"It's helped her be more active. ... I like how they learn new tricks. She says, 'Mom, can you do this?'"
Many extracurricular activities dip into parents' wallets, but Vonlinger says this does not occur with the jump rope team.
"It's a chance for her to be in something that doesn't cost a lot of money."
The AHA provides jump ropes and T-shirts to the children. All the children have to furnish is shorts and tennis shoes. The teams travel to perform at other schools, nursing homes, McDowell Wellness Center and state physical education conferences. The AHA pays for transportation and substitute teachers.
June Baker, the mother of Highland jumper Emily Baker, says she knows the people at the nursing home loved the show.
"Those older people, that's bound to be the highlight of their day."
Stanford Elementary formed its first jump rope team seven years ago and Highland followed suit four years ago. Judging from the packed house at Stanford's recent tryouts, it's become an "in" thing to do for the pupils. Stanford had 91 tryout for the teams.
Kathy Case, the school's physical education teacher, says she jumped rope as a child, but she thought the activity had declined in popularity. Not now.
"Since we've been doing this, I see them at recess and they've got their jump ropes."
Case chose 21 for the varsity team and 15 for a second team because the high number of skilled jump-ropers made it difficult to narrow down.
"The ability level is getting better," she says, noting that the children learn all the jump rope skills in gym.
The children can join the team as young as second-grade and Case says she tries to include four or five second-graders so she can work with them a longer time. The older jumpers also act as mentors to the younger team members.
Highland's principal, Darren Yaden, says having second- through sixth-grade members is one of the best aspects.
"I like it because we can get all age groups in it."
The idea for having a team at Stanford stemmed from a visit from a Louisville jump rope team. The AHA didn't have a team in this area so Case decided to organize one and now holds the position of southeast regional director.
As a physical education teacher, Case likes the idea of promoting health, but she also likes the choreography. She stresses the importance of staying together in their jumps.
"It looks so neat to have everybody turning the rope and hitting the ground at the same time."
She says being on the team also teaches the children how to perform.
"They learn that if you mess up, just smile and go on. They also know that if they're doing three performances in a day, two of them are probably not going to go as well."
Chris Mingo, the coach at Highland, says his children love performing and they pass that enthusiasm on to their audiences. When visiting another school, the finale of the show is to have that school's faculty and staff come jump. A highlight for the children was performing at the high school this year.
"The student body was just clapping. They thought they were great," Mingo says.
The children are learning lifelong health practices that will help them prevent suffering from heart disease - the No. 1 killer in America, Mingo says.
"We know that exercise benefits in fighting heart disease. We also talk about eating healthy and not smoking - that's what we tell the kids."
Each of the Highland jumpers have a specialty that he or she performs when their name is called. Morgan Jones, a third-grader, specializes in jumping with a Hula-Hoop around her ankle. She likes every aspect of being on the team, but especially likes to perform at other schools. Even the most enthusiastic jumpers feel a little pooped by the end of a workout.
"It is fun until the very end when you get hot, sweaty and tired."|3/16/04|***