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To say Kelly Hamlin hopped into the passion of her life is an understatement.
Though her day job is in marketing and sales at 94.3 The Wolf in Elizabethtown, Wednesday nights and various other times during the week she coaches the Jumping Knights at St. James Catholic Regional School.
Her interest began about seven years ago when she saw the Jumping Hawks of LaRue County. Her daughter Kayleigh, then 6, was enamored by them, she said.
To do something that would help her normally shy daughter come out of her shell, Hamlin approached St. James about adding a jump-rope program and volunteered to lead it.
The Jumping Knights were born.
Hamlin, 38, searched YouTube and watched a lot of jump rope videos to learn how to do it.
“I feel sorry for my first-year kids because they were my guinea pigs,” she joked.
She was amazed at the complexities of jumping rope.
“They’re not just jumping rope,” she said. “It’s almost like a dance with steps involved.”
There are around 300 different steps the kids in this group know how to do with names such as skier, caboose and frog.
She hears a song and creates routines in her head. The kids have jumped to songs from Lady GaGa, Pitbull, Britney Spears and Nicki Minaj — edited for content.
Working at the radio station has helped her mix the music for their routines.
After the first year, she knew more of what she was doing and the kids became more involved in preparing routines. They come to her with ideas. Hamlin feels the program is kid-friendly because it provides input on what they are doing and older children often help younger ones.
Each year she has 30 to 50 jumpers in third- through eighth-grades.
She had three main goals in starting the program: to raise self-esteem, create a healthy activity and promote an anti-bullying message.
Hamlin said she is most proud of the kids who don’t normally talk a lot then come to the program and not only excel but enjoy jumping rope. One student tried dance and a variety of other activities but didn’t find her niche until jumping rope. Now she can do complicated moves like a triple under.
Every kid has a different story, she said.
She loves seeing shy students come out of their shell and bloom into someone who wants to show off and do tricks with the jump ropes.
“The greatest thing about my program is the impact it’s had on their self-esteem and they do not realize how healthy they’re getting,” she said.
This sort of physical activity can take a real stand against childhood obesity, she said, adding that starting early will help kids avoid getting into bad shape later in adulthood.
Parents are noticing these goals reflected in their children.
“She demands a lot of the kids but is always clear about her expectations and is always positive,” parent Julie Powers said.
The jump rope program has improved her children’s self-esteem, their fitness level and their interest in being involved in sports.
“Both of my girls look forward to jump rope every Wednesday night and are actually sad if they have to miss a practice,” Powers said.
Hamlin also cannot stand bullies and uses the club to promote anti-bullying. If two kids in the group aren’t getting along she partners them together and makes them work together and get along, at least during practice.
Parent Brian Smith said Hamlin is a coach who does a good job keeping students motivated.
“My daughter doesn’t have an interest in traditional sports but she loves jump rope club,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what the child’s skill level or body shape is, they are a part of the team and can accomplish amazing things with a jump rope,” he said. “She loves those kids like they are all her children.”
He’s glad St. James has someone to give so much time to students.
“Those kids genuinely love her,” he said. “Kelly Hamlin is a very special person.”
Hamlin’s dream is to find a way, possibly through a series of grants, to offer this program in every elementary school in the county. She’s had parents come up to her after parades or performances who want their children involved and she has to tell them it’s only a program at St. James.
Another goal, if other schools begin to participate, is to do a jump-a-thon in downtown Elizabethtown called “Hopping in the Heartland.” Her vision is to break a world record of number of children jumping rope at the same time.
Any parent interested in starting a jumping club at their school should contact their school officials and go to the Jumping Knights Facebook page to contact Hamlin.
“I’d love to work with kids throughout the county,” she said.
The children in Jumping Knights, with their mismatched crazy knee socks, are her passion.
“The kids are awesome and they inspire me every week,” she said. “I love my kids.”
Becca Owsley can be reached at (270) 505-1741 or email@example.com.
Getting to know Kelly Hamlin