Life beyond the ropes
Founder, head coach of Kandies Rope Twisters helps kids jump their way to the top
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.