RIVER HEIGHTS, Utah (ABC4) – Many children and teens will participate in a sport such as soccer, basketball, or dance at some point. Other sports are less common and not always readily available to learn.
When Kathryn Ozmun was 10 years old in fifth grade, she asked her P.E. teacher, Patrice Winn, if they could start a jump rope team.
And that was the beginning of Just Jumpin’, a competitive youth jump rope team based out of River Heights, Utah.
“One thing led to another, and it’s just kept going and going,” Winn, the Team’s head coach, says. “There’s been a lot of teams that have just died. I don’t know what it is about this team, but it’s been amazing.”
After coming up with the idea, Ozmun jumped on the team for 10 years and has coached for five. She is now Assistant Coach alongside Winn.
“That’s what I mean by I couldn’t let it go,” she tells ABC4. “I really just can’t get away from it.”
Winn taught the jumpers on the early team basic jump rope skills herself. When she’d taught the jumpers everything she knew, she invited jumpers from a team in Idaho to help instruct.
“It was so hard at the beginning because we didn’t know what we were doing. We could barely do double dutch,” Winn laughs.
Nowadays, the team has progressed from its humble beginnings. With 24 members, it is nationally ranked and this year, had three of its jumpers qualify for the U.S. National Team.
Team members currently range in age from seven to 17 years old. There is a Junior Team for kids starting out and a regular team for those with a higher skill level. Just Jumpin’ is currently the only teaching, performing, and competing jump rope team in Utah, according to Winn.
The team has competed on a regional and national level. Prior to the pandemic, the team would do over 40 performances within nine months, entertaining at major halftime performances at the University of Utah, Weber State University, BYU, and Utah State University.
And though many associate the sport with rhymes on the playground, it is not all fun and games. Members of the Just Jumpin’ team practice about three times a week during the school year for a few hours after school. The off-season is June, July, and August.
The team, which is sponsored by Intermountain Healthcare, also performs at school assemblies to encourage kids to be active.
“And the kids love us. After we have an assembly, they go out and jump, jump, jump, jump,” Winn says.
Just like Ozmun, many team members have a hard time letting go of the sport, Winn says.
“It’s a sport for all ages. Preschool kids are excited to jump. The parents are excited to jump. It kind of reaches a lot of people. And kids love to stay with it. All of our older kids have done it for at least eight years,” Ozmun says.
“It gets in your blood and you can’t get it out,” says Winn adds.
Ozmun says this may have to do with the fact that older, experienced team members have the chance to give back.
“Once you are older and you’re more experienced on the team, then you’re in charge of teaching the next group of kids and you’re in charge of running assembly and helping to get other people excited. So it’s a lot of give and take, which I think is unique where a lot of sports don’t have that age range where the 18-year-olds are jumping with the 10-year-olds,” she states.
How to join the team
According to Ozmun, the team hosts workshops every week for the community where attendees can learn new skills and work their way up.
“It’s for anybody to come and jump, and if they’re really interested and they want to stay and they want to try to become a team member or a junior team member, they keep coming to those classes,” she says.
Each week, students will learn new tricks associated with a certain level. Once they have mastered all of the tricks in a level, they can pass them off and graduate to the next level. There are about 25 tricks in the first and second level, and those who complete level two become Junior team members.
“We’re just there to have fun,” Ozmun says. People are welcome to come to the workshops as much or as little as they would like.
“But if you want to be on the team, then you keep working until you get there. Some people get it faster, and some people get it slower,” she states.
Previously, workshops were offered in Provo and Park City. Current workshops are held in Logan.
At workshops, kids will start out learning basic jump rope skills like single bounces and double bounces. The tricks get progressively more difficult with wrapping, where the rope wraps around your body. Eventually, they will learn strength skills, which involve gymnastics moves with the rope such as handstands or front handsprings.
Double Dutch is another skill participants learn, which involves two long ropes and three to five people jumping in the ropes, Ozmun explains.
Some of the skills are trickier for Ozmun and Winn to explain, such as the wheel, in which two people jump together with their ropes interlocked.
“There’s a lot of room for creativity and growth because it’s things that have never been done before and somebody will think of it and try it. It’s an innovative sport,” Ozmun says.
Every year the team attends a regional competition and a national competition. The regional event includes Idaho, Utah, and Montana.
“In a regular season, there are very few competitions, because it’s such a small sport,” Ozmun says. “At the regional competition, every kid comes home with an award. Everybody comes home happy at the regional level.”
And the team has had some victories at the national level too.
“We have kids that have come home with the Grand National title, so that means that in their age division and their group, they’ve taken first place in the U.S. So we have a handful of those so right now- two or three of our jumpers that have done that over the last few years,” Ozmun says.
This year, three of the team’s jumpers even qualified for the U.S. National Team.
“That’s something we tried for before but haven’t really been able to do, mostly because of travel. But because it’s been virtual, we’ve been able to participate this year, and three of our jumpers qualified so they’ll be competing with the US National Team virtually this summer.”
The U.S. National Team will compete at a world level this summer, according to Ozmun.
“It’s so fun to have something unique. I mean, most kids are doing after school activities and you can play soccer anywhere or basketball anywhere and that’s good that it’s available everywhere. It’s just been fun to specialize it (jump rope) somewhere,” she says.