Best of Philly Spotlight: 60 Minutes with 40+ Double Dutch Club
How this year's Best of Philly winner for Best Pastime started as a gathering of friends and grew into a nationwide women’s fitness movement.
This year’s Best Pastime winner 40+ Double Dutch Club started from a 2016 gathering of friends in Chicago and is now a nationwide women’s fitness movement. Sharon Hatcher and Iesha Jackson steer the Philly chapter, where a quick visit to observe their footwork turned into much more.
Earth, Wind & Fire echoes down the halls of a West Oak Lane community center. Inside a multi-purpose room, seven women stand in bright red t-shirts, hula-hooping and chatting about their plans for the summer: graduations, prom send-offs, cookouts, new babies. In the middle of the room, a trio gets to the main event. Two begin turning the ropes while the third dives into the fray, alternating feet at breakneck speed. To a layman, it’s perfect. To these experts, it’s anything but. They stop and ask for a different set of ropes. Hatcher hands them a lighter woven set, and feet start to fly again.
“It started off with two friends who wanted to do something that was just for them to have fun,” Hatcher says. “They were in their heads about different things — divorces, kids growing up, all that. They thought back to how they jumped rope when they were kids and how much fun they had.” From that original duo, the club has amassed more than 30,000 members across the country.
Hatcher took to double Dutch at age five, she says. Many women join the club without having jumped rope in decades; just like riding a bike, they return to the childhood pastime with ease.
Fun, fitness and fellowship, Hatcher says, is the name of their game. They don’t concern themselves with competition, just with passing down skills, traditions and memories. She recalls a meetup weeks ago attended by a young woman from Jamaica: “She had never jumped before, ever.” The members taught her. “We can teach you if you have any kind of rhythm. Most people can do it in a matter of minutes.”
When I thank Hatcher for her time and turn to leave, she stops me: “Oh no, now we’re gonna teach you.” Prince’s “I Wanna Be Your Lover” is playing. Each time I trip, they offer another tip: Get in when the rope closest to you is raised. Don’t jump in; run in. Don’t be scared. When I get the hang of it, they speed up and have me turn in a circle. When I finish the revolution, they cheer.
Wheezing but grinning, I leave the Simons Community Recreation Center.
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Published as “60 Minutes with 40+ Double Dutch Club” in the August 2022 issue of Philadelphia magazine.