2015-06-04 / Front Page

Double Dutch Sharks Practice for World Event


Brynn McLeish, Adrieanna Matoes Anyssa Blanc, and Encarnacion Torres and are practicing their routine for an upcoming competition in New York. The sport of double Dutch rope jumping has been considered as a new event in the Olympics. It was named a varsity sport in New York City public schools in 2009. (Photo by Jack Kelly) Brynn McLeish, Adrieanna Matoes Anyssa Blanc, and Encarnacion Torres and are practicing their routine for an upcoming competition in New York. The sport of double Dutch rope jumping has been considered as a new event in the Olympics. It was named a varsity sport in New York City public schools in 2009. (Photo by Jack Kelly) Every Wednesday and Saturday afternoon they go Dutch at the Florence Gray Center – double Dutch, that is.

Members of the city’s Double Dutch Sharks, a young girls ropeskipping team with high aspirations, practice turning two ropes into eggbeaters as a third, and even a fourth, person jumps within the rotors.

A first-grader, two secondgraders and six sixth-graders make up the Sharks. Four members – Anyssa Blanc, Brynn McLeish, Encarnacion Torres and Adrieanna Matoes – are preparing for the World Championships in New York on June 12-13. They also competed in the Worlds last year in South Carolina.


Two jumpers use handstands to show off their freestyle moves. (Photo by Jack Kelly) Two jumpers use handstands to show off their freestyle moves. (Photo by Jack Kelly) Under coach Ray Malone, who formed the group in 2011, the team has grown and expanded its horizons. They have competed in various tournaments, including the Red Auerbach Youth Foundation Tournament in Boston, founded by the late Celtic coach and general manager during his retirement. Auerbach often referred to double Dutch as his “second favorite sport.” Double Dutch has become the signature program of his foundation.

Malone, born in the early 1960s, grew up in the Bronx, N.Y., where he saw neighborhood kids skipping rope, doubling down on any given day.

In 1973, David Walker, then a New York City police detective, and his partner Ulysses Williams developed the street game of double Dutch into the sport it is today. In 1974, the first double Dutch tournament was held with nearly 600 fifth-, sixth-, seventhand eighth-grade students participating.

Since that initial tournament, competitive double Dutch has expanded with citywide and national championships. Nearly 100,000 girls and boys representing schools and community centers throughout the U.S. and world compete at national and international events.

Malone said all teams are judged in three ways. The first is a compulsory basic, which he describes as “two right turns on one foot, two left turns on one foot, two right crisscrosses, two left crisscrosses, and 10 high steps.”

Second is speed. “The judges count the number of one-foot jumps in two minutes. I believe the world record is 426 jumps,” Malone reported.

Finally, the teams are assessed in a wide open freestyle. “You can do anything,” said Malone. “You try to do push-ups, reach the highest point, two-handed off the ground; those get you the most points.”

Malone, with the help of coaching assistants Chandra Sears and Donna Matthews, built his squad one step at a time, turning wide-eyed kids into doers. His first team had never seen rope skipping in this way. “I showed them a video and a competition. I took them to Boston to see top competitors,” said the coach, who hopes to find a good volunteer choreographer to help. “They watched, learned, and got better.”

Malone’s methods – to expose his charges to phenomenal timing and athleticism – are not designed to intimidate, but to inspire.

History of the ‘Dutch’

National Double Dutch League president David Walker traces its probable origins to ancient Phoenician, Egyptian and Chinese ropemakers.

They plied their craft at ropewalks, usually near seaports. With a bunch of hemp around their waists and two strands attached to the wheel, the ropemakers walked backwards, twisting the rope into uniformity. As the runners traveled the cluttered floors, supplying the spinners with hemp, they had to jump the twisting rope.

It is possible that the basic framework of double Dutch evolved at these ancient ropeworks. The strand-over-strand turning movement of the spinners and the footwork of the runners evolved into the game and developed over generations.

Dutch settlers brought the game to New Amsterdam (now New York City) in the 1600s. When the English arrived and saw children playing, they called it double Dutch. The game spread over the years, particularly in urban areas.

It became a favorite pastime to sing rhymes while turning and jumping. During World War II, the game was often played on the sidewalks of New York. But by the late 1950s, the radio music boom dominated urban America, and the lack of recreational areas in close proximity to apartment buildings made double Dutch nearly extinct.

To join, or learn about the team contact Coach Malone at 401- 439-1839 or mookie9x@gmail.com.

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