Members of the North Charlotte-Concord chapter of 40+ Double Dutch Club get in a workout. The club, North Carolina’s first, started in 2019 and gives members a platform to support each other emotionally along with physical fitness.

A children’s game is helping midlife women navigate the responsibilities of adulthood.

The 40+ Double Dutch Club is a national group of Black women who jump with a mission of inspiring friendship, fitness, and fellowship. The club gives members a break from adulting and empowers them emotionally along with physical fitness.

“You come to this midlife awareness that you’re giving so much of yourself to everyone else and your cup is left empty for you,” said Michelle Joshua, who is the 40+ DDC captain for the North Charlotte-Concord chapter.

Joshua started the chapter in 2019 as the first in North Carolina. Now there are seven: Clayton/Garner, Raleigh/Durham, Greensboro, Fayetteville, and Wilson. There’s also one in South Charlotte.

Double Dutch is played with two people turning two large ropes in opposite directions while one or more jumpers hop simultaneously in the middle. The game’s history in the U.S. can be traced to Dutch immigrants who arrived in New York City.

According to the New York-based National Double Dutch League, the modern game was developed in 1973 when New York City police Detectives David Walkers and Ulysses Williams created rules that gave children in predominantly Black neighborhoods an opportunity to compete in a team sport with their own rhymes and creative moves.  

The 40+ DDC was started in 2016 in Chicago by Pamela Robinson and her best friend Catrina Dyer-Taylor.

Robinson was inspired to start the club after going through a depression and what people call a “midlife crisis.”

“My marriage was coming to an end,” Robinson said. “My kids were grown up and they didn’t need me the same way they did when they were growing up, volunteering at their schools, and helping with homework. Things had changed. I needed to find a happy place.”

Robinson decided to become more intentional about jumping, which quickly turned into a major phenomenon with more women of color who were going through similar experiences joining her.  

The group is a sisterhood and safe space for women 40 and older to support them through a time in their lives when transitions are taking place, whether it’s menopause, divorce, supporting adult children or aging parents. Women this age are often so busy catering to other people they put care for themselves last.

Membership is easy – just buy a T-shirt through the organization that displays your name and your age.

The Charlotte chapter consists of more than 100 women. The youngest member is 42, and the oldest is 83.  

If you have two left feet, that’s OK. They will teach you how to jump.  “Double Dutch is not hard at all,” Joshua said. “The key to Double Dutch is coordination between three people – the two turners and the jumper. Good turners will adjust to the jumper’s speed and skill.”

As a certified Double Dutch aerobics instructor, Joshua insists she can teach anyone the game in 60 seconds.

“I can teach anyone as long as you can jump up and down and get your feet up off the ground at least two to three inches,” she said.

Not only do members jump, they play other childhood favorites such as hula hoop, lemon ball, tinkling sticks, jacks, African hopscotch, and hand games – think Rock Paper Scissors.
Although Double Dutch has long been a staple in the Black community, most young people aren’t familiar with it.

“I think that the generations now, I don’t think they really know about Double Dutch,” said Pleasant, 39, a member of the South End chapter. “Growing up, we were out until the streetlights came on and didn’t want to go in after that. We would be outside; we would jump rope even if we didn’t have somebody. We would tie the rope to the end of a tree.”

After going years without jumping, Pleasant had to relearn skills. She joined the club about two months ago and enjoys the camaraderie.

“I joined the Double Dutch club for fellowship and just to have fun and just for sisterhood,” she said. “It’s an exercise.”  

Jumping Double Dutch improves strength, brain, and heart health, as well as coordination, balance, and burn calories.

One way the club supports its members is by gathering for a prayer circle in which they share their needs or announce good news. The local chapter also does community outreach through food drives, donating to shelters and the No Sister Left Behind program, in which members provide financial assistance to peers who are having an emotional, spiritual, or financial hardship.

“My goal is to encourage women to just take that hour and a half, one day a week and come out to double Dutch,” said Joshua the club’s regional delegate and wellness ambassador for North Carolina and South Carolina.  “It’s more than just jumping. It’s more than just line dancing. It’s more than just hula hooping and hopscotch. It’s a way to fellowship with other women.”

The North Charlotte-Concord chapter meets on Sundays from 2:30-4 p.m. at the Rowan Cabarrus YMCA. The South Charlotte chapter meets on Sundays from 2-3:30 p.m. at Providence Road Church of Christ.

The 40+ DDC will host events Aug. 5-6 for the community.

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