A new club is intended to get kids jumping off the couch and into the ropes.
Anthonette Blake-Gonzalez, originally from south Florida, has been jumping rope competitively for 16 years. The 32-year-old posted a fifth-place finish one year in the world double Dutch title competition.
She also coached a team called The Troopers, which consistently won the Florida state championship.
But when she moved to Charlotte about two years ago, Blake-Gonzalez was surprised that the sport of jumping rope had very little support. So she started a team here: J.U.M.P. X-treme.
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Blake-Gonzalez started her first classes at the Jewish Community Center off Providence Road in south Charlotte. Her sister, Dominique Artis, 19, helps out.
The sport of jumping rope involves a complex series of tricks, acrobatics and choreography.
In a jump rope competition, students may compete in single-rope competitions or in double Dutch. In single ropes, each student has his or her own jump rope and does tricks within that rope. If performing a group routine, students may move around each other within their own ropes, forming patterns or choreography.
During freestyle routines, jumpers have a set time limit to demonstrate certain skills, like footwork and rope manipulations.
In double Dutch competition, two longer ropes are held at the ends by two team members. Other competitors jump into the swinging double ropes and perform tricks together or individually.
Austin Bessire, a 10-year-old student at United Faith Christian Academy, has been in the J.U.M.P. X-treme program since its inception.
"He really likes it," said his father, Jason Bessire. "He practices all the time at home. There is a lot of room for boys to excel, and I keep telling Austin that if he perfects this, he can really do something with it in college or later on."
Brooke Feinglass, a 13-year-old Alexander Graham Middle student, moved to Charlotte from Miami in third grade. Before moving, she was an advanced jump-roper on a Miami team, but it wasn't until three months ago that she learned about J.U.M.P. X-treme and resumed the sport.
To watch Brooke, one would think she has not missed a day of training. She cartwheels and front-handsprings through the double Dutch ropes effortlessly.
"I competed in the Junior Olympics before, but I haven't done it in the longest time, so it's kind of interesting," said Brooke. "I really love it.
"I want to get to that point where I was and be able to feel comfortable with tricks, and eventually compete again."
Blake-Gonzalez, who works full-time and teaches jump rope on the side, said she soon will start a new class for under-privileged children at the Naomi Drenan Recreation Center, off Wendover Road.
The classes, which will be Thursday evenings, will begin Jan. 5 and are open to children on free or reduced-price lunches.
Students will be accepted on a first-come-first-served basis and meet once per week for 20 consecutive weeks at the Naomi Drenan center. At the end of the season, students will showcase their skills to family and friends.
"I think it's a great sport, because what I've found is that not every child is the typical basketball or football player, but they still need an outlet," Blake-Gonzalez said.
"When you show them the different things they can do with a jump rope, they get excited.
"You can also burn more calories than many other sports, and the kids love the tricks."
Coach Toni, as the kids call Blake-Gonzalez, works hard to use interesting props in the routines, like a jump ball or a pogo stick. "You name it, we've done it," she said.
If the J.U.M.P. X-treme students are ready, they will compete in a preliminary competition in March. From there, they could go to the World Competition, held in South Carolina in June.
As her program grows, Blake-Gonzalez said, she hopes to coach a high school-age team that would be eligible for scholarships in the World Jump Rope Competition.