“Problems are not stop signs, they are guidelines.” - Robert H. Schuller
This Saturday, November 7th, marked the 31st annual workshop. While Covid restrictions caused changes to the usual routine, persistence and planning allowed the program to continue our tradition while keeping everyone safe and healthy. In true workshop fashion, masters in both single rope and double dutch were brought in to teach five sessions of jumpers.
Our single rope teacher, Stewart Issacs, taught sessions both on speed and freestyle skills. For speed, he explained why having a shorter rope is preferable. Two jumpers demonstrated how with a short length of rope, jumpers can turn the handles faster than with a longer length. Since there is a smaller area to jump inside, jumpers also need to become more compact, bending at the hips with their head down. They also should not move from side to side or front to back within their rope. Through another demonstration, he showed how sometimes slower speed repetitions with fewer misses can increase a jumper’s score, rather than jumping as fast as possible with misses. For the skill sessions, Stewart gave the jumpers their choice for the type of skill, catering to the group in each session. While some chose to work on power skills for the full 30 minutes, others chose multiples or rope leases. His versatility and adaptability based on the group were very impressive to me, and he chose skills which could be modified to be more challenging or broken down easier depending on the skill level.
“Ready your ropes… Judges ready… Jumpers ready… Good luck, begin!” For myself, and many other jumpers, our first experience with the LaToya Gatlin was on the stage of the Apollo theater. Her bubbly personality and sparkling high heels are staples of the Apollo experience. But by learning from LaToya both at the Forbes Flyers workshop and our own this year, I’ve seen her put this same passion and energy into her teaching. In the first session of younger jumpers, LaToya emphasized the importance of rhythm, timing, and communication. She explained the “thumb nose paradigm'' which is a drill where both turners touch their thumbs to the nose as they turn, ensuring that the ropes rotate in a full circle but do not cross. This drill teaches jumpers not to turn pop-ups or at an uneven pace. By keeping a consistent turning rhythm, the jumper also has a beat to follow, keeping the entire group and sync. LaToya is not only a record holding speed jumper, but a fantastic fusion teacher. In the older sessions, she taught many types of dance steps and short stepping routines for jumpers to try. Many of these short routines are double bounce, a fusion skill our team learned in Japan, and while many of the movements in LaToya and Japanese fusion dancing are similar, it was important that our fusion jumpers learn both styles to create future routines combining the two.
As I sat outside eating a sandwich with Lana, LaToya‘s daughter, I was reminded of what the workshop is really about: coming together and being a part of something bigger than jump rope. Stewart also shared with us the key to his success at both Stanford and MIT: loving what you do and surrounding yourself with people who love it as well. At the end of each of LaToya’s sessions, she had the jumpers repeat the same phrases: “I am great! I am even better with others! I am not the team!” This reminded everyone that without your teammates and community, you can only go so far. Even with fewer alumni than usual, those who were able to attend proved that no matter how long we have spent apart this year, the program will always come together as a family. I am so grateful for everyone who contributed to the success of this year’s workshop, both physically in the gym or virtually. I feel blessed to be a part of a community with such dedication and passion, one that is not afraid to challenge what is possible in the midst of a pandemic and create new “firsts” for both ourselves and our sport.