Learning the ropes, in sync, brings new skills and joy to Yale jumpers
Like most of her Yale peers, Margaret Hankins ’24 lives a very busy life. With a major in molecular biophysics and biochemistry, she spends plenty of time hitting the books. When she’s not studying, you might find her researching the genetic sequencing of historical artifacts in the science laboratory of Yale’s Andrew Miranker, volunteering at the HAVEN Free Clinic, or teaching in the Peabody Museum’s EVOLUTIONS after-school program for New Haven high school students.
To relieve stress, and have fun while doing so, she jumps ropes.
That’s not a typo: Sometimes she jumps over, under, or in between more than one rope at a time as a member of Yale Club Jump Rope, one of about 50 club sports at Yale offered to undergraduate and graduate students through the Yale Athletics Department. Some are competitive; others less so. Yale Club Jump Rope, one of the newest groups in the Club Sports program, is mostly designed for learning new athletic skills and having fun, say the club’s co-captains, sophomores Crystal Liu and Benj Mousseau.
“I joined the club last fall because I wanted a silly, completely un-self-conscious way of exercising,” said Hankins. “I find team sports to be stressful because there’s a competitive aspect and a sense of letting down the team, whereas in jump rope I can focus on my personal growth and accomplishments while still having the support and fun that comes from being part of a team.”
Yale Club Jump Rope was founded in the fall of 2019 by Simone Koch Costa ’22, who jumped rope competitively at the national and international levels, including as part of a team in the 2018 U.S. Jump Rope National Championship and as a U.S. representative in the World Jump Rope Championship in Norway in 2019. When COVID-19 paused Yale sporting events, she led jump rope practices over Zoom.
However, most early members of the group, including Mousseau and Liu, were pretty new to the sport. Typically their experiences were limited to the kind of jumping rope kids learn in elementary school.
Today the group has about a dozen members, many of whom are just learning the ropes, so to speak.
Liu joined the club after her roommate invited her to an open practice in the fall of her first year. By the spring, she was jumping “Double Dutch” — that is, jumping over ropes that are turning in opposite directions simultaneously. She, Hankins, and Mousseau, also a relative newcomer to the sport, can now take part in such jump rope “tricks” (or skills) as the Chinese Wheel (where two jumpers both jump and turn ropes while exchanging handles), and the Egg Beater (where two long ropes are crossed in the shape of an X by four turners while two jumpers are jumping inside them), to name just a couple.
“Getting into the ropes [while they are turning] can be a challenge but it’s so exhilarating, especially when I’m doing Double Dutch,” says Hankins.
Anna Zhang ’24 joined Yale Club Jump Rope right before the pandemic, and learned some new skills from Costa over Zoom. She had met Costa in Club Gymnastics, another club sport, where she watched the older Yale student perform some tricks that involved both tumbling and jump rope. Zhang had never jumped rope before.
“Club Jump Rope is an amazing space for beginners,” said Zhang. “I instantly loved that it combined a high-cardio form of exercise with a really cool performing arts aspect.”
A computer science major and member of the dance groups Rhythmic Blue and Danceworks, Zhang discovered some similarities between jumping rope and dance.
“I love creating jump rope choreography, and being able to find cool tricks to do with music,” Zhang said. “My favorite song to jump to is ‘Just Dance’ by Lady Gaga, and my favorite skill is an EB into a one-handed cartwheel. [An EB, for the uninitiated — also known as a “front back cross” — is a move where a jumper with a single rope turns one hand across their front and one hand behind their back while swinging their bodies inside the rope.]
“Generally, though, I love learning and making new footwork tricks.”
While mastering these kinds of skills takes repeated practice, a jump rope rookie can see progress pretty quickly, according to Mousseau. He estimates that he has learned some 30 new tricks since joining the club last year. Members typically attend twice weekly, hourlong practices in the Payne Whitney Gym.
“You might think and feel like it’s a slow process, but all of a sudden you see things come together,” said Mousseau, an earth and planetary science major whose other extracurricular activities include intramural volleyball and singing in the a cappella group Out of the Blue.
Liu, who is majoring in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology, appreciates the performance aspect of jumping rope, especially with an audience.
“I don’t sing or dance or play any instrument, so this is my way of doing something I enjoy in front of spectators,” she said.
Yale Club Jump Rope held its debut in-person show last spring, an event called “Light Up the Night.” They used light-up jump ropes for the nighttime show on Beinecke Plaza, which was choreographed to music.
“Jump roping is very much an exercise in togetherness,” said Mousseau. “Any jump rope performance involves being closely in sync with those around you, and especially if you’re turning the ropes for someone else who’s jumping. You learn to be closely tuned to their needs and their perspective so you can best adjust what you’re doing to support them.
“I feel that is a skill that extends to many facets of life.”
To learn more about Yale Club Jump Rope, contact the club at email@example.com or the team captains at Benjamin.firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. To learn more about club sports at Yale, visit the Club Sports website.