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Double Dutch: From Street Game to International Sport

“With Double Dutch, both the body and the mind are utilized.”

It was not uncommon during my early school years to see children at the playground or in the gym twirling ropes and singing rhymes. They were playing a game called “Double Dutch.” It has been a street and school house favorite for many years. This leisurely recreational activity has now blossomed into a worldwide, competitive sport.

What is Double Dutch?

Double Dutch is a game played with two jump ropes and at least 3 people. The ropes are swirled in an egg-beater shape (usually swung inward in opposite directions). While the ropes are turned, a third person jumps in.  As the jumper jumps in rhythm with the ropes, the participants usually perform a rhyme.

How to Double Dutch:

Benefits of Double Dutch:

The game of Double Dutch is a fun way to motivate children and teenagers to exercise. It combines team building characteristics with athletic movements. With Double Dutch, both the body and the mind are utilized. Benefits include:

  • Improved linear and lateral speed
  • Improved Agility
  • Improved Endurance
  • Improved rhythm
  • Improved teamwork skills
  • Artistic Creativity


Beginnings of Competitive Double Dutch:

According to the National Double-Dutch Leagues website, David Walker is credited with making the playground game a competitive sport in 1973. Walker was New York City Community Affairs Detective and got his motivation from watching the children of NYC perform this exhilarating in the streets and on the sidewalks.

The first competitive double-dutch tournament, organized by Walker, was held on February 14, 1974. The event had approximately 600 participants. The game has now grown to roughly 100,000 participants worldwide.

Competitive Leagues:

The original double-dutch league, American Double-Dutch League, was founded in 1973 by David Walker. Since its inception, other leagues have formed with some being spinning off the original league and adapting the same rules while others are independent of Walker’s league and have adapted their own rules.

One spin off of the original league is the International double-dutch federation which was formed by Walker himself upon his retirement from the ADDL in 1992. The league was formed to serve as an international governing body for the sport of Double Dutch. 

In 2015, a new league came onto the scene, The Floyd Little Double Dutch League (FLDDL). It was started by Shaquanna Floyd and Laila Little, who are former Double Dutch stars as both participants and currently as coaches. Not only did these two women see a financial opportunity, but they also saw a platform to help young boys and girls both academically and socially. The league also has a modified scoring system from traditional competitive Double Dutch which adds a level of difficulty to the events.

The FLDDL has not come without controversy. More established leagues have seen the new league as illegitimate and the ADDL has even said that had Floyd and Little approached them, they would have been more than happy to sanction their new venture.

Other jump rope organizations, such as the World Jump Rope Federation and the International Rope Skipping Federation, also offer Double Dutch as part of their competitive field during events.

Scoring system:

There are two types of teams in the sport of Double Dutch: a 3-person team (two turners and one jumper) and a 4-person team (two turners and two jumpers)

There are 3 rounds in a Double Dutch competition: A compulsory round, a speed round, and a freestyle round.

The compulsory round is made up of five predetermined jumps:

  1. Two turns to the right (jumped on the right foot)
  2. Two turns to the left (jumped on the left foot)
  3. Two crisscross jumps in which the right foot crosses in front of the left
  4. Two crisscross jumps in which the left foot crosses in front of the right
  5. 10 high steps in which the jumper must alternate feet
    1. Must jump on each foot 10 times
    2. Must raise knee to waist level making thigh parallel with floor

The speed round consists of jumping as many times as possible within a two-minute period. A judge counts the number of jumps using a clicker. Each time the left hits the ground, it counts as one jump. Participants must jump for 2:05 in the FLDDL. This was one of the rule modifications that was introduced in the new league.

The freestyle round is saved for the finale at most events. It is a one-minute jump that allows and rewards creativity of the jumpers. The participants are free to do a routine of their own design. Examples of tricks performed by the jumpers include splits, toe touches, and flips.

While the freestyle round allows for creativity and unique routines, there are limitations and requirements which carry penalties for violations:

  1. Jumpers are penalized if their routine is less than 45 seconds or more than one minute.
  2. While the order is up to each team, elements such as turn, acrobat, dance, and ending are required.
  3. The jumper may not take more than 5 seconds to enter the rope.
  4. The jumper may not be outside of the ropes for more than 5 seconds.
  5. The jumper may not jump a single rope for more than 3 turns.


Best ropes for Double Dutch:

Cloth ropes are most commonly used in competitive double-dutch. They typically come in either 12 ft or 14 ft lengths. 12-foot ropes are typically used for single jumpers and 14-foot ropes are used with pairs (2 jumpers). These ropes tend to provide a more consistent weight distribution and are more durable than other double-dutch rope options.

For recreational double-dutch, such as playground use, beaded jump ropes are the rope of choice. Beaded ropes are often-times more affordable than cloth ropes, but typically are not as durable. Also, with beaded ropes, consistent weight distribution is not guaranteed.

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