Music was thumping and ropes were whizzing across the gymnasium of Public School 75 Emily Dickinson on Friday morning, where champion double dutch jump-rope teams from Japan performed to honor the school’s latest health and exercise initiatives.
The school, which is the first in New York City to win a Healthier US Bronze Award from the White House and is participating in the Department of Education and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Move to Improve fitness program, enjoyed a preview of this Sunday’s 20th annual International Double Dutch Holiday Classic at the Apollo Theatre, where the Japanese teams will compete.
Students erupted in cheers and bursts of applause as the jump-ropers flipped and skipped, and then stood up to join the teams for some exercise of their own.
“I just love jump-roping,” said Jedean Messias, a 7-year-old 3rd grader who had just taken her turn between the ropes. “I’ve been doing this since I was 5, but they -- did you see those tricks? -- they’re really good.”
Jedean also said that her teachers have been trying to explain how to exercise more and eat healthier, and that she hopes she’ll be able to jump rope more in gym class, which all of the nearly 700 kindergarten to fifth grade students at P.S. 75 attend twice a week.
Khary Ethridge, a community associate at P.S. 75, said the school, which is on West End Avenue between 95h and 96th Streets, is lucky to have two gym classes for every student. “It’s very rare," he said. "We try to encourage exercise whenever we can, and make sure the kids are active during recess. So we don’t allow them toys, like this new craze, Beyblades.”
Mr. Ethridge displayed a Beyblade toy -- a spinning top game that features popular anime characters -- that his colleague had collected from a student earlier that day. “We confiscate those, to make sure the kids aren’t just sitting and playing in the middle of the yard. It makes them run around more.”
Double dutch jump-roping is an especially fun, low-cost way of encouraging the kids to exercise, said Lauren Walker, the president of the non-profit National Double Dutch League, and whose father, David A. Walker, founded the league in New York in 1974.
“All you need to do double dutch are two turners, one jumper, and a rope. You can do it in a schoolyard, a dance room, wherever. It’s a street sport. It began in urban communities in New York City, and it helps build communities today,” she said.
Lyn Belvedere, the school’s physical education teacher, agrees.
“In Manhattan, lack of space for kids to play is a real issue, and our students are from a certain socioeconomic status where they may not be able to afford a bicycle or piece of equipment, so jump-roping is perfect for them,” she said.
Double dutch is now recognized as an official varsity sport by the Public School Athletic League in New York City, said Brenda Beltram, a spokesperson for the American Dairy Association which is sponsoring Sunday’s double dutch competition and donating jump roping equipment to P.S. 75.
As the Holiday Classic double dutch competition shows, jump-roping has also encouraged exercise for youth around the world. Of the three Japanese teams who performed at P.S. 75 on Friday, two were comprised of co-ed university students, and one was an all-female team of junior high school students.
A team from the Nippon Television Network in Japan accompanied the junior high school team to produce a report on the girls and their performance in Sunday’s competition. As one female Japanese TV anchor pointed out, “They are an inspiration for Japanese youth, who are so addicted to video games and media, and this shows another way of life, that can motivate our youth to become more active as well.”