Locals leap into jump roping

Locals leap into jump roping

A jump roper from USA Jump Rope demonstrates the sport. (Photo courtesy of Robert Scott and USA Jump Rope.)

CUMBERLAND – For many families, competitive sports take up much of the family time but can bring children and their parents closer together. While many youngsters stay active with popular sports such as baseball, soccer or football, the Parmentier family of Cumberland is heavily involved with a sport that’s not quite as familiar: competitive jump roping.

“It’s a cool way to get the kids to do exercise,” said Bill Parmentier.

As with other sports, competitive jump roping is organized with scheduled practices, matches, tournaments, and regional and national competitions. The season runs with the school year, ending with nationals in June.

The Parmentiers’ twin daughters, Rachel and Emily, age 13, have been participating in the sport for five years. Gail and Bill Parmentier have both been coaching their children’s teams since 2015 and 2016, respectively.

They say they really appreciate how the sport helps their homeschooled children stay active and socialize while taking part in a sport that they love.

“The cool part about (the sport) is getting to see them learning new tricks and seeing the looks on their faces when they do land something new,” Bill Parmentier said.

The family belongs to USA Jump Rope’s Region 10, which is exclusively for New England. They are part of the “Pride USA” team based at Lincoln High School and travel across New England for regular competitions.

USA Jump Rope was first founded in 1995 and based in Huntsville, Texas. The organization has since expanded the sport into multiple states across the nation, such as North Carolina, Kentucky and Alaska.

Speed and freestyle

The sport’s main events are divided into speed and freestyle groups. Both events can be done with a single rope individually or double dutch, involving multiple teammates. The events are separated by gender and age groups. Jumpers range in age from 5 to 50 years old, and some have started with a gymnastics background before transitioning into competitive jump roping.

In the speed category, participants jump rope for 30 seconds, 1 minute or 3 minutes and are scored by how many times their right foot touches the ground in a certain time period.

The three judges each count the number of steps and those figures are then averaged into a total score. There are also relay events where a certain number of seconds jumping is split into teams of three or four, or teammates switch between jumping and turning the rope for double dutch.

In the freestyle category, jumpers must perform a number of acrobatic tricks and poses to earn points and are allowed a maximum time of 1 minute and 15 seconds to jump rope. This style includes a unique pairs event, where two jumpers demonstrate the same routine at the same time.

The tricks are separated by five levels and increase in difficulty with each level. The higher difficulty the trick, the more points jumpers have the potential to earn. The participants teach themselves to do the tricks, as the coaches primarily train their athletes in timing and precision in both jumping and swinging the rope.

The Parmentier family first discovered the sport from friends at their local church. Once the former coaches of the team, Tracey Smith and Kelly Labossiere, were ready to retire in 2015, the team was almost disbanded due to a lack of coaching interest. Gail Parmentier stepped up to take over after watching her children at every practice and competition. Bill decided to step in shortly after Gail tore her ACL at a trampoline park.

From jumper to coach

Briana Malbeouf, of Lincoln, is a coach for the High Altitude team located in Upton, Mass., and has jumped since she was 5 years old. She was a jumper for the former Lincoln Lions and Pride teams until she developed tendinitis at age 9 and was forced to take a break for a couple years.

Malbeouf was inspired to coach after her Lions team disbanded.

“I knew how it felt when my dad stopped coaching,” Malbeouf said. “I didn’t want the same thing happening to those kids.”

Malbeouf, 25, and her team recently returned from the nationals competition at Disney World in Florida.

This is High Altitude’s second appearance at nationals. The majority of the team members are first-time jumpers who qualified to compete and all placed during the competition.

“It makes me proud,” Malbeouf said. “It’s nice to make the kids happy because they are working hard and it shows on the competition floor.”

Bill Parmentier also keeps fun in mind when he’s coaching.

“For the last year or two, we really concentrated on making sure this is fun for the kids,” he said. “There are some teams that are truly competitive teams … with us, it doesn’t matter what skill level or anything like that; we accept any child that wants to try and do it. We gave up a little bit of that competitive side in order to do that.”

Growing in popularity

Competitive jump roping is not yet fully recognized as other sports are, but it is slowly becoming more popular across North America. USA Jump Rope has an All-Star team that has participated in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for the last few years. There is also currently a push to bring the sport into the Olympics.

Malbeouf and her team at the time were invited to perform on an episode of “MTV’s Made” in 2006. Malbeouf also singles out the 2007 Disney Channel Original Movie “Jump In!” for bringing popularity to the sport.

Competitive jump rope “is out there more than when I was a kid,” Malbeouf said. “The sport has grown tremendously.”

Visit www.usajumprope.org for more.

The Pride team in front of ESPN’s Wide World of Indoor Sports statue in Florida during Nationals in 2015.
Emily Parmentier, 13, of Cumberland, performs freestyle tricks in a jump rope competition.