Inside Events: USA Jump Rope
18 Oct, 2017By: Mary Helen Sprecher
An Interview with John Fletcher, Operations Manager
The United States Amateur Jump Rope Federation (USA Jump Rope or USAJR) was formed in 1995 as a result of the merger of two national jump rope organizations. USAJR is committed to the exchange and sharing of jump rope knowledge and experience. The organization offers a wide variety of information about jump rope to its members, coaches and physical educators through its books, video tapes, the Internet and other resources. USAJR also offers unique experiences and educational opportunities through its sanctioned jump rope workshops, camps, seminars and tournaments at the state, regional and national levels. It also offers an All-Star Team of athletes who perform nationally. Jump rope is contested in both individual and double dutch ropes, and in both speed and freestyle divisions, by both genders.
Sports Destination Management: Competitive jump rope is something a lot of people might not know about. What do you think are some of the misconceptions?
John Fletcher: The biggest is that it’s just for girls. It’s for everybody. People also think jumping rope is something that is just for the playground. A lot of people don’t know it’s a competitive sport.
SDM: Is it easy to change people’s minds?
Fletcher: From a marketing standpoint, yes, it’s easy. People know what a jump rope is. But you mention it as a competitive sport, and you get, “What?” I usually send them a link to one of our videos and they suddenly see how incredible it is.
SDM: USA Jump Rope is a national organization. Do you find there are areas where the sport is more concentrated than others?
Fletcher: We have teams based all over the USA; there isn’t any one spec concentrated area.
SDM: Is membership by team or by individual?
Fletcher: Membership can be individual or it can be by teams, which can have eight, 10, 12 or more kids. We have one team in North Carolina with over 70 people on it. There is a team of 100 in Alaska, at the North Pole, if you can believe it. Jump rope is really popular up there.
SDM: What types of competition does USA Jump Rope have?
Fletcher: Our Nationals are held annually in June/July. We sanction a series of tournaments across the United States which culminate at that national level. Competitions actually take place throughout the year at the state or regional level. Our website has a calendar of competitive events and camps around the U.S.
SDM: Where are Nationals held?
Fletcher: Well, for years, we had been holding them at Disney, but our membership let us know it was time to move, so next year, we’ll be at Wisconsin Dells. Since we announced that, we’ve had 4,700 views on social media and climbing – and it’s really been the talk of the jump rope community. I think it will be a good move. I’ve been in this position for 14 years and we haven’t had great membership in the Midwest. I’ve always said we needed to do something in that area to get interest, and I’m hoping this will be a step toward that. We’re actually expecting a surge next year because of the new location.
SDM: When you’re looking for a venue for a jump rope event, what are you looking for?
Fletcher: Typically, a convention center type setup. Depends on space and what is available. We really want enough room for the competition and for a separate practice space.
SDM: You moved to Wisconsin Dells because it was a better location, but what else goes into the decision?
Fletcher: Our athletes tend to travel with their families; they come in caravans to these tournaments. We want to find a spot that is vacation-worthy for them because once the competition is done, the family wants to take off and have fun. For many of them, it’s their summer vacation. A lot of people don’t know about the Dells yet so it will be fun for them to go there. What we like about Nationals is that we can introduce 2,000 to 3,000 people to a new area and that area is thrilled to have us.
SDM: Is it something that has its own gyms, the way gymnastics or all-star cheer programs have their own facilities?
Fletcher: Typically, a lot of teams are started in school systems and the schools are willing to work with teams and give them gym time. Some teams are privately funded with corporate sponsors and some are with churches, etc. It depends on your location. I would say the vast percentage are school-based. They are started by P.E. teachers who are looking for things for kids to do. The next thing you know, they have a team going and they’re looking at competing.
SDM: The advent of YouTube has given kids a way to see that?
Fletcher: Yes, we have our own YouTube channel, and that has a lot of highlights kids can use.
SDM: Do you see a lot of kids getting involved with competitive jump rope because other family members are active in it?
Fletcher: It’s definitely a family sport. There are jump rope dads and jump rope moms. USA Jump Rope has been around since 1995 and we had our first tournament in 1996. We see people from 10 and under to 50 and over, although most of our competitors are between 12 and 18. Some colleges will start teams because kids who have been doing it finish high school and want to start a team when they go away to their college.
The sport tends to grow new teams when kids who were really active in it get married and have their own kids. A lot of times, they’ll introduce the kids to the sport and they’ll start teams or take over teams. One of the things we love about this is how really how family oriented it is. It’s more than a sport to us; it’s kind of a way of life.
SDM: Do the athletes tend to be active in any other specific sports?
Fletcher: It’s a different breed of child that gets into this – they tend to excel as students and as athletes. A lot play rugby, track, tennis, soccer and other endurance sports. Jumping rope, especially like this, improves your endurance by great lengths and helps with your speed.
SDM: Is there an international jump rope governing body?
Fletcher: Yes, it’s the International Rope Skipping Federation. We compete with them every other year. The next competition is going to be in Shanghai in 2018. We’ll bid to host it the next time around; the last time it was hosted in the U.S. was in 2012. Of course, the one thing on everyone’s mind is whether we’ll ever get to the Olympics. We’re really not there yet. We need a larger member base, and we really need a universal judging and scoring method. That’s a pretty big hurdle to get over.
SDM: What are you particularly impressed with about this organization and the athletes?
Fletcher: They're just really good kids. They really believe in paying it forward. At one point, we went to Galveston for our Nationals. It was right after the hurricane there, but the area had bounced back really fast. Our competition brought in $3 million for the island and saved 46 jobs. We were able to use restaurants that were on the seawall that were owned by the property that was hosting our tournament and some of us had the chance to come in early to do some work on the island for Habitat for Humanity.
Recently, with Hurricane Harvey, we’ve been working to collect money, cleaning supplies, clothes, everything we can, and sending it to our own down there since we're headquartered in Texas. Things like that are by far the coolest things I have ever done for this job.