Oakland, once a hub for Double-Dutch jump rope competitions, is now staging a revival of the sport as its mission is to help inner city children fight obesity.
“We used to have competitions back in 1998, 1999,” said Andriana Mitchell, a girls’ Double-Dutch coach who has been teaching the sport since 2000. “We had a lot of support from parents and the community.”
“I love working with kids. It’s my passion,” Mitchell added. “I’m trying to bring Double-Dutch back to Oakland, to the community while promoting health and fitness.”
Girls between the ages of five and 14 will have more opportunities to learn the lighting-fast, rhythmic sport of Double-Dutch this year at recreation centers in Oakland.
“We don’t have a lot of girls with competition experience, so we are working towards getting teams,” OPR Sports Coordinator Lovella Sein-Colon or “Coach Love” as kids in Oakland call her, said. “We have a lot of girls interested and plan to have many more training clinics this year.”
The Ira Jinkins Recreation Center, at 9175 Edes Ave., is one of several Oakland sites, including the Redwood Heights and Rainbow Recreation Centers, where the sport of Double-Dutch will be reinvigorated. Even though hosting competition events is still in the planning process, “Coach Love” said that Double-Dutch girls could get fit and have fun in the meantime.
“Fitness is important and we just want to spread that throughout the communities in Oakland,” she said. “We want to raise more awareness.”
Double-Dutch is a sport involving three participants, where one person performs a variety of jumps while two other people turn one or two ropes in opposite directions. Usually, the two people circling the ropes sing songs or recite nursery rhymes.
Often viewed as being a game played in inner cities by children, Double-Dutch has progressed into global competitions with uniformed teams, judges and awards.
On Saturday afternoon, as a part of the city of Oakland’s citywide Girls Sports program, a bubbly and energetic group of about 10 girls participated in a Free-Style Double-Dutch Jump Off training session inside a gymnasium at the Ira Jinkins Recreation Center in East Oakland. Although this event was originally envisioned as a competition with a $20 fee, the staff at the Oakland Department of Parks and Recreation (OPR) decided to offer the training for free.
“Double-Dutch is a good sport because we all need to exercise and it helps our bodies,” said 10-year-old Daysah Carter. “It helps with concentrating and just feeling better.”
The intricate jumps that the girls practiced at the Double-Dutch Jump Off event included turnabouts, freestyle jumps, and paired jumps. Parents and OPR staff cheered and clapped, while smiling participants took a bow after finishing their jumps.
“I like jumping in, just jumping while the ropes turn real fast,” Carter said. “The Double-Dutch turnabout is the hardest jump to make because you have to move while your jumping.”
Sounds of yellow ropes tapping the sneaker-marked hardwood gym floor accompanied contemporary Hip-Hop and Pop songs blasting from a small black boom box as Carter and the rest of the girls, counted up to two, before making their calculated jumps.
“The hardest part of doing Double-Dutch is trying to jump in,” said nine-year-old Regina Wilson. “When you are jumping in, you kind of get scared that the ropes are going to hit you.”
At the end of the training session, Mitchell awarded the girls with a certificate and led them in a simple, prepared and spirited phrase of “I will learn how to Double-Dutch from my heart and for my health.”
“Today was more of a learning experience than a competition.” Mitchell said. “These kids are dedicated and did pretty good for their first time doing Double-Dutch.”