Shaquannah Floyd and Laila Little know the ropes and now they’re happy to tell a national audience about the twisting, jumping craziness of their everyday lives.
Floyd and Little — who, in 2006 combined their talents and last names to found the FloydLittle Double Dutch team — have won 19 world championships with their young jump ropers.
Last April, the Newark-based team learned they were among 70 being considered for a Lifetime docuseries titled “Jump!”
“Many people and organizations had mentioned the FloydLittle team specifically, so we reached out and they happened to not only be very talented, but also great characters with tremendous passion,” said Adam Reed, the show’s executive producer.
Last summer, Think Factory Media, a television production company, shot a reel of the team in its Newark practice space. Less than a week later, Lifetime had picked up their story.
“It all moved so fast, we couldn’t believe it,” Little, 31, said.
The series finale airs tonight at 10 p.m.
Since 2006, the team — which consists of roughly 35 girls in grade three through high school — has made believers of local and international crowds, who’ve been left stunned by their jump rope routines. The team performs flips, high jumps and lunges, in freestyle double Dutch competitions choreographed, in some cases, by the youngsters themselves.
Their talent, as well as their dedication, passion and charisma helped them land the Lifetime docuseries.
“Quaniee and Layla are incredible coaches who are firm, but also so dedicated to these kids and their dreams that it’s truly inspiring,” Reed said. “Add to that the personalities of the parents, and the talent of the kids under the tutelage of their coaches, and it’s a winning combination.”
“Jump!” was filmed in November and December. The series follows Floyd and Little as they work to uphold their team’s status as world champions, while demanding athletic and academic success from the team members. The coaches said they decided to “go out on faith” and resign from their respective positions with Newark Public Schools in order to meet their 12-hour filming requirements. The younger stars were filmed for a few hours each day during practices and scrimmages.
The FloydLittle team anchors each one-hour episode.
“We were so impressed with the teams we saw, that we also wanted to highlight them in a special way, which is why every episode of ‘Jump!’ focuses not only on the FloydLittle team but one main rival,” Reed said.
Floyd and Little, both Newark natives, met more than two decades ago, as grade-schoolers, as participants in the sport at the city’s Central Ward Boys & Girls Club. “Jump!” explains their desire to preserve what they believe is a dying sport.
Growing up, the best friends did not want to play more traditional sports but also did not want to bench their athletic aspirations. They also did not want to be tripped up by some of the inner-city ills of Newark as some of their peers had.
“We want little girls and little boys who are dealing with issues at home, who don’t feel they have a way out, to know that they do,” Floyd, 29, said.
Twelve-year-old Danasja Patrick has been jumping with the team for two years and said the most fulfilling part is the sisterhood it has fostered.
“Being on the team has changed my life because it has taught me to trust in other people which is something that was very hard for me to do if they weren’t family,” Danasja said.
Iyana Trotman said her participation in the team — and in “Jump!” — has given her a positive outlet with which to express herself.
“Double Dutch has affected my life by allowing me to be more bold,” Iyana, 11, said. “Instead of being timid and shy I suddenly became more talkative and outgoing.”
Floyd and Little require a solid standing from their team members in and out of the ropes.
“We want to show the world there is positivity in Newark,” Floyd said. “We have a three out of four college graduation rate. We have a 100 percent high school graduation rate.”
They also have the community’s backing. In July 2013, when a delay in funding almost halted their travel to Sumter, S.C. for the double Dutch world championships, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, (who was a South Ward councilman at the time), paid for the team’s bus and accommodations.
“I hope people realize that what’s most impressive is the talent of these young kids,” Reed said. “Many of them live in challenging environments and double Dutch has been a safe haven in their lives.”
“To see that passion emanate from such young individuals is truly inspiring.”
On May 9, the FloydLittle team will compete in a statewide contest. If they win, they will advance to the world competition.
While the team has not signed on for a second season of “Jump!,” Reed said he hopes the series becomes a major franchise for the Lifetime network.
“For any successful TV series you need great characters, an interesting world, and stake,” Reed said. “This team and this series have all three.”