One step, two step, three step Jump! That was the song in my head as I excitedly observed the speed my legs would move with the small, makeshift rope I found in the backyard of my parent’s home growing up. Fast forward to 2017, the location is the Jean Pierre Complex and we are covering the Lystra Lewis Port of Spain Netball League.
I am immediately impressed by the number of young girls spending their afternoon in a competitive sporting activity to the delight of a handful of spectators. But, something else on the other side of the complex also catches my eye. A wheel chair bound woman seems to have the captive attention of about thirty children of varying ages all practicing complex routines with a skipping rope. I become anxious because I sense there is a great story; I muster the courage to ask what the kids are practicing, and I stumble upon what Head Coach Clint Charles aptly calls “Trinidad and Tobago’s best kept secret.” The innovative and ambitious National Sporting Organisation -The Jump Rope Federation of Trinidad and Tobago.
I am introduced to a youthful, bubbly and extremely knowledgeable woman Mahalia Regis who I later discover is the Vice President of the Federation. She knows her jump rope stuff- having been a competitor, coach, and now full time administrator. She commands the respect and attention of the youngsters under her charge and looks at me with a perplexed expression when I readily admit to not knowing that jump rope was an international sport. In fact, she emphatically declares that the Jump Rope Federation won forty nine medals in the world jump rope championships, and she introduces me to a young athlete, Isaiah Stokes, who ranked third in the Pan American games.
The Federation is responsible for overseeing the National Team which comprises twenty-three juniors and ten seniors ranging from ages four to twenty. They are currently preparing for the World Jump Rope Championship which will be held from June 30th to July 10th at the University of Central Florida. The athletes will compete in several categories among which are speed, pairs freestyle, double unders, double dutch and freestyle jumping.
Jump rope has been converted to a brand boasts Mahalia, our athletes are stars. Everything we do we have a clear vision and this is most applicable in the way we support our athletes.
She directs my attention to the red and white Puma branded shoes on each athlete’s foot, the sponsor’s logos on uniforms, yearly team trips to Disney World, and International Travel to tournaments in Europe, North America and the Caribbean. – “Each month we have a cake sale fundraiser, and every parent must volunteer their time to bake, and sell. It is how we build the family.”
We also have jump rope displays at sports and cultural events, and we charge a fee which all goes towards our fundraising efforts. Mahalia Regis provides a unique perspective on the sport as a mother of jump rope athletes, entrepreneur, calypsonian, hair stylist and ‘fashionista.’ During our conversation you get a clear sense of her drive and unwavering commitment to promoting jump rope.
The Trinidad and Tobago Jump Rope Federation states boldly on their website that their vision is to present a fun, low-cost, mass-participation activity; we exist to make jump rope ‘Disney’. We want to make jump an activity that ‘makes dreams come through!’ As a result, the Federation has embarked on a nationwide campaign through their “Jump rope, skip crime” initiative which gives youth access to a healthy lifestyle through an inexpensive sport. Through the campaign, the Federation provides workshops and coaching opportunities for interested persons to take the sport to communities and schools across the nation.
Mahalia ends the interview inviting us to come out and partake in a session in the future. Her plug, “The Chinese World Champion makes 108 steps on one leg in thirty seconds- come take a jump nah?”
Contact: Trinidad and Tobago Jump Rope Federation http://www.jumpropetnt.com/