by Tori Boggs
A gym is no place without a jump rope. Cheesy right? Well honestly with this always on my mind, I remember entering elementary school P.E. class to be placed on third base or told to swing the tennis racket and all the while I only thought of what I would do were my hands grasping a jump rope. When I was five years old I saw a rope skipping performance. It was one of those “ahha!” moments in my life — a memory that has never left me. Begging my parents to let me jump rope, I soon found out about jump rope team tryouts in my hometown of Parkersburg, West Virginia… and that is how my crazy journey began.
Words really cannot describe the sport of jump rope. (Yes, jump rope IS a sport, as I will prove in a bit). That is why I bring my rope with me wherever I go! Why not explain it by showing off a little? People think of it as a playground game with little girls singing rhymes. That is false. Imagine learning how to do a back flip, something a tad scary to begin with, then adding a rope into that (I have indeed messed this up many times). Years of practicing and developing a passion not only led me to 9 world titles and 2 world records, but have also allowed me to travel the world forging relationships with tons of incredible people along the way. That’s pretty close to skipping around on a playground, right?
Actually, it is not too far off. If you have ever gone to a circus performance, you may have seen me jumping rope. I am not talking about roaring lions and fire breathers under a red and white tent. This is cirque, which means make up, costumes, choreography, and performers of the near impossible. One of my most incredible experiences has been working with Cirque Dreams and Cirque du Soleil. Not only did four of us jump ropers have our rope skipping act, but we were integrated into the entire performance, dancing and acting along the way. I never thought jump rope would lead me there. The sport, however, has led me down some crazy paths.
Now I am a student at Ohio State, THE Ohio State University to be exact – my newest path. It is basically the largest university in the nation and guess what, they do not have a jump rope team!!!! BUT that just opens up another opportunity to share the sport with more people and understand as much as I can about WHY jump rope is possible. So here’s what I am working on now – explaining the sport through science!! My body knows jump rope, but I want to be able to explain the motion and forces of the sport. Plus I have been a math and science nerd since grade school, competing in national math competitions and even creating one for my region in West Virginia and Ohio middle schools. Incorporating my academic passion into my athletic obsession, I have numerous drawings and ideas of jump ropes, shoes, and equipment all waiting for improvement, revision, and creation to better the sport.
Jump rope itself is constantly evolving. Innovative ideas are pushing the sport to new heights, which seem almost impossible. There is an absolute science around progressing from skill to skill to create something new as well. Take a simple criss-cross. Your arms cross as you jump over the rope. To make that more difficult, take the bottom arm of the cross, lift your opposite leg, and put your bottom arm under your leg. This is called a “leg over cross,” or, in jump rope slang, a “toad.” Variations of this “skill” include putting one arm behind your back or over your head or switching which arm goes under your leg or even switching your legs!! It may seem hard to believe, but the possibilities are endless!! In the video below, try to spot the various ways you can be creative with the toad skill. That is, try to come up with some of your own arm and leg combinations!
So let’s delve into some biomechanics of jump rope.
First of all, a single jump, which is performed literally thousands of times during a practice, can be broken into four phases:
- load phase – the body’s preparation to jump based on balancing the weight load of the balls of the feet and flexing the knees
- flight phase – the propulsion off the ground by pushing from the balls of the feet through the ankles, calves, knees, and hips
- airborne phase – the body is off the ground and the arms are controlling the rope swing under the feet
- landing phase – the joints absorbing the impact of the jump upon landing
Us jumpers rely on Newton’s Third Law of Motion: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Jumping is that acceleration of body parts upward to increase the mutual force between us and the earth so it is larger than the force of body weight! It involves both aerobic and anaerobic training benefits and is similar to resistance training in that different muscle groups may control take off and landing so that the joints absorb weight properly.
However, jump rope is also about speed. That is to say, the rope can move roughly 60 miles per hour (approximately 6 jumps per second!!), cutting through the air due to its steel wire composition. Nowadays, jumpers are reaching 200 jumps in 30 seconds!!
I never want this power, creativity, and ingenuity of jump rope to end. Developing new ideas and sharing them with as many people as possible is why I am so passionate about the sport. I have had the opportunity to travel to Kenya, South Africa, Denmark, Sweden, France, Germany, Cyprus, Australia, and many more countries teaching others how to jump!! One of the great things about jump rope is its versatility. Not only is it inexpensive and easy to do practically anywhere, but also you can jump rope by yourself or with as many people as you want!!
Jump Rope is what I love to do!! Besides getting this sport into the Olympics, I also want to create an act and tour as a jump rope performer for Cirque du Soleil. Until then I will continue my endeavors and keep expanding my knowledge, spreading it across the world.
If you are still unconvinced about jump rope being a sport, just watch the video below. Try to spot the load, flight, airborne, and landing phases of various jumps. Then pick up a rope and try it yourself!!
About Tori Boggs
Hey y’all!! I am a professional rope skipper and nine-time World Jump Rope Champion from Parkersburg, West Virginia. I hold two World Rope Skipping Speed and Power Records and have been jumping rope for the past 15 years. I am a member of Jump Company USA and captain of Team USA for the past four years. I have toured with Cirque Dreams and am a guest jumper for Rope Works and Cirque Du Soleil. I conduct jump rope performances, clinics, workshops all over the world and was featured in the film documentary “JUMP!” that appears SHOWTIME. I am an Honors Collegium student studying Physics at The Ohio State University.