Former Wildcat football player Thomas Hill displays a Bounce Boot Camp obstacle on ABC's Shark Tank. Hill will be on tonight's episode of the show airing tonight at 8 p.m. CT. (All photos credited to the Bounce Bootcamp Facebook Page)
December 10, 2013
By Kelly McHugh
Former K-State football tight end Thomas Hill will have the opportunity of a lifetime for any business entrepreneur tonight.
Beginning at 8 p.m. (CT) on ABC, Hill will be a part of the reality TV show Shark Tank as he has the opportunity to pitch his business - Bounce Boot Camp - to the show's successful 'investor sharks' and hope for a partnership from one of the investors.
"The goal was that if I could make it on the show, then I could have the opportunity to partner with one of the Sharks - the successful business people - but I could also have the opportunity to get our company recognized in front of a national audience," Hill said.
Since Sept. 2011, Hill has been getting children from all over the Greater Phoenix area off their couches and into shape through his Bounce Boot Camp.
A fun and different way to get kids into fitness, Hill, who was a member of the 2003 Big 12 Champion Wildcats, has used his background as a collegiate athlete as a means to make the most out of his workout program for kids.
"We really took our time and put together a whole fitness program based around using inflatable obstacle courses - slides, castles - you name it," explained Hill. "I took my sports background, the things that I learned along the way in sports, and I took my fitness background - because I'm also a certified fitness specialist - and I kind of combined them together. Bounce Boot Camp is kind of like a P90X, the Amazing Race, the Insanity workout and Wipeout all mixed into a fun fitness obstacle course program with inflatables for kids."
A neat concept (I mean, what kid isn't crazy about inflatable bounce houses?), the idea originated when Hill's daughter invited him to join her jumping in a bounce castle.
"She was bouncing in an inflatable and asked me to get in it, so I did," laughed Hill. "I was in there for five minutes or so, and I got out and I was tired - legs were burning, sweating. It was crazy. So I thought, 'How cool would it be to have a fitness program for kids using inflatables?'"
After creating the Bounce Boot Camp obstacle inflatables, Hill tested his idea by offering classes twice a week.
"Once I found out that the kids were responding to it and the parents really received what we were doing - they were signing their kids up for more and more classes - I realized that we had something unique and special on our hands."
Not only is Bounce Boot Camp a great way for kids to get in shape and learn about a healthier lifestyle, it offers a fun RANKS system so children can keep track of their progress and move on to higher, more challenging levels of the boot camp.
The ranks start at private and go all the way through to junior general with color-coded dog tags displaying each child's rank at the obstacle course.
"After they complete so many classes they get a different color dog tag," said Hill. "We lay out a really very realistic but challenging curriculum for the kids to try and overcome, and once they do that they go on to the next level."
While the popularity of Bounce Boot Camp continues to grow in the Greater Phoenix area, there is no doubt when Hill pitches his one-of-a-kind business on tonight's Shark Tank episode that it will gain a new audience bigger than ever.
But getting the opportunity to be on the show wasn't an easy road, Hill said.
"I didn't really even think about Shark Tank until about a year ago," said Hill. "I was watching the show and sat back and thought, 'Hey, if I was on there I could do so much. I'd love to get on there.'"
In July of 2012, he submitted an application. When he didn't get a quick response, he decided to make the six-hour drive to Los Angeles to try the live auditions instead.
"I didn't hear anything back from them so I said, 'You know what, I'm going to jump in my car and drive up for the audition,'" Hill said. "So I left Arizona on a Thursday, the audition was on a Friday. I got halfway to LA, literally halfway, and I get a phone call from Shark Tank saying, 'Hey, congratulations, we're going to move you to the next round.'"
Hill said he turned his car around and, excitedly, drove home. From there, it was on to the next round.
"I had to go back home and put together another video for the show," explained Hill. "There are so many rounds you have to go through, and when I made it to the following round they said, 'If you made it to the show, we'll call you. If not, don't call us.'"
Well, he wound up getting the call and making the full six-hour trip the Los Angeles after all to film tonight's show.
"It was a really, really great experience. The doors opened, and when they open, you walk down that Shark Tank hallway," Hill said. "When you get in there, it's go time."
The rest is history, and the ending to Hill's story will be revealed tonight on ABC.
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