Once you have your Double Dutch turning down, it’s time to add a jumper. I do want to stress the importance of working on your turning first, if you can’t turn, nobody can jump. In fact, if you have 2 good turners, almost anyone can jump inside Double Dutch. Not too long ago I performed at a few different special needs schools in the Northeast. When I called up a couple volunteers during the show and said we were going to have them jump Double Dutch, I could see some of the workers grimace thinking there was no way their kids could do it. However, within a couple tries, we had every student able to jump and even a few of them doing some turns and basic footwork skills. Work on your turning!
There are 2 ways you can get a jumper into Double Dutch. Have them jump in from the outside or have them start in the middle. I will deal with starting in the middle in a moment, but let’s go over entering and exiting Double Dutch as this is the preferred way to get your jumper in.
The easiest place to enter the ropes is from the side of one of the turners. Most people will instinctively try to start right in the middle of the ropes, but trust me, it’s easier entering from the side. Have your jumper stand close enough to a turner that they can touch their shoulder with ease. When the rope that is closest to the jumper hits the ground, count: Ready, Set, Go. You can choose to make the count every time any rope hits the ground, or every time the rope closest to the jumper hits. The important thing is that the word ‘Go’ is said when the rope closest to the jumper is on the ground. As that rope lifts up past the jumper have them take one large step toward the middle of the ropes and then jump into the middle. It’s best to give the jumper a practice try or two before they enter the actual ropes, so hold the ropes apart and let them try a couple times to get the feel for what they’re supposed to do. If they consistently don’t jump far enough forward to be in the middle, you might want to pick a spot on the floor where the middle is easily identified by a line so they know just how far they need to go.
From a turning standpoint, you need to be aware that every jumper jumps at a different speed. I like to have them take a couple jumps outside the rope first so I know about how fast they will be jumping. When they get into the middle they may or may not actually jump that same speed, but at least it will give you an idea of what to expect. The first couple times you turn for a jumper, don’t be too timid about pulling the ropes under their feet. It’s easy to think that you’re going to pull their feet out from under them and knock them over. If you turn without any confidence it’s really easy to cause a jumper to miss because you’re not actually pulling the rope under their feet fast enough. However, sometimes you will catch them. If that happens, simply let your arm hang really loose or let go of that rope. Smaller kids can be knocked over by a rope and you can make matters worse if you hold on with a death grip. It doesn’t happen often, but it is something you should be aware of.
Exiting Double Dutch is very similar to entering. You want to end up going out next to a turner, we usually advise people to exit the opposite of where they entered. When they’re in the middle, count the rope on the side you want them to exit (when it hits the ground). Use the same count as when they entered: Ready, Set, Go. On ‘Go’ have them take one jump toward their exit point, then step out of the ropes close enough to the turner to touch their shoulder.
Have them practice entering and exiting the Double Dutch ropes quite a few times so the timing begins to stick. After they can get in and out with you counting, have them try counting the ropes by them self so they can do everything on their own. You’re now jumping Double Dutch!
If your jumper is brand new to Double Dutch and they have no confidence in what they’re about to do (ie a Kindergarten student), OR when they try to jump in they can’t seem to jump rhythmically, I would suggest having them start in the middle. Have them stand in the direct center between both turners, have one rope on each side of the jumper and have them start jumping up and down. If they are barely off the ground, encourage them to jump as high as they can and mimic what you’re looking for. Once they’re jumping, pick a rope to start with and hold the other rope out to the side. I usually have people stick their arm straight out to the side so that rope is completely out of the way. Swing your starting rope up and over the head of the jumper, as that rope is at the top of it’s swing, start turning the other rope up and over. Watch your jumpers feet and swing the rope underneath them. As they take their next jump, swing the other rope and keep turning so that they’re jumping inside the ropes. This does take a bit of practice to get the ropes going without slapping them together or smacking your jumper in the head so practice it a few times without your jumper first.
If you find that your jumper switches their jumping style once the ropes start turning, you may want to try a little trick…have them jump with their eyes closed. I’ve found that a lot of students try to help us with their jumping and actually make things harder by doing so. When their eyes are closed you eliminate this problem and it speeds the process of them jumping inside the ropes. Once the ropes are going, tell them to keep jumping high and open their eyes. This usually helps them to see that they don’t need to change anything in order to keep jumping Double Dutch. If they switch back into a double bounce, start over again with their eyes closed and try again. Once you’ve got your jumper starting good in the middle, eventually work on having them jump in from the outside just like before. I’ve found this helps build the little bit of confidence they need to get in on their own.
As with everything in jump rope, practice, practice, practice. Double Dutch is quite rewarding once you get it, but it does take some time to get it down. If reading about all this makes your head dizzy, watch the instructional videos in our Double Dutch section on beginner Double Dutch. Watching how it’s done can certainly make things easier.