These Kids Are Jumping At The Chance To Have Some Fun
The words form a creed and a mission statement. They are posted in the gymnasium at the Buttonball Lane Elementary School in Glastonbury for all to see:
Play Safe – Play Fair – Play Hard – Play Fun
That was the goal that Michelle Hespeler had for her students at Buttonball Elementary more than five years ago when she had an idea to put together a formal “jump rope” team at the school.
The team started with just a few kids looking for another way to exercise and stay active. Today, the Buttonball Jumpers Jump Rope team has more than 100 participants and is one of the most prolific of all the elementary jump rope teams in town.
Just this past season the Buttonball Jump Rope team has performed at a varsity football game at Glastonbury High and two varsity girls’ basketball games. In addition, to the demonstration team Buttonball also has a competitive team, which has medaled at regional competitions as far away as Cape Cod. MA.
“I just want the kids to play, move their bodies and have fun,’’ Hespeler said. “My rules all have that word “Play,’ in them.’’
The vision that Hespeler had five years ago continues to grow and take shape. The season runs from January through May and the kids practice once a week. The annual Field Day competition at the school marks the formal end to each season as the jump rope teams perform for the entire school.
In addition to the social benefits of being involved with a team, jumping rope also helps students boost self-confidence, cardio –vascular endurance, develop teamwork and improve life skills.
“I like being involved with this program because it makes me feel happy,’ said Mary Martin, a parent volunteer with the program. “My favorite part about being involved with the team is getting to know the individual jumpers, watching their confidence build as they become proficient with their jump rope skills, and at the same time seeing their willingness to share and teach those skills to their peers. It makes me feel good when I see that happening.’’
The sport of jump rope has grown rapidly in Glastonbury and most of the elementary schools have teams currently. Each year there is a “Jump Rope jamboree” at the Hebron Avenue School. Buttonball has both a recreational team and a demonstration team, which performs at outside events.
As the sport grows in popularity, the organizers at Buttonball continue to search for new ways to promote the program. The group is always on the lookout for new competitions and showcase events.
This year, a four-person competitive team – a subset of the original Buttonball Jumpers – was formed. Nicole Martin, a 7th grader who participated with the Buttonball Jumper for two years was a member of that team along with Sheela Tavakoli, Jenna Murphy and Angela Braga.
The team recently competed in the “Jumpin By The Bay Invitational Tournament” in Cape Cod and the USA Jump Rope Region 10 tournament in Avon. The girls were awarded 13 medals (first through third place) at the Cape Cod tournament.
Jenna Murphy, placed 2nd at the USA Jump Rope Regional tournament in the Female Single Rope Individual Freestyle Event (10 and under age group).
Martin said she was not aware that competitive jump rope teams existed until a team from Torrington came to Buttonball for a demonstration back in 2008.
“They performed choreographed jump rope moves to music, including flips and other gymnastic stunts while jumping double Dutch style.’’ Martin said. “The group also performed other synchronized complex jump rope maneuvers that I had never seen before. I was amazed and felt compelled to get involved in learning, teaching and talking to people about this incredible sport.”
Marsha Barisano is another parent volunteer and the competitive team coach along with Mary Martin. Barisano initially got involved when her son was in the third grade three years ago. She has been with the program ever since.
“Being part of the team has been such an inspiration for me,’’ Barisano said. “I really enjoy being a part of the jump rope team and working with such talented young kids.’’