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History of Double Dutch Jump Rope

Ms. Inglish has 30 years experience in medicine, psychology, STEM instruction, history, and aerospace education for USAF Civil Air Patrol.

Michelle Obama and kids double-dutching

Michelle Obama and kids double-dutching

McDonald's Double Dutch Champions

A brother and sister team in my grades 8-12 after school and summer program one year were regional Double Dutch Champions as a duo. They were also winners with a group of friends in another, larger team. I was amazed at the skills required! The young people were also involved regularly in dance and step team competitions, all these activities improving their Double Dutch techniques and providing a larger repertoire of moves.

I learned that Double Dutch had become a feature at the Inner City Games in Columbus, Ohio, as well as at local and regional competitions held in the city's large sports venues. I was fortunate enough to witness awe-inspiring precision stunts, such as two youth running full tilt at each other from the opposite sides of the gym and each executing a front flip into the air in the middle of the two spinning jump ropes. Then they began skipping and jumping ropes without missing a beat.

Double Dutch includes art, science, and sport and the people that participate in it are accomplished and coordinated. McDonald's and other large corporations are sponsors of Double Dutch teams nationwide in America, and I think that Double Dutch should be in the Olympics.

The Secret Chinese History of Double Dutch

Double Dutch is not new, but it's still fun!

Like many sports, Double Dutch is traced back to China, Phoenicia, and Egypt.

In Egypt, children and youth used two ropes made of vines for complex jumping games. Little is known about the Phoenician games related to this, except as portrayed in some more isolated pieces of ancient artwork. However, some archeologists and cultural anthropologists feel that these rope games arose from out of Phoenician fishing rope handling techniques, just as crocheting originated from fish net making.

The Chinese used a different material for rope.

In the 1950s and 1960s, a precursor of Double Dutch in Ohio was called by elementary school children "Chinese Jump Rope", which they learned from Chinese exchange students that had learned the game from centuries-old family traditions.

The activity began with long chains of rubber bands tied together to form two ropes that were each 8-10 feet long.

Chinese girl jumping rope

Chinese girl jumping rope

Two people held the ends of the rubber ropes, but very close to the ground, about 6 inches above the pavement of the school yard. The ropes were not spun at first, but quickly touched to the ground about 8" apart, then 12" in the air about 8" apart, onto the ground and 8" apart, in the air 12" high and 12" out on both sides, and the pattern repeated faster and faster. When the ropes were close together, the jumpers feet were to touch on the ground outside the ropes and when the ropes were apart, the feet were to touch inside. If INSIDE the ropes, the feet of one person were to alternate by landing side-by-side, right in front of left, left in front of right, just the right foot and just the left foot. Two jumpers together tried to do the same patterns. Hand stands and back flips were added. More people were jumping in, up to six and eight at a time.

Different footwork was used on the outside of the ropes, including one-foot and two-foot techniques. After a certain amount of time, the ropes would start spinning and kids developed their own patterns and skills and began using regular American jump ropes instead of rubber bands in Ohio and much ot the Eastern US. Then McDonalds decision makers saw it and thought it was a great sport for urban youth in the 1970s and began sponsoring school teams and local competitions. The Midwest's Double Dutch phenomenon took off in popularity after it became a success in New York and the Eastern US.

The 21st century "speed" Double Dutch event is fairly new. Formerly, the sport was based on gymnastics, which is Freestyle today.

In Reno, Nevada, several groups of teens perform Double Dutch on roller blades.

Maurice Prendergast painting: Skipping Rope (1892-1895)

Maurice Prendergast painting: Skipping Rope (1892-1895)

From Holland to NYC: Double Dutch and Double Irish

Jumping with one and two ropes was introduced into the Western Hemisphere in what is now the Eastern US by colonists from Holland [the Dutch].

The time was the 1600s, when Euorpeans began settling America. Nothing is written about what the Native Americans thought of seeing colonists skipping ropes. One can only imagine.

The game that became "Double Dutch" stayed in the eastern regions of the continent, growing more popular in the Dutch areas of New York (New Amsterdam), and spreading slowly to the Midwest in the 19th-20th century.

The English settlers in the New World began using the negative nickname "Double Dutch" to indicate anything they did not understand about Holland and the Dutch Colonists, especially their speech. The English later called another jump rope game "Double Irish" as a negative nickname in the same way. Doubletalk, Double Dutch, and Double Irish have all been insults.

By the 1890s, called "The Gay Nineties", girls' fashions began rising above the ankles in skirts that were a bit shorter than floor length. This allowed young women the flexibility to jump rope as the boys did. Soon, rope jumping became "a girl's game."

The school girls used their usual hand-clapping games while jumping rope. When they became proficient at this, they added fancier footwork and other tricks as their skirts continued to decrease in length over time.

