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Youth Sports Profile: Kids Jump Rope

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Remember jumping rope on the playground when you were a kid? Today, kids' jump rope has been amped way up, with the addition of music, tricks and skills, and competitive events. It's easy for kids to learn but really impressive to watch, and provides a great workout too.

The basics: Jump ropers learn three basic steps: the two foot bounce (both feet jump over the rope together), the one foot bounce (repeated jumps on one foot, then the other), and the alternating foot or "boxers step" (running in place while stepping over the rope).

In competition and performance, kids' jump rope teams participate in both freestyle and speed events. In freestyle routines, jumpers demonstrate a combination of skills and tricks, often choreographed to music. These can be performed solo or in groups. In speed events, athletes try to complete a certain number of successful jumps within a given time limit. In double dutch, athletes jump over/under two long ropes turned simultaneously by their teammates.

USA Jump Rope and the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) both host jump rope competitions and events. There are some differences in their events and rules.

Age kids can start: At about 5 or 6, kids can enroll in intro classes or beginner teams.

Skills needed/used: Cardiorespiratory endurance, coordination, teamwork.

Best for kids who are: Fun-loving and energetic, but patient enough to work on skills and build endurance.

Season/when played: Year-round (mostly during the school year, but with camps and other events during the summer).

Team or individual? Both. Kids can compete in individual events and earn points for a team, or perform group routines including freestyle and double dutch.

Levels: In competition, individuals and teams are grouped by age, from under 8 through college. Some events are open to adults too. In the world championships, the age categories are 12-14, 15-17, and 18 and up.

Appropriate for kids with special needs: Possibly, depending on the child's challenges. A child who can't jump could still be included on a team if she could turn a rope, for example. Check with your child's teachers or physical therapists about programs, or look for a mainstream program and work with the coach to include your child.

Fitness factor: High. Fast-paced jump roping can burn hundreds of calories per hour!

Equipment: Athletes will need a jump rope or ropes, depending on events; athletic shoes; and a team uniform.

Costs: Team fees start at about $400 per season, which may last for several months or an entire academic year. Classes or recreational club workshops range from $5 to $20 an hour.

Time commitment required: For elementary-school aged kids in classes or rec leagues, expect to meet about once a week for one to two hours and perform a few times a year. Kids on competitive teams will practice more often, 5-10 hours a week, and compete and perform more often too.

Potential for injury: Low, although no activity or sport is risk-free. Jumping on a wood floor with some spring is easier on joints than concrete, asphalt, or dirt surfaces.

How to find kids' jump rope clubs and teams:

Associations and governing bodies:

If your child likes jump rope, also try: Gymnastics; dance or cheerleading; track and field.

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