There’s magic in the air at a North End elementary school —Machray Magic, a jump rope team which started at Machray School five years ago.
The team — one of only three of its kind in Winnipeg — practises twice per week over the course of seven months, then visits a dozen schools (three per day) in the city to kick-off Jump Rope for Heart, an annual fundraiser and awareness campaign of the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
The magic of the Machray Magic (as the students named their team), comes in many forms — self-esteem, responsibility, commitment, discipline, recognition, and teamwork. According to their coach, phys-ed teacher Dolores Pelland, all the applause and cheering they receive after performing their amazing tricks, gives them a sense of achievement.
"They feel like rock stars… they come out 10 feet taller."
The magic also has an effect on school culture. Machray principal Gordon Armstrong notes how much skipping is done at recess. There’s such a demand for the team that they’ve even started a developing team for the youngest students.
This year, the team has eight returning students, who make up about half the core. The rest act as alternates and will perform when they’re more experienced.
Pelland, who has coached since the beginning, relied on supplied music and teaching posters at first.
Now, once the kids learn the individual tricks, she encourages them to come up with their own combinations. In addition to basic rope skills, a variety of long rope, multi-person, and apparatus tricks are included, using pogo sticks, hula hoops, and special balls. The kids put on an exciting show, inspiring their audiences with what can be done.
Some of the veteran team members said they love performing and that it’s fun, despite the hard work. Their favorite trick is, of course, the hardest one — the double under-cross.
Twin brothers, who are in their first year, say they decided to join in order to "learn new stuff."
"You have to have mad skills," said one.
Translation: it takes a crazy amount of practise to get good.
Even with all the work, one of the younger members says it best:
"It’s way, way worth it!"
Pelland is retiring in December but the team will be carrying on with the existing helpers and a new coach.
Let’s hope the Magic continues for many more years — making the school, their parents and the entire North End proud.
Sonya Braun is a community correspondent for the North End. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org