There are many recreational opportunities and spaces Harding provides for its students — from intramural sports and swimming times, to rock climbing and more. However, jump roping is not among them.
Originally from Tennessee, freshman Jacob Weatherford came to Harding after alternative plans with jump roping fell through.
“I started in a club at my local elementary school,” Weatherford said. “Starting when I was 6 or 7, I’ve been doing it for about 13 years. I just really enjoyed it and figured there was a competitive team instead of just performances . . . So I went to nationals and, ever since then, I was on the competitive and performance teams.”
Weatherford said through his competition team, he had the opportunity to compete all over the country and eventually all around the world. In addition to this, his performance team performed at college basketball halftime shows, high schools and more.
Weatherford said that jump roping helped to form a large portion of his close-knit relationships and is an influential aspect of his childhood that helped him cultivate leadership skills, worldwide friendships and unique opportunities.
One of the highlights of Weatherford’s athletic career includes being scouted and hired by Cirque Du Soleil at 16 years old. However, his career as a performer for the international company was cut short due to COVID-19 travel restrictions across the globe.
A long-term goal for Weatherford is getting his team to qualify for the 2028 Olympics. The obstacle, however, will be maintaining physical health, Weatherford said. Due to the physical stress of tumbling, jump roping and working out, only time and diligence will tell if Weatherford’s team will compete.
Several students in the Harding community have connections to jump roping and said they also created strong bonds and leadership skills because of it.
“I enjoyed [jump roping],” junior Sarah Hickerson said. “It’s definitely a good leadership role … as you grow up because we just entered a place where we had to step up and take charge, and I think that’s been really beneficial to me.”
Senior Jordan Hornsby also did competitive and performance jump roping for eight years while growing up. Hornsby said she most enjoyed the relationships she formed from being on a team and still appreciates the lessons she learned from it.
“Something that I learned that I still hold with me is that there is always room for improvement,” Hornsby said. “Jump roping is so meticulous, and there is always something that can be changed or improved. Each jump is so specific, so I learned the art of striving to do my best in all things.”
Both Hornsby and Weatherford said they were able to learn a lot from jump roping — a sport that not many participate in — and continue to value the memories and lessons accumulated from their years competing and performing.