“There’s nothing better than standing out and having the attention of 15,000 to 18,000 people, staring down at you, and hearing a reaction when you make a dunk,” Kevin Vanderkolk said.
There is a name for what the Rim Rockers do – acrobatic slam dunking. Most have no idea the training that goes into putting on a successful show. “It’s a lot of fun and high energy. We try to get people excited and fly through the air, but it’s not as easy as it looks,” Vanderkolk said.
Vanderkolk runs the operation. The former gymnast has been leading the Rim Rockers since the very first practice eight years ago. In season, they gather once or twice a week to run through choreography and add new elements. Though acrobatics are a big part of the gig, there are only a few guys with gymnastics backgrounds. “You’ve got to be athletic. You’ve got to be coordinated. You don’t have to flip, and you don’t have to have basketball skills – those things can be taught, but you’ve gotta have good air awareness,” Vanderkolk said.
Vanderkolk teaches proper technique and timing. “We work in baby steps. We’ll start with a two-step run, half court and slowly progress,” Vanderkolk said.
Then, it’s hundreds of jumps over and over again. “It’s a numbers game. You have to have repetition. You have to get your jumps in to get comfortable,” Vanderkolk said.
There are obviously mats and measures taken to make this style of dunking as safe as possible, but the Rim Rockers know there’s real risk involved. “You’re going really hard into the trampoline, and flying 10 to 12 feet in the air, so it can be dangerous,” Vanderkolk said.
Despite injuries, the Rim Rockers come back week after week to soar through the air and make fans gasp. Most of them say it’s the adrenaline rush of getting above the rim that really rocks.
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