Jump rope camp readies SIS students for performances

The Sweetwater Intermediate School jump rope team has come a long way in 20 years.What used to be a simple extracurricular activity is now a halftime spectacle at venues as hallowed as the AT&T Center — home of NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, Texas Tech, Baylor University, where the team performed during the women's NCAA championship, to name a few.A jump rope camp is being held at SIS this week, where current and soon-to-be jumpers can learn the "ropes" in preparation for the upcoming shows."This camp really helps our team and our performances," said Rajeania Pittman, who has served as jump rope coach for 14 years.Joining Pittman and Dawn Cornutt — who will take over as head coach for Pittman next year — are Miranda DiBenedetto and Sarah Mugavero, both of whom have competed in national championships and won prestigious awards in the jump rope world."They have been everywhere learning tricks," Pittman said of DiBenedetto and Mugavero. "They've competed everywhere — Canada, London, Israel, Africa; and learned tricks everywhere, so they come and work with our kids for three days and teach them some tricks we can't teach them,"The pair have enjoyed instructing the campers, which are comprised of grades 1-5 and number more than 60."In elementary school, there was a performance team," Mugavero, whose former jump squad was featured in a documentary film called 'Jump', said. "I found a competition team in middle school. I just fell in love with jumping and teaching kids how to jump. This is my ninth year to come to Sweetwater.""I think it's awesome," Mugavero continued. "I love seeing the looks on their faces when they get a new trick. It's also good for you. Jump rope is great for the heart. They're working out without knowing it. They are having fun, but they are doing great things for their bodies and their brains."Fifth grade jumper Claire Paty is looking forward to her second year on the team."My favorite part is probably the turning and Double Dutch," Paty said. "And it's fun getting to travel to places like the Spurs."Teammate Leo Holsey, also a fifth grader, agreed."I like to jump rope and the coaches are cool," Holsey said. "I like the stomach bounces." (Stomach bounces are similar to the dance move "the worm," but requires the jumper to bounce through a moving rope.)"It takes passion and determination to do this," DiBenedetto, a 20-year-old grand national champion in multiple events, added."It helps you learn patience and drive, it teaches you balance and hand-eye coordination. It's great cardio — 10 minutes of jumping is equal to 30 minutes of running. It's definitely a passion of mine I like to share."The camp continues through Wednesday, with the team's major performances taking place during basketball season.