COLUMBIA — Chelsey Ward was the only one on the team in the room, but that did not stop her. It's summer, but she still disciplines herself to practice.
Chelsey and her coach, Ella Garrett, put down mats and started their warm-up exercises. They did a few sets of ab exercises and then worked with weights. Even when her teammates are not there, Chelsey always is — making her the perfect choice for captain of the Boone County Hoppers Double Dutch and Jump Rope Team.
The Columbia Parks and Recreation Department started the jump rope team a few years ago. Boys and girls ages 8 to 18 can join the team at no cost. During the school year, the team has anywhere from six to 14 members at practice.
The team practices year round and has performed at events and for different groups in the area. They performed for a company in Sedalia, at parades and at mid-Missouri fairs such as Juneteenth.
"We perform at different places so people can watch and see what we do," Chelsey said.
Chelsey, a 13-year-old from Hallsville, started jump roping two years ago when she joined the team. She was upstairs at the Armory Sports and Recreation Center, where the team practices, when she was told to go downstairs and to check out the double dutch practice. Since that first day, she has showed up for every practice. Garrett took note, and decided she should be captain.
Chelsey was not always so easy to work with. She started out with attitude, cellphone in hand and with no experience, but she has changed and has even started teaching the group.
"She was dedicated, she evolved and learned," Garrett said. "She is completely different from when she first started, and that's what a captain does."
"I haven't seen attitude for months," Garrett said laughing.
Even though she has been jumping for only two years, Chelsey now teaches her teammates the different tricks that she has learned. She now knows how to do fancy footwork, jump while the rope holders turn in a complete circle, and how to jump into and out of the two ropes during double dutch.
Having an extra rope is the difference between regular jump roping and double dutch. Two people rotate two ropes in an inward motion while a third person jumps both ropes doing tricks.
Chelsey meets to practice double dutch every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. During the summer months, team participation is low with school being out. She comes to improve, to have fun and to make sure she exercises with or without her teammates.
"If I don't do it, I don't get exercise I need," she said.
Garrett looks for competitors when jumpers join the team, and that is what Chelsey is.
They have yet to compete, however. When they reach the competitive level, they will have the opportunity to travel to St. Louis and Jefferson City. The teams are judged based on tricks, speed and how long they last without messing up. Both individuals and groups can compete.
Consistency is what the team needs to begin competing. A lot of new kids come, learn how to double dutch and then quit coming, Chelsey said.
But Chelsey keeps coming to practice, and she continues to work hard. Garrett believes she has potential to be successful on an individual level as well.
"I think if we can get her to that point (of competing), she has the potential to be number one," Garrett said.
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