Jumping for Joy

Toronto Star - Brand New Planet - Thursday, February 15, 2007

Have you ever been challenged and had fun at the same time? Well, I have. I am a skipper with the Brampton Acro Ropers and every time I pick up my jump rope I am eager to tackle difficult skills. Skipping is a very unique sport because there are both team, and individual events. My skipping club in Brampton has athletes from the ages of 7 to 15, divided into teams of four or five by age. Even though I am only 11, I skip in the 12-14 age category. Skipping is for both boys and girls, but so far our team only consists of girls. I have been skipping for four years. My friend Emily introduced me to skipping and I joined my first competitive team when I was 7. I love to skip! You make a lot of friends while skipping. I have not only become close friends with my five-person team - Olivia, Jenna, Stephanie and Emily - but I also have developed a strong bond with the other jumpers.

You have to be very committed to be a skipper. The Brampton Acro Ropers have three practices a week; each practice is two hours. It is important to be at practices because your team is counting on you, you have individual events to prepare, and coaches are there to assist you. I also have a private two-hour skipping lesson every week and you have to train at home. In the weeks leading up to a competition, you often practice at least 12 hours a week. It is important to do strength training and improve your flexibility. Equipment involved in jumping includes shoes that are light and have good support, and several ropes. We use a wire rope, sometimes coated in plastic, for speed and power, but if you make a mistake the rope leaves slash marks on your legs. It hurts! There is also a freestyle rope which is longer, so that you can do intricate trick combinations. Double dutch ropes are used for the team events; if you watch the movie Jump In!, the actors use double dutch ropes to perform their routines. You really only need four ropes, but I have 12 ropes. The Brampton Acro Ropers wear two different uniforms for competitions. For our team events, we usually wear a black shirt with red shorts (in the photos), and for Masters we usually wear a white shirt with black shorts. However, at practices, we get to wear regular T-shirts and shorts. At competitions, there are four individual and eight team events. The individual events are SPEED where you go as fast as you can for 30 seconds, and only the right foot gets counted. Another speed event is three minute ENDURANCE. I also do POWER in which I jump as many triple unders as I can. A triple under occurs when the rope goes under your feet three times in one jump. Masters freestyle is a routine you perform alone to music and is judged based on its difficulty and creativity. Likewise, in team, there are both four-person and pairs single-rope freestyle routines in which it is important that all the jumpers are in sync. My friend Emily is my pairs partner. We work well together and last year we won first place for our pairs routine at provincials. There are three main competitions a year, and biannually a Worlds competition is held. The first competition, regionals, is one day. Each athlete competes in 12 events so it's a long, exhausting day. Next is the two-day provincial competition; if you rank in the Top 8, you will compete in Nationals. Nationals is three days long and the best skippers from the nation compete. The Worlds competition was held in Toronto last year which was cool. I was too young to compete, but I volunteered there so I saw most of the performances. That was truly amazing and inspiring! My team got to skip during the intermission of the World Cup show, in front of 1,350 people. There are lots of benefits you get from skipping. For example, my team, the Acro Ropers, does shows at the Rogers Centre and then we get free tickets to attend the Argonauts' football game. We get to travel a lot. We went to Ohio for a workshop to learn skills from worldclass athletes. Also, some girls from our team were in the movie Jump In! Even though skipping keeps you active and physically fit, the best part is being challenged while you are having a blast!