LAKE DALLAS — Someone recently told 12-year-old Hannah Reed that jumping rope wasn't a sport.
"I got offended," she said. "It's not just basic jumps. It's hard. So many people do it. We only need 10 more countries to get into the Olympics."
The Lake Dallas Middle School seventh-grader has a fair point. Long gone are the days of "skipping" rope to group chants on the playground. Today, the world of competitive jump roping includes gymnastic stunts, endurance and, most important, quick feet.
"The things people come up with nowadays is incredible," said 27-year-old Kara Mobly. "Back in the day, people were doing round-offs. Now, people are doing back flips and full twists. Every year we go to competition, I can't even tell you the last time I didn't say, 'Wow!' at least 25 times."
The Falcon Flyers began jumping competitively when Shady Shores Elementary School physical education teacher Wendy Bailey founded the team 13 years ago. After seeing a jump rope team at a teaching conference, she started a local after-school program that met for one hour a week.
"At first I couldn't get one kid to even get in the rope," she said.
Today, the Flyers do more than just jump into the ropes. Though the team is based out of Lake Dallas, jumpers from all over the area practice for up to three hours each day for events like single-rope speed jumping or freestyle double Dutch.
There's no age limit in competitive jump rope, so the ages of the Falcon Flyers range from 10 to 27. Several team members have brought home top-three finishes and set national records over the years. Some have even competed internationally.
Stephen Miles, an 18-year-old who attends North Carolina State University during the school year, went to Sweden one summer after he earned a spot on a national team. Tori Landrum, a 17-year-old Lake Dallas High School senior, got the chance to travel to Hong Kong for a jump rope competition.
"I think we came in last that year, but we didn't really care because we were in China," Landrum said.
Though the sport gives jumpers the opportunity to travel the world, it comes with the same challenges associated with other elite sports. Jumpers can suffer anything from a broken bone to a torn tendon.
Like any other athlete, though, the Flyers' competitive drive pushes them through injury and illness. Lake Dallas High School sophomore Ben Sanguinetti performed a group routine at the grand nationals competition while he had a stomach bug.
"We ended up winning first in our event," Sanguinetti said. "But I had to run to the bathroom in between."
All the time spent practicing and traveling to competitions makes for plenty of team bonding moments. After all, the Flyers have to rely on each other to keep turning the ropes or catch someone during a stunt.
"There are times when teams aren't cohesive," 17-year-old Andrea Peters said. "Sometimes, it's frustrating when you have to work together and someone isn't motivated. We're literally connected by ropes, but we work through it."
The camaraderie extends beyond the Flyers team. Several members have made friends with jumpers from all over the country and keep in touch even after their jump roping careers come to an end, often meeting up again at weddings or baby showers.
"It's a family," 25-year-old Krysta Brewer said. "Once you're a part of the sport, you're in it forever, even if you take time off. Everyone remembers each other."
The final tournament in June marked Bailey's last hurrah in competitive jump rope. She said she's retiring from coaching the team to spend more time with her elderly parents and young grandchildren.
Bailey will still be around to offer support and advice, she said, but she's handing over the reins to the coaching trio of Mobly, Brewer and Katelyn Romero.
The women, now in their 20s, have been jumping since they were in elementary school and say they look forward to bringing up a new generation in the sport.
"We want to continue building on the foundation coach Bailey set," Mobly said. "We want to grow and try to get more jumpers involved competitively while keeping the performance team strong. We want to give back to the sport that gave us so much."
CAITLYN JONES can be reached at 940-566-6862.