CHICAGO — For most kids, jumping rope was a playground staple. Growing up in the 70s and 80s, double Dutch was popularized in many Black communities, especially among girls. But it isn’t just a kid’s game, and it’s having a resurgence as people cope with life in the pandemic.
At first glance, it may look like a group of teens just jumping rope on a playground, but all of the women in this club are over 40.
“The 40 Plus Double Dutch Club is a group of women who get together to relive old memories and create new ones while jumping double Dutch,” said Pamela Robinson, who founded the group five years ago.
It was a time in her life when she needed a lifeline. She found it at the end of a double Dutch rope.
“I was going through a really difficult period in my life, and I needed to find a happy place,” said Robinson. “We started jumping and I completely forgot about everything that was going on in my life for that 30 minutes.”
It was that magical moment for Robinson, transporting her back to her childhood that gave her the idea of bringing women together for exercise, reminiscence and fellowship.
“I'll be 46 jumping over here, jumping into the rope and it's really a blast," said co-founder Catrina Dyer-Taylor. “We have a great time getting out with everybody and it really does take you back to your childhood.”
While the pandemic forced the clubs into virtual meet-ups temporarily, as the weather warms up, they’re getting together outdoors again. Masks and temperature checks are still in place.
The group has grown from 50 women in the Chicago area to more than 15,000 nationwide. It’s even gone global.
“We have sub clubs in Israel and Canada as well now,” said Robinson.
It's proving that age is only a number, and all the members proudly wear their birth year on their jacket sleeves.
“We've spent so much time focusing on our husbands, our kids, our careers, that we need to do something for ourselves,” said Robinson. “And so, that's why we have the age requirement.”
Stephanie A. Roberts, 52, joined the group two years ago. Her first time out, the excitement of reliving her double Dutch days outpaced her body.
“The next day was actually when I felt it,” said Roberts. “But after about four or five times of jumping consistently, you just kind of fall right in. Those muscles get into place and, you know, it's like a regular workout.”
“It’s friendship, fitness, and fun,” said Robinson. “And it's great for all of us, for our physical health, our emotional health, and our spiritual health.”
It’s what keeps these women motivated to twirl their ropes and jump back in time.