LIANE HANSEN, host:
You've probably seen this in school yards - kids doing fancy jumps between two twirling ropes. Double Dutch began as a street game. Now, there are major competitions for Double Dutch, and it's even a varsity sport in New York City.
From member station WNYC, Beth Fertig has more.
(Soundbite of jumping)
BETH FERTIG: For 17-year-old Nacadia Facey, Double Dutch was just something she played with her friends in Brooklyn during the summers. But that all changed last year, when she joined her school's Double Dutch team.
Ms. NACADIA FACEY (Athlete, Double Dutch): Because a lot of people don't regard Double Dutch as a sport, and I'm not really athletic in anything else. And I decided to join the team because it's something I can actually do.
FERTIG: Last year, New York City put Double Dutch on the same footing as basketball, softball and tennis to get more girls involved in sports.
(Soundbite of girls playing)
FERTIG: Facey and her teammates from Benjamin Banneker High are among about 175 other students warming up in a Bronx gymnasium on a recent Saturday morning, right before their big meet. Two of the girls from Banneker hold a pair of long, white ropes, which they twist and turn as a third girl jumps between them.
But jumping isn't really the right word. Facey says there are lots of moves, and each has its own name.
Ms. FACEY: We have a leg lift, where you lift your leg up in the air and spin around in a circle. We also have mountain climb and jumping jacks, and when you go down and crash down like a frog, and go around in a circle. Yes.
Ms. LETICIA STEVENS (Athlete, Double Dutch): Now, go up.
FERTIG: The trick is not getting caught in the ropes.
Ms. STEVENS: One, two, three, flip up.
FERTIG: A few feet away, Leticia Stevens, from Curtis High School on Staten Island, lands on a rope while doing a split.
Ms. STEVENS: I always get stuck but then, like when it's time to actually do it, I usually get it.
(Soundbite of sound whistles)
FERTIG: The teams are scored on moves and speed - the number of steps a jumper can make in two minutes, says scorekeeper Linda Brown.
Ms. LINDA BROWN (Scorekeeper): You count the left foot only. That's how you judge the speed. Most girls, what, 300 up to 400 - the highest is in two minutes.
FERTIG: Counting both feet, that's really 600 or 800 steps.
(Soundbite of an announcer)
FERTIG: At this meet, the High School for Law Enforcement and Public Safety easily takes the lead. Seventeen-year-old Peter Amaker makes 320 steps in two minutes without ever getting caught in the ropes. Amaker has a big advantage. He's been competing in Double Dutch leagues since he was 12, and belongs to a local team that even won the world championship.
He's one of only four boys in the public school system's league. But he says the sport's definitely not just for girls.
Mr. PETER AMAKER (Athlete, Double Dutch): I used to get that a lot. But now they see like, the difficulty of everything that we do, and that its really hard. A lot of boys try, but they can't do it.
FERTIG: The sport gets especially acrobatic in the third round of the competition, freestyle. Some of the students kick like cancan dancers and clap their hands while the ropes are turning.
(Soundbite of clapping)
FERTIG: Others do handstands and flips. And during the doubles portion, when two kids jump together, they hop on each other's shoulders piggyback style, with the ropes swinging above their heads.
(Soundbite of cheering and applause)
FERTIG: The High School for Law Enforcement and Public Safety easily won the meet that weekend. As it comes to an end, the students walk around the gym saying good job, as they give each other high-fives.
The city's Double Dutch season ends in May. So far, only 19 schools are competing in New York City. But students hope more kids participate. And some day, they'd even like to see Double Dutch in the Olympics.
For NPR News, Im Beth Fertig in New York.
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