Penticton skippers jump their way to nationals

Penticton duo has taken a backyard game to a whole new level.

A Penticton duo has taken a backyard game to a whole new level.

Cathy Cunningham and her son Thomas Cunningham are headed to St. Catherine’s, Ont., this week to compete at the Rope Skipping Canada National Championships in speed, endurance, consecutive power (consecutively having rope swing two to three times under your feet in one jump) and a freestyle performance.

“Skipping is like dancing,” said Cathy, who also coaches the local Black Widow Rope Spinners. “The rope has to be your partner, you have to flow with the music just like a dance.”

It was about 30 years ago that Cathy, who was then a full-time teacher at West Bench, picked up a rope. The B.C. Heart and Stroke Foundation put out the Jump Rope For Heart program and she took it on and it eventually grew to a skipping club. When she retired from full-time teaching, those in the club wanted it to keep going so she helped create the Black Widow Rope Spinners as a community team. Through word-of-mouth, demonstrations at local events and schools the club has been growing. In April they sent 20 jumpers from ages eight to over 30 to provincials in Chiliwack, eight of which were new to the sport.

“Skipping has really grown and it’s amazing what these kids can do. One really neat thing is that they challenge each other. Skipping can be a very individual sport and every time you pick up a rope you are challenging yourself to go faster, jump higher or to do another double-under or triple-under, but it also promotes teamwork because you are working in a small group trying to co-ordinate all your skills together by building partner and team routines,” said Cathy.

Not only that, it is a great workout that Cathy said will help kids improve their agility and speed, which translates well into many other sports. The skipping coach also has noticed a unique aspect while skipping with the club — parents can get directly involved.

“They can learn how to help kids with their routines but also be on the floor and really getting involved with the kids,” she said.

It is has had a direct impact on her relationship with her own son. Cathy said not only has it helped them bond but Thomas has grown to be an assistant coach and it gets him involved in the community and given him opportunities like competing at nationals. This is his seventh time competing at this level. Last year he placed first overall in his age category. Thomas will go up against the top 18 to 29 year-olds in the country on Sunday and Monday.

“When you go to competition everyone helps and are friends even if they aren’t on your team. I have met a number of people from all over Canada, the U.S. at workshops and even two people from Belgium,” he said.

The Black Widow Rope Spinners will be doing a tour of some South Okanagan-Similkameen schools at the end of May. They also will be performing at the Penticton Peach Festival in August. For more on them visit www.pentictonprecisionskipping.com.