As the weather begins to turn nice, and then lousy, and then nice again, not only am I reminded of the Will Smith song Summertime (hence the title of this post), but I’m also reminded of something that my fourth grade gym teacher used to say to me, “Mike, you jump rope well. Perhaps too well.”

I’ve never really understood exactly what he meant by that. But thinking about it triggered the thought that I just don’t see kids jumping rope like I used to when I was a kid. I grew up in Chicago’s Albany Park neighborhood and every single day of the summer there were girls (and boys) who would be playing some form jump rope, either single rope or double dutch. I never did much of that, really. But my block was crammed with kids. Every summer night was spent playing Ghost In the Graveyard, some form of tag (freeze tag, TV tag, catch-one-catch-all, and so on), Mother May I, Simon Says, or some other game that involved at least a dozen kids ranging in age from seven to eleven.

While all of these games certainly exist in some form or another, there was a game known as Chinese Jumprope that was always played on my block. Do kids still play this? It consisted of a simple elastic rope held around the ankles of two stationary individuals standing about four feet apart. The object was to jump: in, out, side-by-side, on, in, out. In otherwords, you jumped with both feet landing on the rope, then both feet outside the rope, then one foot inside and one out, then the other foot inside and the other one out, then both feet back on the rope, then back in, than both feet out again.

Follow that?

The trick is that every time one of these circuits was completed you’d have to add an element. Snappies (snapping fingers while jumping), clappies, double-clappies, rolling of the fists, and whatever other crazy things we might think of. The holders would spread their stance making the width of the rope larger, then very small. The rope starts at the ankles, then the knees, then the thighs. Theoretically it was supposed to go all the way up to the neck, but clearly that never happened. It was a true test of endurance, coordination, and hops. I directly credit this for the leaping ability I had later in life that made me a pretty decent volleyball player. And in fact, one of the drills I did regularly during volleyball practice resembled this. Plus I had to wear ankle weights. When I was around 18, I could fly, thanks to these drills. (It helped that I was 6’2″ and only about 150 lbs.)

Anyway, I hope this game still exists. Of course, it’s probably around in video game form, which would defeat the whole purpose. But as video games become more interactive perhaps we’ll see it again.

What I wouldn’t give to be ten-years-old again for a day.

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