TROY — The nationally renowned Troy Pop Rocks jump rope team will begin its 11th season Friday with the first of 19 performances that will continue through mid-March.
“It’s exciting to get a chance to get out there and perform,” Troy Pop Rocks coach Josh Oakes said.
The Troy Pop Rocks is a performance jump rope team that performs at halftime of both high school and college basketball games. There are 26 Troy City Schools jumpers on the team this year in grades 3-8. The team is coached by Oakes and assistant Sharon Freeman.
The Pop Rocks will perform locally at a number of high schools this season, including Troy (Feb. 14), Miami East (Dec. 14) and Troy Christian (Jan. 4). They will close the season on back-to-back weekends at the Ohio High School Athletic Association state basketball tournaments March 13 (girls) and March 20 (boys).
They also will perform at a number of colleges and universities, including Duke University (Feb. 22), the University of Illinois (Jan. 11), the University of Pittsburgh (Jan. 18), Georgia Tech University (Jan. 25) and the University of Tennessee (March 7).
“The whole month of December is all high schools, which is nice, because it gives the kids a chance to perform a few times before they get into an overwhelming experience like some of the colleges we go to,” Oakes said. “It seems like January and February, we go to some of the bigger arenas. That’s a unique experience for them. A lot of them may never have a chance to experience anything like that ever again in their entire lives.”
What started as an after-school activity 11 years ago has grown into a team that routinely receives standing ovations from basketball crowds that have approached 20,000.
“I think it helps them learn that when they’ve been working so hard for something, other people will appreciate that,” Oakes said. “It’s nice to be able to put a smile on peoples’ faces. You don’t know what’s going on with peoples’ daily lives, so any time we have a chance to do that, I think that’s a special opportunity.
Many of the Pop Rocks practice their jump rope skills and tricks all season. Some will attend jump rope camps in the summer and perform at a Dayton Dragons baseball game. The full team begins practice in August, frequently practicing four times a week until the performance season opens in December.
“We practice 9-10 hours a week, plus on top of that, they are going to school all day,” Oakes said. “It wears them out at times. But I still don’t think they kids would change that. They love coming to practice. They are willing to make the sacrifice. The rewards come to them when they see how people react to them. These kids don’t get intimidated when they go out and perform in front of people because they know they’ve put the work in. That really builds their confidence. This is a great opportunity for them.”