Ligonier jump rope team promotes youth development, fitness
The driveways and parking lots of Ligonier are unique obstacles for one local sports team.
Members of the HT High Flyers jump rope team said it becomes a challenge to find a good, level surface to practice on at home, since many driveways in the Ligonier Valley are hilly or unpaved and the rough surfaces can ruin the plastic-covered rope.
The team, which includes about 40 boys and girls from ages 5 through 18, started as a demonstration team affiliated with Holy Trinity Catholic School in Ligonier for the American Heart Association, advocating the association's “Jump for Heart” events in schools.
Within the last two years, the team has become more of a community organization, affiliated with the Ligonier Valley YMCA, but retaining the “HT” in its name.
Head coach Laurie Whitsel, who has led the team since it began 10 years ago, said the wooden floor of the YMCA is ideal for jumping rope.
YMCA Executive Director Ben Wright and Whitsel point out that the two groups' missions are similar — promoting physical fitness and youth development through jump rope.
“It's one of the greatest forms of exercise,” Wright said. Confidence can be built through competing, he said.
Whitsel said the team also became more community-oriented to incorporate students from other area schools.
“Really, it was because more and more kids wanted to be part of our team,” she said. “It's been a tremendous partnership.”
Most High Flyers are active in other sports, like Whitsel's 15-year-old daughter Amy, who has been on the team since she was 5.
“It keeps you in really good shape for other sports and vice versa,” said Amy, a track and cross-country runner. “We have a lot of hard practices and that increases our ability to work out for a long time.”
The High Flyers travel to places like Chicago, New Orleans, Michigan and Texas for competitions and skills clinics.
Hannah Long, 10, of Cook Township said she likes to meet jumpers at the events.
“It's a really cool experience to learn new moves from them and teach them new moves,” she said.
The team has traveled to events at the White House, Capitol Hill and the Centers for Disease Control building in Washington, D.C.
Early next year, the team will perform at basketball half-time shows, as they have in the past, at the University of Pittsburgh, St. Vincent College and Bucknell University, as well as schools' events throughout southwestern Pennsylvania.
A public demonstration usually takes place in February at Ligonier Town Hall, Laurie Whitsel said.
Some team members will compete in the USA Jump Rope national championships and even move on to the world-level competitions. A few years ago, Amy Whitsel was chosen to participate in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City.
“I think of all the amazing experiences we've had across the country and in other countries because of one rope,” Laurie Whitsel said.
Nearby teams include one in Murrysville and another in Mars, but Amy Whitsel said not everyone understands the sport, which conjures images of children singing songs and skipping.
“What we do is way different from that,” she said.
In competitions, participants are judged on presentation and content difficulty.
Some jumpers get tendinitis, sprained ankles or worse injuries. One team member tore her hamstring last year and is still recovering.
“We're very careful about stretching, and make sure they warm up. And you have to be careful about over-training” as well as teaching to each appropriate age level, said Laurie Whitsel, who coached women's college soccer for six years at Penn State University and Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y.
Cathleen Harr has been a team coach for three years, after spending eight years on the team. Her two daughters, 11-year-old Emily and 13-year-old Isabelle, enjoy jumping rope.
“It's extreme physical fitness — the kids are in great shape — but it is also a huge confidence builder,” she said.
Other members said they enjoy that the team includes boys and girls and mixes a wide age range of kids.
Long said she enjoys performing, even in the nearly two-hour Fort Ligonier Days parade that the team participates in annually.
“It's easier when you have adrenaline and the crowd cheering for you,” she said.
Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.