Kangaroo Kids hop into competitive mode

AT PLAY

Club uses jump rope to promote a way to stay fit and offers a bit of healthy competition

October 26, 2005|By JEFF SEIDEL | JEFF SEIDEL,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Kathy and Keith Simpson and their two children have traveled to places such as Australia, Canada, New Orleans, Detroit and Disney World (six times). They got there by jumping.

The Simpson children, Scott and Amy, joined Kangaroo Kids, a precision jump-rope team in Howard County, at a young age. They quickly found success that has led them and their parents to competitions out of state.

Scott is now a ninth-grader at Hammond High who plays in the school band, is on the JV soccer team and still finds time for jump-rope practices.

Amy began about age 5 and is going strong as a seventh-grader at Patuxent Valley Middle School. Kathy Simpson also fell in love with the sport and helps out as a coach and jumps herself. Keith Simpson toils on the team's Web site and his mother, Mimi, is the organization's treasurer.

"It's just been so great for our family as a family thing," Kathy Simpson said. "We're all involved in it."

Kangaroo Kids is an independent group affiliated with the USA Jump Rope Federation and the Amateur Athletic Union, and Jim McCleary remains the team's driving force.

A Howard County physical education teacher, McCleary is in his 23rd year working with the team. He took over when founder Don Disney moved into a supervisory position. McCleary helped the team move to another level.

Disney started the team in 1978 at Atholton Elementary School. It began as a jump-rope fitness club and had about 50 children.

The team has about 150 youngsters -- and some young adults -- who practice and perform. The kids perform individually and do choreographed routines as groups in different forms.

"They like it because it's simple," McCleary said. "They like it because it's different. It's an individualized team sport. You have a team concept, but you're also an individual."

McCleary is chairman of the AAU Jump Rope Committee and is on the USA Jump Rope national board of directors.

He oversees everything with the Kangaroo Kids, from practices (once, twice or three times a week depending upon the group) at Wilde Lake Middle School to competitions.

The competitors are divided into teams based on age and ability. McCleary said that about 25 percent of the Kangaroo Kids participate on travel teams that can go out of state.

Carol Miller's daughter, Sarah, has been in the group for a few years and enjoys it. Sarah joined a weeklong summer jumping class that the Kangaroo Kids sponsored and fell in love with the sport.

"She's been very happy with it," said Miller, of Ellicott City. "She hasn't taken a break or stopped. I think [for most kids] it's just that it was always moving. They're always doing something."

Like many parents associated with the program, Miller found a way to get involved. She helps coach, works on publicity and began jumping herself.

Miller coaches once a week and usually practices once a week, jumping for about 90 minutes.

For Scott Simpson, staying shape is not his primary reason for participating.

"It's such an expressive thing, and you can have fun with it," he said.jseid1234@yahoo.com

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