Go Ahead & Jump
By Tracey Moro / Photography by Mike Ferdinande
The music starts, it’s that song JUMP we all recognize, fi tting the performance perfectly. Practicing are six students from Beck Elementary School and two from Beacon Tree Elementary, who form the last jump rope team named The Heart of Beck, coached by Michael LeMerise. After 20 years of coaching the jumpers, LeMerise is retiring and the jump rope team will soon go away. That is unless someone else jumps in.
“I taught for 10 years at Beck, then after I retired teaching I continued coaching the Jump team. My granddaughters are on this last team,” said LeMerise. I drive them here for practice every Tuesday then take them to their school. “I’ve been doing this since before they were born, so they came to a practice and wanted to join once they were old enough.”
The team is made up of eight students, two sets of twins, one boy and lots of energy, especially at 7 a.m., during their practice time before school starts. There are twins Chloe and Shay Ivy, Bridget Maas, Gavin Byrne, Ashlynn Sakofska, Brooklyn and Brianna LeMerise (granddaughters) and team captain Leah Eldred. “I’ve done this for three years now,” said Leah Eldred. “Every single person works very hard. We’ve gotten very close. When we perform, it’s cool to see smiles on kids’ faces.”
“It wakes up the brain,” LeMerise exclaims. The team has begun practices in October in the Beck gym for the past 20 years. Their banners hang proudly on the wall showing their sport’s achievement and hearthealthy choice. Their season lasts until the end of March, with performances starting in early January. “It’s a big commitment for these youngsters,” said LeMerise. “I meet with the parents at the beginning of the season. Back in 1999 through 2005 we had 30 students, all 4th, 5th and 6th graders. We would make two teams. You need at least 8 to do a show. The kids’ favorite show is here at Beck when they perform for their classmates. The whole gym is packed.”
Each year elementary schools can opt to do a special fundraiser with help from the American Heart Association. The Heart of Beck Jumpers average 12-25 shows a year, the farthest having been Port Huron, Clarkston and Grosse Pointe. They mostly perform for local Macomb County schools, but they have performed for the Pistons and Oakland University basketball as well.
Using different types of jump ropes, the students start with basic jumping skills and work up to hopscotch, bell, skiing, froggy and many other special jumps. Longer ropes let them double and triple up, jumping over, together, doing pushups, piggy back rides and of course the longest rope for all to enjoy, jumping in and jumping out. The kids are determined and will continue to try and try again every time the rope stops. “Let’s start again,” says LeMerise.
Recently nominated for Active Senior Special Award by the Governor’s council on Physical Fitness, LeMerise said he got the idea for the jump rope team when some of his students requested time in the gym to practice jump roping. “Back then, in 1999, the students started getting competitive with themselves, trying harder and they got pretty good.”
The kids, like the exercise part, getting their heart rate up. “We go about three miles by jumping in one show. A double show is six,” they said in unison. “We’re energized, said one. “We have an advantage for being here early,” said another. All of them agreed they will miss their coach and their opportunity to jump as a team.