On a warm summer evening on the playground of Whittier Elementary School, about two dozen women over the age of 40 have assembled to jump back to a time when skipping rope, sharing stories and having fun was a way of life.
They are part of Oak Park’s new 40+ Double Dutch Club (40plusdoubledutchclub.com), which joined a quickly growing movement of jumping clubs across the country.
“Now we tire faster but that’s OK, and it doesn’t matter your size or shape, as long as you’re trying, then you can play. So ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. Gypsy, gypsy girls unleashed, we’re reliving memories,” 40 Double Dutch Club founder Pamela Robinson sings as one of the members effortlessly jumps rope.
Other members gather around, sharing words of encouragement as the jumpers take their turns.
“It’s not as easy as it looks,” RoShawnda Thompson, founder of the Oak Park branch of 40 Double Dutch Club says with a laugh.
Thompson wrote in an online testimonial that the club saved her from the pressures of health issues, work and family stress. She considers the club a gift from God, she wrote in an online testimonial.
“I’ve learned that it’s OK to go boldly before God’s throne and ask for your heart desires, I did, and he provided me with just what I needed, to have fun (I needed this for my sanity), build new friendships and be fit all at the same time,” Thompson wrote.
It’s a message reiterated by many of the club members.
The 40 Double Dutch Club has grown in leaps and bounds since the group was first featured on ABC 7’s Windy City Live in May.
More than a dozen “sub clubs” have formed in the Chicagoland area and several other states, including Houston, Dallas, Louisville, Las Vegas, Raleigh/Durham in North Carolina and Queens, New York, among others.
Club founder Pamela Robinson said she has been jumping Double Dutch with friends for several years, but only over the last six months has it become a sensation.
“I started in 2016 – it was during a period … where I was really having some challenges in my personal life,” Robinson said.
She began jumping with friend and club co-founder Catrina Dyer-Taylor. The two and some friends began meeting near a high school near Robinson’s house in Homewood and at her church, Trinity United Church of Christ.
Robinson described it as a chance to get away from “adulting” for a while – that’s why the clubs only allow those over the age of 40, she said.
“I absolutely think people should teach their daughters to jump,” she said. “But it’s for women to relive old memories. The kids weren’t part of that.”
She said that as a kid she would jump Double Dutch “all day, every day.”
“That’s a memory for black women everywhere,” she said.
The generations after them did not jump Double Dutch and instead “played video games and are on their cellphones,” she said. “There’s no app for Double Dutch.”
After appearing on Windy City Live, Robinson began getting requests from women across the country interested in forming their own clubs. The club has about 4,500 members and is growing, she said.
To start a club, you need to get five members – it only takes three people to jump Double Dutch, she explained – and purchase five 40 Double Dutch T-shirts from the club.
The T-shirt requirement is “so we look like a group and don’t look like we just rolled out of bed.”
Not everyone in the club is reliving memories of jumping Double Dutch as a kid.
Oak Parker Stacia Crawford said she joined and is learning to jump for the first time.
“A friend of mine came across it on Facebook and sent it to me,” she said.
Crawford said she was immediately welcomed by the group that she said is made up of “all shapes and sizes.”
“I thought I’d just watch, but from the first time I went they were like, ‘Would you like to try?'” she said. “It was just great how everyone embraced me.”
Crawford said she kept coming out for the exercise and for the camaraderie.
“I’m definitely getting better, and by the end of the summer, I’m going to be good,” she said.
Robinson said new clubs are popping up every day, and the rise of the 40 Double Dutch Club has gained her some celebrity fanfare. She recently was flown out to do a segment for a local newscast in Washington, D.C., where a one of her clubs has formed.
She said the goal of “promoting fitness, friendship and fun for women over 40” is resonating with a lot of women her age.
“I feel like this is ordained by God, the way it’s falling into place,” she said. “I think it’s amazing the way God is using this in a positive way.”