KELLY HUDSON is wound up. She is jumping more than 300 times a minute while her Brightwood Elementary School teammates Dana Richardson and Felicia McKamey whip double strands of jump ropes around her. The ropes whoosh around, slamming into the gym floor hard and fast enough to warp air. These are no ordinary sixth-graders. These are aspiring Double Dutch champions.
Though related to jump-roping insofar as the ropes go, Double Dutch is no easy twirl. The sport requires two to rotate double ropes, egg-beater style, in opposite directions while a third or fourth jumps in the center. On a recent February morning, the Gonzaga College High School Gym is quickly filling up with nimble contestants eager to show off their sure-footed maneuvers in a Freestyle Clinic hosted by the Metropolitan Police Boys and Girls Club, sponsors of the D.C. Double Dutch League. For inspiration, a video of last year's 14th annual World Invitational Double Dutch Championships is running.
The '87 world championships at George Washington University's Smith Center transformed the gym into a swirling circus of leaping, jumping, dancing Double Dutchers. Every year, competition is divided into three areas: a two-minute speed test (the world record is 368 jumps per minute!), a 30-second compulsory section (40 seconds for doubles teams) and one minute of freestyle jumping. Awards are given to winners of each grade.
"I do it because I want to stay in shape!" said Hudson, today clad in pink sweat shirt and shorts. "Besides, it's fun. I never get bored of it. I'd rather jump than watch TV."
"This sport teaches kids to get along and work together. You can't be in a bad mood and jerk the ropes, because your team won't work that way. Communication is key," said D.C. league co-chairperson Officer Janice Roddy, of the Metropolitan Police's Youth Division.
Kristie Martin, a fifth-grader at Takoma Elementary School, is less analytical: "I like the beat and I like to jump," she said, taking a look around at the bobbing heads and swinging arms. "I meet lots of people too."
There's even been talk about making Double Dutch an Olympic sport. "There was a demonstration at the Pan Am Games and, well, you never know," said Officer Bernard Taylor. "If it does, D.C. would be at the forefront of competition."
GOING DUTCH --
To get involved in competition, as either jumper or coach, call the Metropolitan Police -- officers Janice Roddy or Montgomery Gardner -- at 767-7991 or 338-5317. Either can pair groups of students, schools and parents with a police coordinator for the team. Pre-testing of teams for the City-Wide Semifinals is March 19 at Gonzaga College High School (North Capitol and K NW). The semifinals are May 16-23, the city-wide finals June 4, and the big event, the 15th annual World Invitational Double Dutch Championships, June 23-25 at the University of Maryland in College Park.