Yoplait, Vita Coca Jump Rope Open Championships
On Saturday 21st November, 2015, students from the Diamond Vale Government Primary School jumped, hopped and skipped their way to victory winning the grand prize of five thousand dollars and a challenge trophy in the Yoplait, Vita Coca Jump Rope Open Championships themed “Fix it with Tricks”. A total of twenty schools participated in this event hosted by the Trinidad and Tobago Jump Rope Federation at the Jean Pierre Complex, Port of Spain. The students competed in categories which included the Chinese Wheel, Alternative Speed, Girls’ Crosses, Double Under, Single Bounce Speed, One Foot Speed, Freestyle and the Pioneer Division which featured the Double Bounce Speed. From this event, which was also the first National Championship in Trinidad and Tobago, a team will be selected and prepared to represent Trinidad and Tobago in the Pan American Games in Orlando, Florida and World Jump Rope Championships in Portugal and Sweden next year. Among those present for this event was the Honourable Minister of Sport & Youth Affairs, Darryl Smith.
Jumping or skipping rope is a form of recreation for children that dates back centuries. It was not until the 1950s and 1960s that this ancient activity emerged a popular art form that is now internationally recognized as a sport. In spite of its many physical, mental and social benefits, the rising popularity of jump rope as a sport whether competitive or non-competitive, still remains a gradual process the world over. In spite of this, the Trinidad and Tobago Jump Rope Federation formerly the T&T Rope Blingerz, has managed to gain international recognition. This non-profit organization was formed in 2004 and has its head office in Laventille.
Presently, the Trinidad and Tobago Jump Rope Federation consists of twelve board members including the President of the organization Clint Charles and Vice President Mahalia Duncan-Regis who also serve as official head coaches. The organization recently embarked on a programme with the New Butler School to train the students to become coaches themselves. Every year, they will have coaches coming out of that institution to be sent to different schools to impart their training. Duncan-Regis explained:
“It was Clint Charles who started this organization. It started from the lower Government Primary School [in] Morvant. Mr. Clint Charles is a school teacher there… that is the original base. He went to a workshop many years ago and his kids were very excited about it. Eventually, he said his kids asked, “What’s next sir?” because they were just jumping. So he researched it and we went to Tortola. We did a workshop in Tortola and then we heard we got invited to the World Jump Rope Championship in South Africa. We were just a club then. We fund raised and we went to South Africa.”
In July 2008, the club attended its first World Jump Rope Championship in Cape Town, South Africa making Trinidad and Tobago the first CARICOM country to have participated in such an event. Further Championship appearances followed in 2010 in Loughborough, England; in 2012 Tampa, Florida; and in 2013 Orlando, Florida. The organization obtained its legal status and incorporation in May, 2012, but it was not until November 2014, that the Trinidad and Tobago Jump Rope federation was recognized as the National Governing Body for the Sport of Jump Rope.
The organization is involved in a series of programmes in different schools throughout Trinidad and Tobago including schools for children with special needs.
According to Duncan-Regis, some of the parents in the past were not very supportive but with their new system which has been in place for the past two years, things have turned around. Many of them are now working in the best interest of the organization and everyone else involved. Duncan-Regis remarked:
“I must applaud my parents because when we have a fund raising event, our parents are out in their numbers. We have parents who are in the tuck shop making sure the tuck shop is organized and we have parents who are making sure everything is organized at every event we have. We had our cake sale and our parents made sure that all the cakes were home-made… .Our parents are very supportive. We ask and we invite parents to come and jump rope with us so they can be part of us. Most of our parents are also athletes with the Jump Rope Federation.”
Duncan-Regis also discussed the children’s training, school work and diet:
“They jump rope three days a week for two and a half hours a day and they still incorporate their school work. If sometimes the kids are having problems with their school work, when they start to do the jump rope programme, it helps. I would say ninety-five percent of our kids are ‘A’ students, so that tells you that jump rope is doing something for them. The first boy who ever jumped rope with us, Janaazie Coppin, won a scholarship to study law in London. We have kids in the top one hundred in SEA Exams and we have kids who are going to top schools in Trinidad, and they are with us for years.”
“We encourage drinking a lot of water and we have stopped the kids from drinking soft drinks, no corn curls and those kinds of snacks. Our sport is ninety percent discipline and ten percent jumping. We take our kids for blood tests, we check their blood sugar level and we work with kids who are obese. Sometimes you may have a child who might be a little bit obese, you can bring that child to us so we could work on the child and his/her weight, because sometimes just trying to change the child’s diet alone doesn’t work.”
One of the major challenges the federation has experienced thus far is funding according to Duncan-Regis. Presently, their sponsors are Yoplait, Vita Coco along with major sponsor, the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs. However, in spite of the support from their sponsors, funding still remains a big challenge. In seeking alternative ways to raise awareness of Jump Rope as an upcoming sport in Trinidad and Tobago, they showcase their skills at various cultural and sport events. They also host a series of fundraising ventures. Also, despite the success of having over three thousand school children being part of the Jump Rope Federation, one of the major things Duncan-Regis continues to hope for is that more schools and teachers get involved.
During sports minister Smith’s visit at the event, he expressed:
“First of all, as I said from day one and the party under the People’s National Movement, we want to collaborate [with] as many sports as possible. Not everybody could play the more popular sports, the cricket, the football and so on, so I’ve been making an effort to attend these events. I am really amazed to see so many participants, so many parents, so many kids… even adults, secondary schools and primary schools. My schools are here: Fatima College and St. Mary’s College. I went to both schools and I was really shocked to see that. I think they are doing a fantastic job and the Ministry will assist them as much as we possibly can.”
Smith’s seven-year-old son who accompanied his father also shared his own thoughts about the sport: “I think it’s a very good way to get energised and in the mood to play more sports. I wish I could join too but I think I am not a good jump roper now. So I will try practicing more at my house and I will do better.”
The event which was well-attended and by all reports a success, ended with the distributions of medals and trophies with Diamond Vale Government Primary School coming in first place, Bryn Mawr Primary Private School coming in second place and the Boissiere Village R.C. Primary School coming in third place.
Yoplait, Vita Coca Jump Rope Open Championships 2015 in pictures: