Barnhart hopes tandem jump will remind people to be uncomfortable



When UK’s athletics director Mitch Barnhart last jumped out of a plane with the Army Golden Knights in 2010, the tandem jump was supposed to begin on the count of three.

However, Barnhart’s free-fall from thousands of feet in the air began a little sooner than he expected it to.

“I remember the two, I don’t ever remember getting to three,” Barnhart said.

The experience must not have been that terrifying, though, because Barnhart is signed up to do another tandem jump with the Golden Knights on April 11 in Clarksville, Tennessee. Barnhart will perform the tandem jump alongside country singers Darryl Worley, Craig Morgan and Kellie Pickler. 

When it was first announced that Barnhart was going to do another tandem jump with the Golden Knights, some probably responded by asking why: Why would he want to relive the terrifying experience of jumping out of a plane again when he has already done it once? 

Barnhart is not jumping again to get an adrenaline rush or add photos to the memory book; instead, he is hoping the second jump will motivate his athletes and others to step outside their comfort zone.

“I’ve already done it once, I don’t need to do it again to prove I can do it, that’s not the point,” Barnhart said. “The point I want to continue to remind people is to stretch and do things that are uncomfortable.” 

Athletes at UK are probably told to step outside their comfort zone all the time by doing extra sprints in practice, or adding an extra set to a workout in the weight room instead of going home. 

While those moments can be uncomfortable, Barnhart’s definition of uncomfortable is a little bit more seasoned. 

He has climbed peaks such as Mount Kilimanjaro, which stands over 19,000 feet tall; he has stood on edges of cliffs that were practically “sheer falloffs,” he said; and he has obviously jumped out of a plane thousands of feet in the sky.

“I look back and I think about when I was 18, 19, 20, did I really know what it meant when somebody said I’m going to make you uncomfortable?” Barnhart said. “Well uncomfortable at that point in time was a coach grinding you into the ground in a workout.” 

While the 18, 19 or 20-year-old athletes at UK do not have the same adventurous opportunities as Barnhart does, Barnhart is hoping that his example of jumping out of a plane is a reminder to the athletes and others to step outside their comfort zone in whatever fashion that could mean for them at the moment.

“Whether it’s a fear of heights or if it’s claustrophobia, there’s different things that physically make people uncomfortable, then there’s workouts that make people – ‘I’m pushed beyond a boundary, how far can I push myself to go to a different spot?’” Barnhart said. “I think just reminders of that is important.”

Barnhart said that he will certainly be uncomfortable again when he steps up to the edge of a plane and prepares to jump for the second time in his life. 

Just how comfortable will Barnhart be? He won’t know until he is standing on the edge of the plane and the countdown to three begins again.

“We’ll hope more comfortable than time one,” Barnhart said.