Jumping rope brings joy, teaches competition, improves health

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Now that school has started, we can look forward to passing by schools and seeing children playing on the playground, yelling and squealing and running around as children love to do.

Do you remember all those times we played jump rope on the school playground, especially in the fall and spring when the weather was cooperative? Jumping rope was alive and well in those days, just as it is today in some places.

Playground jump rope requires children to become experts at maneuvering around the ropes, while others turn the ropes round and round at a regular rhythm. The idea is not to get caught by contact with the rope and lose your turn. Those who jump and those who turn the rope have to work together to make the game progress smoothly.

Part of the jump rope game is learning a variety of songs or chants to keep the rhythm going smoothly.

Maybe some of you remember Miss Mary Mack; Ladybug, Ladybug; Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater; Double Dutch; Cinderella All in Yella and many more songs from jump rope yore.

Jumping rope has always been a full-body workout for children, as well as for adults who use it in their exercise routine. Heart health, strength, coordination, endurance and healthy blood pressure are benefits, whether you jump alone with a short rope or participate in group activity with one or more long ropes. Boxers are famous for jumping rope as part of their workout.

When children play at jumping rope, they have to make decisions as to who will turn the rope and who will jump, what games to play and when it is time to switch roles. They have to raise their voices in song and chants and cooperate with each other to make the play meaningful and joyous.

Jumpers have their work cut out for them; so do the rope-turners. Some games require the rope-turners to use their best coordination to turn two ropes at the time, keeping the rhythm steady so that jumpers do not get off the track and get tangled up in the rope.

One jump rope game requires those who turn the rope to swing it back and forth without letting it make a full circle. Players call this game Rock the Baby or Rock the Boat, and this style of jumping requires a different rhythm to keep the jumping going.

According to some sources, jumping or “skipping” rope as some call it has been around for over four centuries, having its origins in China or Egypt. The game has spread throughout the world and has evolved over time.

Big-time jump rope competitions are popular in some parts of the U.S. Some schools still have jump rope games as part of recess or physical education classes, while others might have replaced them with other physical activities.

Watching jumpers show off their amazing skills is exciting to some people who remember their own school days as children went at rope jumping with sheer joy and energy and with a spirit of clean competition and cooperation.

Jumping rope was popular with girls in the past, and they found it hard to end the game on the playground, wind up the rope and follow the teacher back to the classroom. Each game left participants with more refined jumping and turning skills, a healthier body and the assurance that there would be many other chances to jump, turn the rope, sing, chant, compete, wait for a turn and have fun with classmates.

One of the best things about jump rope games is its low cost. Necessities for fine jump rope games are a few ropes, open space on bare ground or pavement or a gym floor, energetic players, a good supply of songs and chants, rules for jumping and a willingness to get out and jump with excitement.

What a joy it is to walk or ride by a school and see children jumping rope, hear their excited voices as they sing and chant and remember jumping on the school playgrounds of the past.

If you want to see some fine, modern-day rope-jumping, check it out on YouTube and see if you remember your own rope-jumping days of the past.

Sanda Baucom Hight is retired from Wilson County Schools after serving as an English teacher and is currently a substitute teacher in Wilson County. Her column focuses on the charms of home, school and country life.