“What do you do when you’re not a grad student?”: An Interview with Carly Simpson

As part of our efforts to connect graduate students outside of the classroom/department, we’re interviewing our fellow grad students about what they do when they’re not reading, writing, or researching.

This week we interview Carly Simpson. Carly is in her fourth year of the PhD program and her dissertation focuses on the gay and lesbian movement in Canada with a specific focus on early university-based gay and lesbian activism in the 1970s and 1980s.

1. What do you do when you’re not a grad student? Describe your hobby/job/talent keeping in mind that others may know little to nothing about it.

Lincoln Leapers performing at a Raptors GameI spend most of my ‘free time’ as the head coach of a highly competitive jump rope team called the Lincoln Leapers based in the Niagara Region. The team consists of 40 athletes ranging in age from 6-25 and they practice three nights a week for two hours each night. If you are picturing a group of young girls skipping on the playground, you are mistaken. Competitive jump rope began in 1982 in Canada and the first National competition was held in St. Catharine’s in 1986. The sport has grown immensely over the past thirty years and there are now competitive teams in over 25 countries around the world. Athletes compete in a combination of freestyle and speed events using both double dutch and single ropes. In my role as the head coach I am responsible for creating and managing individual teams, running practices and drills, choreographing routines, motivating the athletes, setting goals, and communicating with the assistant coaches, board members, and parents.

2. How long have you been doing this, and how did you get involved?

I have been involved in the sport of jump rope since 1992 when I first joined the Lincoln Leapers as an athlete. I competed for twelve years and won numerous national and world championships before heading to university. After graduating from Western I returned to the region and began coaching. I have been the head coach of the team since 2009.

I first became involved in the sport because my older sister was a Lincoln Leaper, and like any younger sibling, I wanted to be exactly like my older sister!

3. What’s your favourite aspect of this activity?

There are many things I love about the sport (probably why I am still involved) and I will share a few benefits with you:

a)      Fitness: jump rope (like swimming) is one of the best cardio-vascular exercises. It really is a full body workout, targeting your arm and leg muscles. Jump rope is an affordable activity for children and adults because it only requires running shoes and a rope. Also, many professional athletes cross-train with jump rope because of the physical benefits. I highly recommend jumping rope for 15 minutes each day. It is a fun workout!

b)      Unique Opportunities: jump rope has provided me (and my teammates) with many unique and memorable experiences. As a member of the Lincoln Leapers I have travelled across Canada, the United States, Europe, and Australia performing and competing. My older sister was hired by Bandai Toys to travel across Japan marketing jump ropes. Another member of my team was hired by Cirque De Soleil to choreograph and perform in the jump rope portion of their show. She travelled with the circus for five years before returning to Canada to open her own business called Zacada Circus School. In 2005 I was hired by Disney to train the actors for the movie Jump In! I worked closely with the actors and stunt doubles to choreograph the jump rope scenes in the movie. Once filming began I was offered a minor role as a special skills extra. Check it out.

c)      Variety: competitive jump rope combines both speed and freestyle events into one amazing sport. Unlike skating where speed skating is considered a separate sport from figure skating, jump rope combines the two styles. Jump rope, therefore, attracts athletes who enjoy artistic and creative sports as well as those that emphasize speed and power. Although traditionally considered a girls activity many boys are increasing becoming involved.

4. How do you manage the balance between your graduate career and your activity?

I approach my graduate work as a 9-5 job. I find that if I put in a solid day of work I feel productive and not guilty when taking part in leisure activities such as coaching or spending time with friends and family. A healthy work-life balance is important in any career and I do my best to manage my time wisely. Like most graduate students I am often stressed about work, but I find that coaching and jump rope allow me to burn energy and relax mentally.

Carly with some of her fellow cast members on the set of Jump In!

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