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What is Double Dutch?

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  • Written By: A. B. Kelsey
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 15 April 2014
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Double Dutch is a rope skipping game that is played when two people twirl two ropes in opposite directions like an eggbeater. A person or a team of people jump inside of these ropes, usually using a lot of fancy footwork, gymnastic moves and break-dancing elements. In other parts of the world, this jump rope game is called “Double French” or “Double Irish.”

According to David A. Walker, the man credited with turning Double Dutch into a sport in America, the probable origins of Double Dutch activities lie with the ancient Chinese, Egyptian and Phoenician rope makers. These tradesmen would twirl bunches of hemp in the air and spin them into a rope. Their runners had to hop these twirling ropes to bring the rope makers more supplies. This inspired others to jump ropes as a leisure activity and the exercise was passed down from generation to generation until it traveled to America in the 1600s with the children of Dutch settlers.

There are several theories behind the origin of the term “Double Dutch.” The most popular theory states that “Double Dutch” translates into “gibberish” or a “strange kind of talking.” Dutch children would usually chant a singing rhyme while jumping their two ropes. Since settlers from other areas of the world could not understand the songs, they labeled the activity “Double Dutch.”

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The Double Dutch game remained a favorite sidewalk activity of New York children for centuries. By the time the 1950s came to a close, however, the popularity of the radio and the lack of playgrounds near apartment buildings nearly made the game extinct. In 1973, David A. Walker, a New York City Police Community Affairs Detective, decided to revitalize Double Dutch as a competitive sport. He and his partner, Detective Ulysses Williams, teamed up with local physical education (PE) teachers to host the first official Double Dutch tournament on Valentine’s Day 1974. Almost 600 fifth, sixth, seventh and eight grade students showed up to compete.

After the success of this tournament, Walker founded the sport’s first governing body, the American Double Dutch League (ADDL) and served as the organization’s president for the next 18 years. Walker also formed the International Double Dutch Federation (IDDF), the National Double Dutch League (NDDL) and the Dynamic Diplomats of Double Dutch (DDDD) team.

Double Dutch has recently seen another surge in popularity. The Double Dutch Holiday Classic is an international World-Class competition that attracts young athletes from all over the globe. Double Dutch summer camps have had increased enrollment, At last count, over 100,000 girls and boys compete in Double Dutch tournaments every year.

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