Courtesy of Simone Koch Costa

When Simone Koch Costa ’22 first began her journey as a competitive and performance jump roper 15 years ago, it was love at first sight. Since then, her passion for jump rope has only increased with time.

Koch Costa, a sociology major and an Education Studies scholar, has jumped rope competitively at the local, regional, national and international levels. A Miami, Florida, native, she transferred to Yale in the fall of 2019 from Miami Dade College. That same semester, she decided to establish Yale’s club jump rope team, of which she is now the captain.

“There are so many great things about jump rope, and I could talk about it for hours,” Koch Costa said in a Zoom interview with the News. “But one thing that distinguishes it from others is its novelty. It’s such a new sport. There isn’t really a glass ceiling that you can hit; it is always being pushed higher and broken constantly. That keeps it so exciting. Every year you see something new.”

Koch Costa credits her mother as being the catalyst for her jump rope career. When she was seven years old, Koch Costa and her family moved to a new neighborhood in Miami. Her mother, who had enjoyed jumping rope recreationally as a child, enrolled Koch Costa and her brother in jump roping classes at the local recreational center.

This first exposure to jump roping as a competitive discipline fascinated both Koch Costa and her brother, Alex, who is now a professional jump roper himself. She began training as a performance jump roper and gained the necessary skill to participate in competitions.

Koch Costa, right, competing in the Double Dutch pairs freestyle event at the 2016 Grand Pan-American Jump Rope Championship with her Miami home team, the Hurricane Jumpers. (Photo: Courtesy of Simone Koch Costa)

“Simone is just incredible, I don’t know how she does it,” Anna Zhang ’24, a member of the Yale club jump rope team, said. “She is a really talented and very experienced jump roper … [and] is always so excited about jump roping, which is contagious.”

While there are many competition categories, the three main ones at jump roping tournaments are speed, power and freestyle. Judges grade competitors on their speed, stamina, creativity, technique and presentation, among other criteria. Within these categories, Koch Costa explained, athletes may also choose to compete in different divisions, such as singles, pairs, Ddouble Dutch and team show, in addition to age and gender divisions. She explained that the youngest division in competition consists of those eight years old and under, while the oldest division consists of those 50 and up.

“I don’t think age stops a lot of people, though, especially those who started jump roping when they were young and continue to perform at a high level,” Koch Costa said when asked about the average shelf life of a jump roper. “You can keep jumping for however long you want.”

Koch Costa characterizes the jump roping community in the United States as “warm and welcoming.”

Among her numerous accolades, Koch Costa has won top awards in regional tournaments, the Pan-American Jump Rope Championships, the Collegiate Jump Rope Summits and the U.S. National Championships. She told the News she is especially proud of her performance in the 2018 U.S. Jump Rope National Championship, where her team won third place for Team Show with a routine she choreographed.

She has also enjoyed competing internationally and meeting jumpers from other countries, such as China and Australia. And in 2019, she represented the United States in the Jump Rope Worlds in Oslo, Norway.

“Simone is just so amazing and talented,” Raymond Gao ’21, a co-founder of the Yale club jump rope team and a former gymnastics reporter at the News, said. “You can tell she’s been working hard for a long time. She’s also not only a talented individual jumper with a graceful and athletic style, but she is also such a joy to jump with.”

Koch Costa reached out to Gao, an experienced jump roper, the summer before she transferred to Yale in order to begin connecting with the Yale jump rope community. Together, in the fall of 2019, they founded the club jump rope team, though Gao asserted that Koch Costa was “the main guiding force” behind the club’s establishment.

“[Koch Costa] is passionate and dedicated; someone who isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty and put in the necessary work to make an idea come to fruition,” Gao added.

Koch Costa described the process of starting the club jump rope team as “surprisingly easy.” However, the club has faced a variety of obstacles, the largest of which has been the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic not only interfered with the young team’s recruitment process this year, but also with its ability to practice and share jump roping with others. Koch Costa said that the club has found ways to overcome different drawbacks, such as through virtual practices on Sunday mornings over Zoom. Nevertheless, she looks forward to the fall and hopes for an improved public health situation, which would allow for outdoor practices and participation in the extracurricular bazaar.

Koch Costa at the Collegiate Jump Rope Summit in Chapel Hill, North Carolina on February 1, 2020 during her first competition representing Yale. (Photo: Courtesy of Simone Koch Costa)

Zhang, who is jumping from home on a gap year, had “never heard of or learned about the jump roping competition world” before joining Yale’s club jump rope team. However, in only around three months, she has learned a variety of tricks, designed choreographies and even begun competing. She credits much of this improvement to Koch Costa’s support and feedback.

On a personal level, Koch Costa, who said she especially enjoys choreographing freestyle routines, jumping double Dutch and competing in groups, has faced a variety of individual challenges throughout her jump roping career. For instance, she said certain health issues have made her more injury-prone, especially when it comes to her knees and ankles.

Though such setbacks are often “frustrating,” Koch Costa said she instead channels her energy into other jump roping endeavors, such as practicing her releases, honing low-impact skills, coaching and conducting research projects on jump roping — in fact, Koch Costa’s senior thesis project under assistant professor of sociology Alka Menon is also related to jump roping. Her research concerns the patterns, motivations and demographics of the United States jump rope community. Koch Costa began preparing for her thesis and gathering data on her leave of absence last fall, and said her proposal has already been approved by Yale’s Institutional Review Board.

Though she envisions many potential paths for her future, a constant Koch Costa sees in all of them is active involvement in the jump roping community. For instance, in addition to considering a potential career in teaching — and perhaps as a school jump rope coach as well — she is considering pursuing a graduate degree in sociology to expand on her thesis project.

“I definitely don’t see myself ever letting go of the community anytime soon,” Koch Costa said. “It’s been such a huge part of my life, and I cannot imagine myself being complete without it. I will definitely find a way to incorporate it in my life, even if I am not actively competing.”

Koch Costa participated remotely in the 2021 University Jump Rope Summit and won first place in the experienced female single rope TS category, which requires jumpers to put their arms behind their back. She made 64 crosses in 30 seconds.

Wei-Ting Shih | wei-ting.shih@yale.edu

WEI-TING SHIH