestling for control of the sport, a lot of innovation, and the invention of the modern scoring systems for trampoline and artistic gymnastics at virtually the same moment.

1954 1954
1961 1961
1962 1962
1963 1963
1964 1964
1965 1965


This is the year that the FIG decided what gymnastics is, at least in terms of what events it would regulate and what would go into the Olympics (artistic gymnastics), starting with the 1956 games.  The free-for-all ended, at least in Europe, with 6 events for men and 4 for women.  For the men, rings became a single event combining swing and strength.  Strip tumbling went away in favor of free exercise, with some tumbling, but not tumbling as we know it now.  For a long time after that, the US just continued as it had before, with many different events, and an inconsistent patchwork of events across the country.  When you include the high-school programs, it took over two decades for the US to completely fall in line with the world governing body.

The FIG did nothing active to reject trampoline at this point.  Trampoline had not even made it to Europe, and was not a consideration when this constriction of gymnastics took place.  This decision about what gymnastics is did will come back later to color the decision against adopting trampoline in 1961.


Rudolf Spieth proposes that the FIG should include Trampoline as an FIG discipline. The FIG votes 11-1 to reject the proposal, suggesting that “This is not an attractive apparatus for female gymnasts.”   How wrong they were.  Where the decisions in 1954 had left the door open for trampoline, this effectively closed it.

This action sent George Nissen looking for other ways to promote trampoline internationally and eventually led to the creation of the FIT 3 years later.  This decision also had repercussions for rules and scoring.  In the US, trampoline continued alongside gymnastics, and there the inclination was to keep the scoring systems similar.  However, internationally, the competitive rules were now independent of one another.

Friction continues between the US College Coaches (NACGC) and the AAU.  From the perspective of the college coaches, AAU did little to develop the sport of gymnastics, did not really know the sport or the coaches, and yet was intimately involved with team selection and coach selection for international events.  More information on the conflict between the college coaches and AAU is available on the USAG History Timeline.  A good summary is also available from Grossfeld (2010).

Grossfeld, A. (2010). A history of United States artistic gymnastics. Science of Gymnastics Journal, Vol. 2 Issue 2: 5-28



December 8, 1962, the college coaches create the USGF as a sport governing body for gymnastics.   AAU is still the official governing body.  Much more information is available at the USAG History Timeline.

The FIG publishes a new scoring system in 1962 to be used in the 1964 Olympics.  The new system formalizes difficulty as part of the gymnastics score.  The difficulty system is ordinal, with A, B, and C value skills, and the 10.0 score that was once solely execution is split into content and execution components.  In the US, the old way of doing things (AAU and later USGF) was to adopt the FIG rules, and write extensions and interpretations for the USA, including the non-FIG events.  While that was easy for relative scoring, the FIG had now specified a list of difficulty values, and someone was going to have to write that list for trampoline.  Someone did, and it existed by 1966 (USGF Rules for Men, 1966-1968). I am still looking for earlier versions of those interpretations, and trying to determine who wrote them.  Unfortunately, most of those who might have been involved with writing those rules have either died or are beyond remembering.




The first USGF national championship is held at Maine East High School in the suburbs of Chicago.  Although this represented an insurrection by the college coaches against the AAU, the AAU was still the official governing body and only path to international competition.   (The AAU, of course, continued to hold its own national championship.  It would remain that way until 1970, when USGF replaced AAU as the official governing body.  See Grossfeld 2010.)

The USGF national championship included trampoline.  I have no information yet about the AAU championship.  I also have no information yet about how those competitions were scored.  1963 is the first year after the FIG published the new rules with ABC difficulty as a score component, and that system may not have been used internationally yet.  USGF and AAU may have written the original ABC difficulty for trampoline at this point.  I am still looking for rulebooks from that time period to determine what was in them.

Grossfeld, A. (2010). A history of United States artistic gymnastics. Science of Gymnastics Journal, Vol. 2 Issue 2: 5-28


This was a big year.  For artistic gymnastics, it is the first Olympic year after the ABC difficulty system was written, and the first time the system was used to judge Olympic gymnastics.

For trampoline, it is the year of the First World Championship.  The event was held in London (UK) on 21 March, and was organized as a tournament with a panel of 5 to 7 judges determining the winner in each bracket.  Routines were composed of 10 skills, and repetition was allowed.  The competition included athletes from 12 countries, and the winners were Dan Millman and Judy Wills, both from the USA.  You can see film/video showing the competition (Click for Video), and you can get more information from Leigh Hennessey-Robson’s  TrampolinePundit site, and Dagmar Nissen-Munn’s Trampoline History site.

This is also the year that the International Trampoline Federation (FIT) was founded.  There is some confusion on line about when this actually happened.  The more common version, on official websites such as USA Gymnastics and the FIG website, is that it happened on March 4 in Frankfurt,Germany, about 3 weeks ahead of the first world championship.  This version of events is probably not correct, and may have arisen simply because bureaucracies collectively “think” that, “Well, ya gotta have the bureaucracy before you can have the championship.”  We live in an internet age where rumor becomes fact just by massive repetition.  The other version makes more sense in light of the realization that George Nissen just did things.  The entire “First World Championship” was sponsored by the Nissen Corporation.  Dagmar’s site highlights a meeting the day after the championship (22 March) where the participants resolved to create the FIT.  The actual inception was a follow-up meeting on July 29, 1964, in Frankfurt.


USGF writes first major rules & interpretations book based on FIG code with A,B,C difficulty (USGF Rules for Men 1966-1968.)  The book includes extensions for trampoline.

Bob Bollinger invents the Axial Rotation (AR) difficulty system for scoring.  AR differs greatly from the ordinal system of FIG in that it derives a numerical difficulty value from a formula based on skill complexity (the number of rotations and twists, and position).   The system has been modified over the years, and now differs slightly from the original, but operates in much the same way today.  (More information is available from Bob Bollinger’s page at FSU, and the US Gymnastics Hall of Fame.)

The Second Trampoline World Championship is held again in London.  Again, the competition is organized as a tournament. The winners are Gary Erwin and Judy Mills.   The FIT embraces the AR difficulty system at least partially, using it only for seeding athletes into the brackets.   (More information is available from Dagmar Nissen-Munn’s history blog, and the Leigh Hennessey-Robson’s Trampoline Pundit page.  Also, see the video from the event.)  This event also represents the advent for Tumbling world championships, and Synchronized Trampoline.

The USGF makes a formal bid to become the official governing body for Trampoline in the US.  The FIT rejects the USGF bid.  (The USGF will later drop trampoline as an event in 1969, with the last NCAA Trampoline event held as an exhibition in 1971.)  This may be the event that caused USGF to lose interest in Trampoline, although the main consideration was always recognition by FIG.