Go back to the University of Utah’s basketball game on Nov. 12, 2010. The halftime show has just ended where members of Just Jumpin’, a competitive jump rope team made up of kids k-12, have just completed their roping routine.Go back to when the kids begin exiting the court, climbing up the aisles of the stadium. The crowd erupts in a spontaneous standing ovation, clapping and cheering.”You don’t get that kind of experience playing soccer or baseball.” said Kevin Winn, husband of Just Jumpin’ coach Patrice Winn.Audience members told Kevin they had been to University of Utah games for 20 years and had never been so impressed with a half time show. These kinds of reviews are no stranger to the team members, who perform at elementary schools and events across the state and are frequently asked to come back and perform again.
<strong>Jumps and twirls</strong>
Just Jumpin’ ropers are serious competitors, and you can see it in their faces full of concentration and determination. Their performances, choreographed rope routines set to upbeat music, display their speed and creativity.The team takes roping beyond the normal skip rope played on the blacktop of elementary schools. They learn long rope group routines and perfect skills such as single rope, double dutch rope and 2-person wheel rope – where two people jump together partially turning both ropes.Tricks are infused with gymnastics, such as back flips and hand stands, all perfectly timed and executed between the slaps of the rope hitting the gym floor.Learning tricks can take time. Team members spot each other as they first learn to do back flips on a gymnastics mat. Once the flip is learned, they start to learn how to time it out with a jump rope. After trying it time and time again, the roper is able to master the trick.Just Jumpin’, a nonprofit organization, was founded in 2003 and began competing at regionals in 2006. By 2007, the team started going to nationals, where many team members frequently place. Organized by River Heights Elementary physical education teacher and Just Jumpin’ coach Patrice Winn, the team is made up of 14 members of both genders and varying in age.
<strong>Body and Mind</strong>
Athletes competing in other sports often use jump roping as a way of conditioning and keeping in shape. Jump rope is often recommended because of its cardio-intense nature and relatively low impact on joints.While jump rope conditions the body physically, the kids on this Utah rope team are having so much fun they don’t realize they’re exercising, Kevin said.Besides being good muscular and cardiovascular exercise – jump roping 10 minutes is equivalent to running a mile – the sport has emotional and mental benefits, such as teaching self-discipline, determination, teamwork and leadership.The American Heart Association has even conducted research that shows jump roping can improve a student’s ability to learn in many ways. Increasing the heart rate gets blood to the brain and provides it with nutrients it needs. Jump roping can also improve reading skills. The rhythm of jumping rope simulates the basic rhythm patterns of language.Participating in Just Jumpin’ immerses the kids in healthy competition. Kevin said participants will often cheer on the other teams during regional and national competitions.”It kind of feels like a big family,” he said.
<strong>What I learn, I teach</strong>
Jumping gives kids a sense of achievement and self esteem. The kids teach each other tricks and help each other grow through constructive criticism.During workshops, team members teach tricks to peers who come after school to learn the rope. Team members act as leaders and mentors to those whose jump rope ability is below their own.”It’s a real reward for these kids to be an expert at something,” Kevin said.The mentoring doesn’t stop with workshops.At the end of team practice, team members perform the trick or routine they have been practicing in front of the rest of the team, who add praises and criticisms. This allows team members to use their own knowledge to teach, mentor and help build the other members of their team. This team work strengthens their relationships with each other, Kevin said.Jumping also teaches the kids self-discipline. While Patricia oversees practices, instructs team members what they need to work on and has a hand in the teaching process, she can’t always give each member one-on-one instruction. There are too many kids to make sure that they are always productive during individual practice time and it’s up to the kids to keep on top of their practices.
<strong>Becoming a team member</strong>
Being a member of the team is a serious time commitment. From driving across the state for performances, to practicing with the team and individually, to perfecting routines to be performed at regional and national competitions, team members spend a lot of time with their ropes and with each other.Workshops are held at 3:30 p.m. most Thursdays in the River Heights Elementary School gym and are open to kids of all ages, both male and female. This is where the kids begin learning the art of roping. As kids learn new tricks, they can pass them off to Patrice. Once they’ve passed off more than 40 tricks, the jumper is eligible to become part of the team.
<strong>The future of jump rope teams</strong>
Jump rope is a sport for the “nontraditional athlete,” Kevin said, and other schools have started to take notice of its appeal to students.The organization of Just Jumpin’ allows it to be copied by other teams, should other schools adopt similar programs. Kevin said Patrice has made proposals to the state of Utah to form other teams and is spreading the word of jump rope’s benefits.Already, Just Jumpin’ travels to other schools throughout the state to teach students. Team members volunteer to travel to Park City, for example, and pass on their jump rope knowledge to other students. While no official DVD exists, Kevin said Just Jumpin’ organizers – including coach Patrice and a board of directors – are considering creating an instructional DVD. This way students across the state can watch the DVD and learn the tricks, increasing their progress and making visits from Just Jumpin’ more productive.
Just Jumpin’ is holding a 3-hour workshop and extreme jump rope performance called the Jolt, and the community is invited to participate. The workshop for students begins 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 29, at the Smithfield Recreation Center. A $20 fee includes a new jump rope, hours of instruction and games and the opportunity to perform later that evening.A silent auction will begin at 6 p.m. at the Smithfield Recreation Center. Following the auction, the performance starts at 7 p.m., costs $5 per person or $20 per family and includes performances by workshop attendees, Just Jumpin’ team members and USA Jump Rope All Stars.Forms for registration can be found on Just Jumpin’s website, justjumpin.org.