From time to time I get asked if a person has to be a gymnast to become an acrobatic slam dunker. Since I flipped out of the womb and have been flipping ever since, this question initially caused me to step outside of myself and consider the possibilities.
I now know without even thinking about it - NO! Being a gymnast is NOT a prerequisite for being a trampoline dunker. Having gymnastics training certainly helps to shorten the learning curve but I have determined that one just needs to be athletic and have desire.
I am reminded, as I think about some of the performers that have come through the ACRODUNK system, that physical ability is a necessity but heart and desire is what takes a guy from just being able to do dunk shows to being able to WOW!
Eli Akin, Gregory Mueller, and Alain Anderson were not gymnasts but became crowd pleasing extreme dunkers. The common denominators for each of these guys is physical ability and a passion for entertaining. Each of them had different learning curves but all of them were able to include a front flip dunk in their repertoire. One or more of them have mastered the “afro” pass (front flip off the glass), the barani pass, or the clutch dunk (front flip through the leg) which all require an acrobatic mindset.
My training began in the backyard. I flipped off fences and tree stumps and roofs before I ever set foot in a gymnastics gym. It was for the love of the jump that I flipped almost as much as I walked or ran. Keith Brown was a gifted gymnast who trained at Houston’s Gymnast Factory and benefitted from the expertise of Keven Mazeika (2008 USA Men’s Gymnastics Team Heach Coach). Keith was one of the first guys I approached to be a part of our team. It turned out that he had a friend, Sadiki Fuller, who was more of a backyard gymnast that also liked the idea of being a part of an acrobatic slam dunk team. Both of these guys were definitely gymnasts but the first guy to ever perform with me as part of our team was Eli Akin, a basketball player and definitely a non-gymnast.
The first 5 touring performers for our team consisted of me, a backyard gymnast that got classical gymnastics training, Eli Akin - a 6 foot plus basketball player that had to develop his ability to flip, Keith Brown - a classically trained gymnast with mad skills, who could also play basketball, Sadiki Fuller- a 6 foot plus backyard tumbler that could play basketball and got most of his gymnastics training in public school classes, and Byron Thomas - a pure athlete who was also a backyard tumbler that could do anything athletic from basketball to football, track to baseball, soccer to fencing, badminton to chess - whatever. (I’m only exaggerating a tiny bit)
More than athletic ability, these guys all had a deep down desire to entertain, to get air, to wow audiences to “blow them away” we used to say. Other than myself and Keith, the level of elite or classical gymnastics training was pretty shallow.
As more classically trained gymnasts auditioned to be dunkers for our team (and there have not been many), I noticed that these gymnasts had to unlearn a few things to become more effective as acrobatic slam dunk entertainers.
There is a level of rigidity in classical gymnastics. The “toes pointed, legs straight” thing for some is hard to ditch. I had to unlearn some of this myself but for me it was not a conscious unlearning. It was that I transitioned to a smoother, more fluid and cooler swagger than that of the robotic “salute the judge, do your routine, stick your dismount” style of a classically trained gymnast. I had guys like Eli Akin and a whole league of NBA players that I was taking notes from.
So, you do not have to be a gymnast to be an effective acrobatic slam dunk entertainer. A gymnastics background will definitely shorten your learning curve when it comes to the acrobatic part but even without any gymnastics training, you can learn that.
Over the past 5 years, I have learned some acrobatic skills that I had never done before. I will admit that the foundation built through years of flipping helped me but what truly made it happen, came from the heart. All those non gymnasts out there that have excelled as acrobatic slam dunkers know exactly what I’m talking about.
Check out www.acrodunk.com to see some gymnasts and non-gymnasts as acrobatic slam dunkers.