Some say they jump for joy. For the past 23 years, indeed they have jumped for Joy. Joy Holman, the original coach who has led this incredible organization to several world championships, has taken great pleasure watching the team evolve into the formidable talent it is today.
The team was conceived in February 1985 by Jowana Harris, Leah Davis, and Freda Davis (three sisters) and the late Victor Morris. They had only one mission when they formed the Valley Park Double Dutch Team, (now MLK Park) and it was to get in shape while having fun. No one had any idea of the miles, states they would travel to nor the friends they would meet. The state of South Carolina and the City of Columbia were put on the Double Dutch map in bold print by the legacy and winning tradition of this team.
They solicited the help of Holman, a coach who was known as a type of superwoman of sports. She coached everything from volleyball, basketball, track and field, to softball. She reluctantly accepted the task of coaching, helping them get into shape, and teaching them how to become winners. Victor was instrumental in getting the tasked started, since he had previously jumped competitively in New York.
The registration was $1.00 and was paid by two of the sisters. The team practiced many hours leading up to the World Competition. The Forces placed 5th the first time they competed. Eleven months later, the Force won 1st place and the winning tradition continues today.
Holman explains, "The purpose of our program is to build character, self-esteem, discipline and foster a sense of giving back to the community."
Assisting Holman with the task of leading the Forces is Mike Peterson, Jennifer Jones, Pam James and numerous parent volunteers.
Just last weekend, Holman took 16 teams, which range in age from pre-school to post college, to Sumter, SC to compete against some of the best jumpers in the world. Over 150 teams from as far as Japan gathered to show the judges some fancy footwork and intense athleticism. Of the 16 teams from Columbia, 13 brought back titles.
To date, the Forces hold 217 State Titles, 80 World Titles, 54 Second Place Titles, 8 National, 2 Grand National Titles, and 15 AAU Junior Olympic Titles.
For the jumpers, the team has become like family. Katherine Myers, who now attends Furman University, remembers her days with the Forces fondly. "Going to compete was like getting to go on field trips." When she was in third grade, Myers first saw the jumpers at the State Fair. Now a busy college student, she recalls how enriching the experience was for a young girl.
"I first learned about teamwork, being on time, what it was to sacrifice for something you wanted. I now face challenges at school with a healthy sense of competition and reliability."
For the parents of the Forces, the experience is just as exciting. Arthur Rhinehart, father of Arju Rhinehart, says his daughter attended the Forces Double Dutch camp last year and made a good impression on Joy. She was invited to join and her father is delighted with her progress. And he relishes the opportunity to get out and meet other parents. He hopes she can keep her focus and go on to possibly earn a scholarship. Arju placesd 3rd in world doubles.
Juan McDuffie, father of 10 year old Sierra McDuffie, encouraged his daughter to get involved. Juan and Coach Holman have been friends for years and he proudly proclaims, "Joy told her she would make her a world champion, and she did!"
McDuffie says the change in Sierra since joining with the Forces is dramatic. "She used to be somewhat introverted, but now she interacts with people from different cultures and is much more outgoing, and excited."
Loretta Hamilton, who comes to watch her granddaughter Alicia, loves the interaction as well. "It makes me feel good to see the kids get along and compete."
Paris Dawkins, who took first and second place in State and World for Singles and Doubles, is giving her mother something to smile about as well. "Sheâ€™s achieving knowledge and skills for competing is whatever she chooses to do in life," said Patrina Dawkins of her daughter. "I know she can do it."
Lacie Doolittle has been jumping with the Forces for over 11 years and testifies, "It gets in your blood, you just canâ€™t stop." Doolittle is hoping to come in the top three in the national competition set to take place this weekend in Orlando.
In addition to the acclaim the Forces enjoy from their judges and peers, they have had their day in the spotlight for all the world to see. Appearances on broadcasts such as the Today Show, Sesame Street and the NCAA Final Four have brought them the adoration of the entire country.
A documentary titled "Doubletime – The Movie" was recently released and features the Forces and the Bouncing Bulldogs of Chapel Hill, NC. The film is about two teams having the same goal: winning the Holiday Double Dutch Classic at the Apollo Theater in New York. The teams come from two different worlds, but are more alike than not. They know in order to be champions, dedication and discipline is the key. You can watch the trailer at www.doubletimethemovie.com.
If anyone thinks they have what it takes to be a force to be reckoned with, the Forces will be hosting another Double Dutch camp this summer. The first session will be held from July 21 – 25 and a second session is to be held from July 28 – August 1. Drop off time every day is 7:30 am and pick up time is 5:30 pm.
You can always check out the Forces at their home in Martin Luther King, Jr. Park in Five Points. Jump Rope practice is held at the park on Thursdays and Fridays from 6:30 – 7:30 pm and on Saturdays and Sundays from 4:30 – 7:30 pm. Best of luck to the team as they head to Orlando this weekend!