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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Jump-roping catching on at area’s elementary schools

Cassidy Rutter had dabbled in jumping rope since kindergarten but was unable to polish her foot-and-arm pumping abilities. “I loved to jump-rope, but I could never find time to do it,” said the Broadway Elementary fifth-grader, who has been a member of the Broadway Stars Jump Rope Club for two years.

Although jump-rope clubs have existed at area elementary schools for several years, instructors say membership is growing.

Maybe it was the 2007 movie “Jump In,” about a young boy who joins a girls’ double Dutch team, or maybe it’s the revival of a years-old activity; school organizers aren’t sure. But classes that began with 15 to 20 kids have grown, at some schools up to 100.

Seven-time world champion jump-roper Peter Nestler performed Friday at Balboa Elementary in North Spokane to help that school’s jump-rope club keep up momentum.

He told the captivated grade-school audience that he started jump-roping in 1987, when he was in second grade. By the end of third grade, he was a world champion.

Practice and work hard, Nestler said, and “you can do anything you want.”

“That was cool,” said Jake Healy, a fourth-grader and a member of Balboa’s club. Healy says he likes to jump-rope because “it’s fun. … I mostly do it for my muscles and the activity.”

Debbie Wittwer, owner and operator of Deborah’s Jump Rope Academy, instructs nearly 100 kids at Healy’s school every Tuesday morning. She also teaches groups at Adams and Jefferson elementary schools and a group of home-schooled kids.

“Jump-rope fits for every child,” said Wittwer, a national champion. “I have taken nonathletes and made them into athletes.”

Katie Ferris, a health and fitness teacher at Broadway Elementary School in Central Valley School District, started the jump-rope club. The activity is not only good for the heart and lungs; it also helps improve bone density. And club membership is free.

“I saw a real need for it,” Ferris said. “Anyone can come starting in second grade. We do it before school three times per week.”

Her group, the Broadway Stars, performs at community events. The team will be at a University High School basketball game in January.

Since Rutter joined the club, she’s been able to improve her hang time enough to do the “double under” – when the rope passes underneath twice before the jumper lands.

While practicing at home, Rutter taught her 2-year-old black Lab to jump with her.

Camden Rowe, a third-grader, joined a few years ago. “You see, my sister had been doing it for many years, and I thought when I was old enough I’d try it out,” he said. “It seemed really fun to do.”

The 9-year-old’s favorite way to jump rope is the double Dutch, which is two jump ropes turning in opposite directions. On top of that, said Rowe, “I can do the can-can, where you step and kick while jumping.”