By Lindsey Switzler
While some BYU students temporarily forget the demands of college life by hiking in nearby canyons or relaxing to their favorite music, Kyle L. Hair takes another approach.
“Jumping is my sanctuary,” says Hair, a business major.
The modest freshman might not tell you right away that he holds five national jump rope titles. At the annual U.S. National Jump Rope Championship held this year in Orlando, Fla., he and his teammates leapt into the jump rope record books as five-time gold medalists. And although he’d never admit it, Hair is one of the most decorated athletes in the jump rope world; along with his national honors, he is also a five-time world champion.
Hair, who’s been jumping rope for 13 of his 18 years, feels that his jumping career ended on the right foot. Shortly after winning the national championship in June, he temporarily retired his rope and headed for school in Provo.
“I’m not going to say I’ll never jump competitively again, but I decided to spend my time focusing on other things,” he says, explaining that he plans to finish a year at BYU before going on an LDS mission.
But that doesn’t mean the Bellevue, Wash., native neglected to pack his rope for an occasional jump when he came to BYU in August. For a person who discovered the sport as a first-grader, jump roping is a hard habit to break.
Hair is quick to point out that while some people may think of jump roping as a playground game accompanied by nursery rhymes, it’s actually a serious sport. Tournaments consist of two days of intense jumping, and those who participate are conditioned athletes rife with gymnastic ability. Participants are judged on creativity and difficulty of routines. To prepare for competitions, Hair and his team, Hotdog USA, spent up to three hours a day, six days a week, practicing for different kinds of speed and freestyle events.
“The double Dutch, which involves two ropes going at once, is the most complex,” he says, his hands demonstrating the motion of ropes turning in the air as he speaks. “You’re constantly switching jumpers and rope turners while doing back and front flips.”
As in any sport, there are hazards, and he hasn’t escaped without injuries. “When you jump three feet in the air and land on your hands, your body takes a beating,” says Hair, who has broken his toe three times and his foot once. He even cracked his sternum, separating several ribs.
Amy Stavig, his coach of 13 years, says Hair never let injuries stop him from excelling. “Even a broken foot didn’t get in the way of Kyle’s determination. In 1995 he won the world championship jumping on one foot,” she says. “And he never let it go to his head that he was the most skilled person in the gym.”
Although preparing for competition was a big part of Hair’s life, it wasn’t the only part. Between practices, he volunteered for the Special Olympics and started jump roping clubs in his home state. And his team frequently traveled throughout the United States to train other teams.
“In most sports you don’t usually help your competitor, but we do in jump roping to help build the sport,” he says.
Now on a break from the sport he loves, Hair says eventually he’ll return to jumping. “This sport has given me so many opportunities to meet new people and travel to new places,” he says. “One day I hope to give back to the sport by coaching.”