We all want athletes that are flexible and mobile. We want them to have the ability to bend and play with leverage. We also hope that they are coordinated and can quickly get their feet into the best positions for balance and positions of power.
I believe that if we teach our athletes, through practice, to make their feet do what their minds want them to do, that there will be positive carryover. Do they need to practice the specific foot patterns relative to their position and sport? Yes, of course. However, if you take the opportunity to have your athletes work on their foot speed and coordination before every strength and conditioning session for five minutes, I will promise you that as a team you’ll be amazed at their athletic improvement. The results of the time spent working on foot speed drills will also include better anaerobic fitness and increased self-confidence as your athlete’s skill level improves.
Start with a rope that’s the proper length. Have the athlete stand in the middle of the rope with both feet. The ends of the rope should reach to the armpits of the athlete. You may be able to roll the ends of the rope around the hands if the rope isn’t excessively long. It is important that the jump rope has enough weight to turn easily. We have used inexpensive jump ropes that had short plastic links that are surrounding the rope to provide enough weight to rotate well.
Buy enough ropes of varying lengths to be able to efficiently get your kids through a session without having to exchange ropes if possible. The ropes I’ve used were always under 4.00 each.
Starting a True Beginner
If you are introducing an athlete to jumping rope for the first time, demonstrate the skill at a moderate speed with both feet. Emphasize minimal arm swing and just jumping high enough for the feet to clear the rope. Remind them that the rope rotates forward.
Now, have the athlete join in the following drill: hold both ends of the rope in your dominant hand, turn the rope and jump with both feet as the rope hits the floor. Take your time; the idea is to let the athlete relax and learn the rhythm of the exercise. After several short trials of this let the athlete take the end of the rope into each hand and start with jumping with both feet.
Stationary Rope Jumping
After the beginners have the idea, have them practice jumping rope with both feet for 2-3 sets of 10-15 seconds with 15-20 seconds rest between sets. End the first few sessions with a set of speed jumps with both feet for 10-15 seconds. Be positive and encourage them to get right back into it after a mess up.
After learning to jump with both feet, try jumping on one foot for 10 seconds stop and the other foot for ten seconds, rest and go back to both feet for a speed jump. Gradually introduce running in place or alternating feet, after single leg hops, then two jumps on the right foot and two jumps on the left, both feet side to side, both feet forward and back, gradually increasing the difficulty over time. As the athletes become more proficient jumpers, you no longer have to let them rest between different types of jumps.
Two rope turns with one jump, shuffle variations, etc. are all possible for most kids, if you take your time introducing the drills and let their confidence build. One of the advanced possibilities is to have one of your more advanced kids lead the group while they try to mirror him.
We usually did our footspeed drills after our dynamic warm-up exercises and before our group abdominal and core exercises, at the beginning of the workout. The jump rope format varied from one minute to one minute and a half, there were no breaks between exercises. I’d call out a variation every 10-15 seconds.
Typical Stationary Rope Jumping Session (1½ Minutes)
(Changes called out by Coach)
Both feet – 10 sec.
Right Foot – 10 sec.
Left Foot – 10 sec.
Run in Place – 10 Sec.
Two on the right, two on the left – 10 sec.
Both feet – side to side 10 sec.
Both feet front to back – 10 sec.
Speed Jump (their choice) – 20 sec.
If the effort or concentration was lacking, I might have a 30-second “concentration jump.” In this exercise, anyone’s miss would add five seconds to the groups 30 sec. They could jump with any method and reasonable speed. It was amazing how many fewer mistakes are made when the entire group is penalized.
Moving Jump Rope Drills
If you have the room to do it, practicing jumping rope while moving is a great variation. After becoming proficient at stationary jump roping, the moving jump drills are easier to learn. Having access to a gym or large hallway that’s unused can provide a good training space. We used an area that we called the speed agility gym which was the size of a basketball court to do our moving jump rope drills. The actual jumping area was 20 yards long with five yards to line up and stop at the ends.
Typical Moving Jump Rope Routine
Running with High Knees – 20 yards
10 yards on the Right Foot, 10 yards on the Left Foot – 20 yards
Double Leg Hops Forward – 20 yards
Double Leg Hops Backward – 20 Yards (athlete goes backward, the rope goes forward)
Both feet, Zig Zag – 20 yards
Running High Knees – 20 yards
Other Moving Jump Drill Variations
Lateral Double Leg Hops
Single Leg Zig Zag Hops