Life be­yond the ropes

Founder, head coach of Kandies Rope Twis­ters helps kids jump their way to the top

The Enquire-Gazette - - Front Page - By JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES jclinkscales@somd­news.com

Fun, ath­letic and re­ward­ing: those are three things that de­scribe — and iron­i­cally spell out — how far dou­ble dutch has taken LaKe­sha Sim­mons-Brad­shaw through­out her life, ever since the third grade.

Hav­ing spent the past 17 years trav­el­ing and meet­ing peo­ple all around the world, Brad­shaw — nick­named “Kandi” by fam­ily and friends — took her pas­sion for the sport and founded Kandies Rope Twis­ters, a dou­ble-dutch group for girls ages 6 and older in the Wash­ing­ton, D.C., Maryland and Vir­ginia ar­eas.

“It’s won­der­ful to see them happy and see them grow­ing and see them ec­static and see them build­ing re­la­tion­ships and learn­ing how to col­lab­o­rate,” Brad­shaw said in a phone in­ter­view. “That’s the main thing that I love about the sport — it’s be­ing able to ap­ply team­work and un­der- stand­ing what you must con­trib­ute to the suc­cess of the team.”

Dou­ble dutch is a rope-skip­ping ex­er­cise played when two peo­ple turn two ropes in an egg­beater fash­ion while a third per­son jumps in si­mul­ta­ne­ously. The Dutch set­tlers brought the game to the Hud­son River trad­ing town of New Am­s­ter­dam, now New York City. When the English ar­rived and saw the chil­dren play­ing their game, they called it “Dou­ble Dutch.” The game has since grown over the years, par­tic­u­larly in ur­ban ar­eas, and be­came a fa­vorite pas­time to sing rhymes while turn­ing and jump­ing, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Dou­ble Dutch League web­site.

For Brad­shaw, dou­ble dutch is more than just a sport. Rather, it is a life tool that teaches peo­ple how to see each other’s great­ness and use those pos­i­tive qual­i­ties to achieve a com­mon goal, she said.

“Many kids and many adults don’t know how to col­lab­o­rate with some­one. They don’t know how to take the good that they have and the good that some­one else has and put it to­gether to be suc­cess­ful,” Brad­shaw said. “But with this sport right here, it forces you to see your good and see some­one else’s good and fig­ure out how we can reach that com- mon goal. … I’m grate­ful for this sport be­cause I know that I have the skill set to be able to col­lab­o­rate with any­body, see their great­ness, see my great­ness and work to­ward a com­mon goal and be happy.”

As the head coach in­spir­ing

great­ness into her team of 10 girls, Brad­shaw man­aged to put Kandies Rope Twis­ters on the map. The team has not only won nu­mer­ous tro­phies and ac­co­lades, but also com­peted in nu­mer­ous com­pe­ti­tions in­clud­ing the USA Jumprope Re­gion 1 Tour­na­ment, Am­a­teur Ath­letic Union Re­gion 1 Tour­na­ment, World Dou­ble Dutch Cham­pi­onship and Amer­i­can Dou­ble Dutch League com­pe­ti­tions.

“We did very well in [the Am­a­teur Ath­letic Union, which we com­peted in on May 7 in Lau­rel]. The younger team that came in sec­ond place earned them­selves a sil­ver medal and 11 rib­bons rang­ing from fourth place to sec­ond place,” said Brad­shaw. “The big­ger girls, which is ba­si­cally our high school team, their awards ranged from fifth place to sec­ond or third place, and first place for the jump speed as well.”

Brad­shaw cre­ated a GoFundMe page ear­lier this year to raise money for travel ex­penses as the team geared up for competition. Of her $5,000 goal, $560 has been raised.

But money isn’t some­thing that wor­ries Brad­shaw — she said Kandies Rope Twis­ters is an in­vest­ment she wanted to make, even though she knew there wouldn’t be a financial re­ward.

“If you’re look­ing for a financial re­ward in this sport, you’re go­ing to be highly dis­ap­pointed,” she said. “This is a sport where you just have to do it be­cause it’s the right thing to do and it’s re­ward­ing know­ing that they’re happy and able to learn great skills.”

In ad­di­tion, Brad­shaw said her girls have jump roped at the White House, the Apollo Theatre in New York and even ap­peared on the Life­time docu-se­ries, “Jump!,” which aired in the spring of 2015.

“We are speed jumpers, trick­sters, ev­ery­thing — mainly known for both,” she said. “We’re pretty well known as a team to not tread lightly with. If you know that we’re go- ing to be there, you have to come with your ‘A’ game be­cause every­one knows that’s the game we come with.”

With hard work, practice and keep­ing their com­pet­i­tive spirit in­tact, Brad­shaw said Kandies Rope Twis­ters have come out suc­cess­ful ev­ery time.

“It’s a great feel­ing. We’re al­ways en­thu­si­as­tic, we’re al­ways happy, we strive hard, we know what our competition is like and we do our job as far as siz­ing them up,” said Brad­shaw. “There are times when we may have some com­pe­ti­tions that may not end up in our fa­vor be­cause mis­takes hap­pen. … The best of the best goes down some­times so we un­der­stand that. But we try to min­i­mize that by just be­ing well-pre­pared.”

Of all the girls’ ac­com­plish­ments, Brad­shaw, a District Heights res­i­dent who teaches for a liv­ing, said she is mostly proud of the fact that they are great stu­dents and know their ed­u­ca­tion comes first.

“They’re good with the ropes but they’re also ex­cel­lent in school,” she said. “I tell them, ‘You’re go­ing to have to do this in real life. What I’m teach­ing you does not just ap­ply to these ropes. It ap­plies to the real world.’”

The fu­ture for Kandies Rope Twis­ters looks promis­ing as Brad­shaw plans to ap­ply for 501(c) (3) sta­tus and seek spon- sors to help al­le­vi­ate financial bur­dens so more kids can join the team.

“It can be very, very hard some­times, but we keep it go­ing,” said Brad­shaw. “They’re all sweet and an­gelic in their own in­di­vid­ual way.”

In the mean­time, Brad­shaw will con­duct pull-up and jump events through­out the re­gion this sum­mer.

“We just love the sport of dou­ble dutch and get­ting the kids to­gether — build­ing team­work, build­ing strong re­la­tion­ships and bonds that will last a life­time,” she said. “Life skills that go be­yond the rope.”

For more in­for­ma­tion about the team, email krtwisters@gmail.com.

PHO­TOS COUR­TESY OF KANDIES ROPE TWIS­TERS

Kandies Rope Twis­ters founder and head coach LaKe­sha “Kandi” Sim­mon­sBrad­shaw of District Heights, far left, smiles as four of her girls hold sec­ond place tro­phies they won for 8th grade sin­gles and dou­bles at an Amer­i­can Dou­ble Dutch League competition last year in Sumter, South Carolina. Brad­shaw, a teacher, be­gan coach­ing out­side of the school set­ting in 2011 to al­low more stu­dents to ex­pe­ri­ence the sport of dou­ble dutch. The 35-year-old has been in­volved with the sport since the third grade.

A col­lec­tion of tro­phies Kandies Rope Twis­ters has won at past com­pe­ti­tions. The team has also won other ac­co­lades in­clud­ing nu­mer­ous rib­bons and medals.

PHO­TOS COUR­TESY OF KANDIES ROPE TWIS­TERS

A group of stu­dents from Car­mody Hills Ele­men­tary School watch as Kandies Rope Twis­ters team mem­bers per­form live dou­ble-dutch stunts dur­ing a Jump Rope for Amer­i­can Heart As­so­ci­a­tion event at the school last year in Capi­tol Heights.

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