Twenty years ago, Jean Hodges and her husband, John, along with a small group of jump rope enthusiasts began the journey of making Jump Rope a sport in the AAU Junior Olympic Games. Now, Jump Rope is still going strong and Jean is still on the sidelines, taking part in organizing the competition. Hodges said she thinks Jump Rope is a great addition to the AAU Junior Olympic Games.
"I just thought it was really interesting and fun for the kids to be a part of the whole AAU Junior Olympic Games," Hodges said. "I was a swimmer when I was younger and I thought it was a great opportunity for the kids to be a part of a multi-sport event like this."
Now in its 20th year, Jump Rope is still thriving with more than 200 AAU members competing in this year's competition. Hodges said she is overwhelmed by the support she received while starting it and enjoys seeing the growth throughout the years.
"It makes me feel very proud that it has gone on this long," she said of Jump Rope in the AAU Junior Olympic Games. "When we first started out, we had made this a part of Aerobics. I think it was 1998 that we separated Jump Rope from Aerobics."
Hodges has been around Jump Rope for quite some time now and her daughters even participated in the sport when they were young.
"I was actually a swimmer when I started out, but I got involved in jump rope with my kids," Hodges explained. "They competed in jump rope; we took the team to a number of different countries over in Europe and we went to Australia as well."
In this years' competition, the Australian teams are coming to the event she is a part of putting together. The Jazzy Jumpers traveled from Australia to be a part of this tournament and another team is all the way from Canada. Hodges said that over they years, she and the AAU Jump Rope Committee have developed a relationship with teams from other countries, including Germany and several other European countries.
After 20 years of being at the AAU Junior Olympic Games, Hodges has seen the sport of Jump Rope change a lot. She commented that when she first started with Jump Rope, competitors were reasonably good at Double Dutch but now, she says there is a huge increase in talent in that specific event. She added that is has been really exciting for her to watch the sport grow.
In the future, she hopes that Jump Rope continues to grow and that people will begin to consider it as a serious sport.
"Well, we’ve tried to make it bigger," she said. "I still think there are a lot of people that don’t understand that it’s a real sport…it’s not just a fun activity for the kids. They don’t think of it as being a serious sport. You watch the older kids and the adults do it just as well now, it’s just amazing how it’s grown since that time."
Jean Hodges was honored last year at the AAU Junior Olympic Games in Detroit with an award named after her. The Jean Hodges Award will be given every year at the AAU Junior Olympic Games for outstanding contribution to the sport of Jump Rope.
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