People of all nationalities, genders, and ages play Double Dutch. Girls particularly played it as a game before it became a sport, but the activity has been called "The Black Girls' Game" by some individuals who know little about it's current status. McDonald's Inc. helped to change that by sponsoring teams all over the country beginning in the1980s.

Today, other companies have involved themselves and many countries support a Double Dutch or rope jumping organization with several teams.

Double Dutch surged after World War II, but people lost interest in it in the 1950s-1960s as the Space Age took the world's attention toward gadgetry and electronics. Ropes were "quaint" or "old hat" or "boring" when compared to rocketry and space exploration. America wanted to compete with the Russians with more technologically advanced activities than jumping rope as a sport.

McDonald's in NYC discovered youth playing Double Dutch in Central Park in the early 1970s and planned to use it in commercials to target urban populations. The leadership also planned to sponsor tournaments.

In 1973, Mr. Ulysses Williams of the NYPD, began to use Double Dutch in his youth outreach program that was called Rope, not Dope, a play on the boxing term "rope a dope" -- Boxing is a big youth activity for Police Athletic Leagues (PAL) across the nation.

About the same time, Mr. David Walker, a Harlem police detective of the NYPD, was involved with Harlem youth activities. He started an annual tournament at the Apollo Theater in Harlem in 1974 and coached Double Dutch into a national sport.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Richard Cendali was training for football in Denver Colorado and found that rope skipping could substitute for running stadium stairs in bad weather. He added fancy moves and by the mid-1970s, he'd taught students of his own to fancy-skip rope, formed a Demonstration Team, and began traveling the world with it.

McDonald's, Cendali, Williams, and Walker have developed modern-day Double Dutch training and competition internationally.

US Jump Rope Nationals: Gold Medalists


© 2008 Patty Inglish MS


Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on August 17, 2012:

Those are good memories to hear, Dolores! I watched some films of Double Dutch competitions recently and am blown away at the speed and acrobatics of some of the jumpers. If beach volleyball can be in the Olympics, I suspect that Double Dutch may one day make an appearance. Tat might be fun. Thanks for your comments!

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on August 17, 2012:

Talk about a fun workout! I remember Double Dutch back in the early 1960's when it was a huge playground fad for a time. We also played a form of Chinese Jumprope with joined rubber bands or elastic, but slightly different than what you describe. Two girls hooked the rubber around their legs, a bit higher than the ankles. Then one stepped in the center and performed a pattern of movements.....can't quite recall how it was done.

We also had a lot of silly chants that went with the jumping. Thanks for bringing back the memories.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on June 14, 2009:

keshia - This team started in Columbia, South Carolina in 1985 and is still active. Look them up in the phone book there and see if they are listed. Otherwise, email them on their web page:

keshia on June 13, 2009:

thois keshia again email me at

keshia on June 13, 2009:

well i can double dutch. just not as good as your team. i live in columbia, sc and i wanted to do summer camp double dutch or a class to get better at if you are not in columbia, sc. please tell me some places

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on March 16, 2008:

Thanks for the comment and visit cgull8! I had not thought about this in a few years until I saw the request. Much fun. And you are right about teamwork.

cgull8m from North Carolina on March 16, 2008:

This is awesome it will teach them teamwork, how to work hard to get the results. Great hub, the videos are excellent, amazing talent.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on March 16, 2008:

Hey, Everybody! -- This was really a coincidence, because I met those kids in the 1960s and some of the Chinese exchange students as well. I tried to learn the game, but ti was too tricky for me!  Then I was fortunate enough to be in a conference where the McDonald's information was presented by some of their admin. staff and their advertising agency. It was fascinating. Peter Cendali I knew about because he was Phys Ed Teacher of the Year a couple years ago.

So WOW, what a coincidence. It;s great to have some firsthand info that is not in the "Net.

Angela - could you do the game/sport? I was too uncoordinated at the time.

livelonger - It was a great question and all the info semeed to just coame to gether. Thanks for asking it!

 Kathryn - A lot of coincidence, but Thanks! - only a few hundred people know about the McDonald's ad plans.  I loved the old Double Dutch films they showed us fomr the 1960s and 1970s in Central Park and surrounding neighborhoods.

Kathryn Vercillo from San Francisco on March 16, 2008:

Great complete article here! I was thinking about answering this request but didn't think that I had enough information to write a good hub; looks like you knew where to find it!

Jason Menayan from San Francisco on March 16, 2008:

Wow, what a perspective! Thanks Patty.

Angela Harris from Around the USA on March 15, 2008:

I had forgotten all about Double Dutch. Thanks for bringing back some memories. Double Dutch is awesome to watch.