Photo: Taylor Soule
What’s that object flying through the air? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s the Drake Tricking Club! Just don’t tell these thrill seeking students that gravity will once again plant their feet firmly on the mat.
Last September, three first-year students entered the warm fall air with two blue mats, tricking tenacity and a dash of danger as the club began at the grassy opening just beyond Herriott Residence Hall.
First-year student and Tricking Club President Mike Jennings jumped into the sport following his senior year of high school, and upon his arrival at Drake, he envisioned a club devoted to gravity defiance.
Alongside two friends, Vice President Nick Iwan and Treasurer Griffin Simpson, the club gained members in Drake’s ever-expanding list of student organizations.
Like successfully landing a backflip, however, the quest to become an official club required patience and perseverance. The three founders wrote and rewrote the club’s constitution.
The founders then proposed their organization to the Student Senate Student Affairs Committee.
With a seal of approval from SAC, the founders moved onto the Student Senate, which also voted to allow the club.
So, what exactly is tricking?
“Tricking is a combination of gymnastics, martial arts and break dancing,” Iwan said.
As the broad definition implies, the club offers an expansive array of skill levels, interests and, of course, tricks. From the beginner’s backflip to the expert’s 540 kick, the club’s founders said that almost anyone can “trick.”
“Currently, we have about 10 people that consistently come and do tricks,” Jennings said. “We’ve had over 50 people participate and try a backflip, including a 54-year-old man.”
The trio even plotted for everyone on the fourth floor of Herriott Hall to backflip. With the encouragement of fellow residents, Jennings, Iwan and Simpson helped 25 students complete a backflip.
That encouraging, community atmosphere is essential for students striving to land new tricks.
“It’s definitely more fun when you have more people that you can help with their new tricks and to inspire you and encourage you to keep going, too,” Iwan said.
Jennings agreed that the team atmosphere leads to the best results.
“You can motivate each other and get higher energy amongst the group,” Jennings said.
Members aren’t solely involved for the supportive atmosphere, though. Simpson said that some people get competitive.
“Friendly competition is always nice,” Simpson said. “The more people we have, the better skill level ranges, and we can find more people to compete with. Who can get the trick the fastest? It encourages everyone to learn better.”
Though Drake lacks a gymnastics program, first-year student Ashley Fee didn’t want to give up the sport she grew up with. Tricking Club provides an opportunity for her to rehearse routine stunts alongside new tricks.
“I had done gymnastics for nine years, so Tricking Club was a way to continue my gymnastics career as well as learn other tricks that usually incorporate more parkour (training) and martial arts,” Fee said.
Between dizzying twists, powerful kicks and fearless flips, a question inevitably comes up: What happens if someone gets hurt? Safety always comes first for Jennings, Iwan and Simpson, who regularly spot both novice and advanced members during new tricks.
“First, we have our members sign liability waivers so the university doesn’t have any responsibility for injuries,” Jennings said. “Most importantly, we spot members when they’re trying a new trick so if they bail out in the middle, we’ll still help them get over. We also use blue mats to pad our landings.”
Spotting allows beginners to gain confidence both on and off the mat.
“It’s a great self-esteem booster because after you do a trick, even if someone is helping you, the emotions you feel, the adrenaline rush you feel, is just absolutely overwhelming,” Fee said. “It’s just an all-around great experience.”
The Tricking Club practices in the Drake Fieldhouse on Fridays from 7-8 p.m. During the spring and fall, members practice outdoors on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6 p.m. on the lawn between Herriott Hall and Harvey Ingham Hall.
Ultimately, Tricking Club offers gutsy students the opportunity to fall in love with tricking — heels over head, of course.
“I’d like to share my love of this sport with as many people as possible,” Jennings said. “I know a lot of people don’t know what it is, so maybe I could help them discover a new interest.”