On this 25th anniversary year for the Wagener Double Dutch Forces, Coach Joy Holman took 14 teams to the 2016 world championship jump roping competition. Six teams won first place, four teams placed second, and two teams placed third. The world championship is a three-day event with daily eliminations and only five teams make it to the Saturday finals.
Salayah Walker, a 7th grader, jumping with a Lexington/Columbia Double Dutch Forces jump rope team, won first place in doubles in the world championship held on June 8, 9 and 11, 2016 in Sumter, SC. Formerly held in Paris, the Caribbean, NY and FL, the competition was held nearby this year and featured teams from as far away as Japan and France.
For somebody who stumbled into the sport, Coach Holman has accumulated a very impressive record coaching her Double Dutch Forces. Besides winning world championships, Holman and her Forces have two documentaries out, one of which Oprah owns the rights. They’ve been featured in several commercials and one educational show about Gullah and filmed in Beaufort. They’ve had songs made just for them and one of her jumpers was featured in an Adam Sandler movie called Jack and Jill.
Holman played professional basketball in the Women’s Basketball League for the Dayton Rockets. She is a Hall of Famer at Benedict College, has several Apollo Championships and has over 300 state titles, over 28 national and grand national titles and over 122 world titles to date. In 1985, however, Joy Holman knew nothing about Double Dutch. She was working with the MLK rec center (formerly Valley Park) when the kids in her club saw an advertisement and asked Holman to coach them.
“I told them no, absolutely no,” Holman told me recently. “I didn’t know anything about jump rope, especially Double Dutch. They kept asking me, saying all they needed was someone over 18 to coach them. I saw them coming in, practicing and trying to do things, so I finally agreed. They practiced hard, every day. The kids at that time knew more than I did, but I paid attention.
“The kids practiced from February that year until the June competition and they placed fifth in the world championship in Philadelphia. The next year we went to Connecticut and won the world championship. Everyone was hollering for us and we didn’t even know why. Coaches from NY and NJ said we missed breaking the speed record by six steps.
“It took us ten years before we broke that record. We finally broke the speed record in 1996. By then it wasn’t the same girls, I had a new group, and we were getting ready for the 1996 Olympic Games.”
Joy Holman began teaching PE in the Wagener schools in 1991 as Busbee’s first full-time PE teacher. The kids didn’t think small-town kids could go very far, so Holman felt compelled to start a team in Wagener. She picked ten students out of her PE class to form her Wagener Double Dutch Forces. “At the time,” Holman continued, “I didn’t know they were also the over-achievers in their classrooms. They were class officers, graduated with honors; I was very proud of that group. That group now? Most are in the medical field or graduated college.” Holman hopes to see the original Wagener Force kids as well as all the ones she’s coached since then this year to celebrate 25 years of the Double Dutch Force.
“These kids were pioneers in this. Double Dutch helped a lot of girls who really didn’t want to be in physical contact sports. They learned to do performances, to go out and meet people, how to communicate, to keep grades up, to get along with others. The moral is that you can do anything you put your mind to if you work real hard. I used to tell kids all the time: You can get anywhere you want from here. You’d be surprised how creative our young people are, they just need a little extra push and a lot of practice. In a small town like Wagener, we need to bring all our resources together and keep our kids busy. I felt so good being a resource (in Wagener). I miss so much about Wagener.”
Holman is teaching PE at Gilbert High School in Lexington now. She still coaches the Double Dutch Forces and is looking for some help coaching the teams here in Wagener. You can watch the jumpers perform on August 6th at Gibson Pond Park for Lexington’s Family Fun Day. They will perform at many Back to School Bash parties and again at the SC State Fair. Go to DoubleDutchForces.org for more information.