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Jumping for joy and sisterhood, the 40+ Double Dutch Club holds a playdate for women

Women, aged 40 and older, gathered in Chicago to jump Double Dutch during the club's annual playdate.
Amiyah Dyer
/
40+ Double Dutch Club
Women, aged 40 and older, gathered in Chicago to jump Double Dutch during the club's annual playdate.

Back in the day, it was typical in some neighborhoods to see girls — with hair flying, legs pumping with precision, the rope tat-tat- tatting in rhythm — as they jumped Double Dutch for hours.

Pamela Robinson was one of those girls. She joined hundreds of women, ages 40 and up, who gathered in Chicago recently to relive those youthful days by jumping rope, socializing, getting healthy and chanting rhymes during the "40+ Double Dutch Club's 3rd National Playdate."

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick!

We're over 40 and trying to stay fit!

We're a group of friends

We wanna stay in shape

And spread the Double Dutch movement

From state to state!

Robinson founded the 40+ Double Dutch club seven years ago. The 52-year-old says she needed to get out of a funk and remembered what brought her joy.

"It takes you back to childhood. Back to a time when there's no stress, no bills, no issues when you're a kid jumping rope," she says. "So many times, when you reach 40, you are so busy taking care of everybody else — your kids, your husband, your parents — that you don't take time to take care of yourself. So all of these women now are being intentional about self-care."

40+ Double Dutch Club members jump rope on July 15, at the DC Dream Center in Washington, D.C.
Minh Connors / The Washington Post via Getty Images
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The Washington Post via Getty Images
40+ Double Dutch Club members jump rope on July 15, at the DC Dream Center in Washington, D.C.

The 40+ Double Dutch local chapters are called sub-clubs. Members meet up once a week in their communities to jump rope and to socialize for a couple of hours. This National Playdate brought sub-clubs together for a massive gathering of fun on a warm, sunny August day in a parking-lot-turned-playground on Chicago's far Southside. Women gathered in clusters, some turning ropes in syncopated rhythms, others counting off and running in the ropes with their feet and knees lifting high.

Amy Skipper, the 46-year-old Captain of Delco-Philly, a sub-club in the Philadelphia suburbs, says she began jumping Double Dutch when she was about 8 years old. But she hadn't jumped rope for decades.

"It came back just like clockwork. They say once you learn you never forget. Now I can't jump as long," she says, laughing, "but I still got it!"

Friendship and fun are part of the Double Dutch draw

Like they were part of a giant sports team, everyone wore numbers on the back of their black t-shirts. It was a proud display of their age, with every decade from the 40s to the 80s represented.

"When we were younger

We jumped all day

Now we're tired faster,

But that's ok"

Lydia Reed, who will turn 49 in a few weeks, says she, too, discovered Double Dutch when she was about 8, but stopped when she was entering high school.

"I wanted to look cute for the boys, but realized jumping rope made me so happy." Reed says.

Lisa Barnes, 56, from Philadelphia found out about the club through Facebook. She says for her and many of the other women, the 40+ club is more than about exercise.

"I love the sisterhood, the friendship and the fellowship," says Barnes. "This is my first playdate and I'm just enjoying myself."

Participants also played other games and hula hooped during the event.
Amiyah Dyer / 40+ Double Dutch Club
/
40+ Double Dutch Club
Participants also played other games and hula hooped during the event.

Double Dutch clubs have sprouted up in several countries

The event sponsored other games, too. The women step in unison to a line dance, swing hula hoops around their hips. Some sit and play jacks but the main event is Double Dutch.

"And it doesn't matter

Your size or shape

As long as you're trying

Then you can play!"

Some of the jumpers are amazing acrobats — like 43-year-old Kimberly Baker, whose Double Dutch moniker is "Mz. Kim."

"I used to jump in competition when I was a young girl," she says. "And life got grown and you have kids and all that."

That hasn't really slowed her down any. As the ropes turn, Mz. Kim jumps in, drops down and does a few pushups — her feet and arms rising together in superb coordination.

Hundreds of women attended the 40+ Double Dutch club's 3rd National Playdate.
Amiyah Dyer / 40+ Double Dutch Club
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40+ Double Dutch Club
Hundreds of women attended the 40+ Double Dutch club's 3rd National Playdate.

"Today was my first day of doing it so I'm really excited because I finally got it," she says as she smiles, and then starts speed jumping as others enthusiastically cheer her on.

Founder Pamela Robinson says there are now a total of 100 sub-clubs in the U.S., Canada, Germany and Israel. Sharon Cockerham, who's sub-club is in the Aurora-Naperville region of Illinois, helps with the club's performance team.

"And to be 65 and in great shape. it's awesome!" she says. "And I love jumping, I love teaching people how to jump and I love the progression of seeing beginners. I love it, love it, love it."

It's an enthusiasm that permeates this meeting. They've got to wait a year until the next annual playdate. Just like kids, they say they can hardly wait.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Cheryl Corley is a Chicago-based NPR correspondent who works for the National Desk. She primarily covers criminal justice issues as well as breaking news in the Midwest and across the country.
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