Jump Around!

In the aftermath of school pick-up frenzy, Ashley Elementary seems to sit still and quiet. But, if you look closer, you might catch the blur of a high-speed jump rope. You have stumbled into one of three weekly one-and-a-half-hour jump rope practices. On other days, the team is out for one of their two or three weekly performances. The Rockin’ Ropers have performed half-time shows at Texas A&M University, Oklahoma University, Baylor University, Texas Christian University, Southern Methodist University, Texas Legends and Dallas Mavericks games, among many more. They have even made appearances on “The Mavs Insider” and ESPN and have performed for former President George W. Bush. The team has high-fived Chip Gaines and talked with Toby Keith. You will have to look harder to find the man behind it all – David Trimble, Ashley Elementary’s physical education coach and the founder of the Rockin’ Ropers jump rope team. 

There is so much to this man who obsesses about every detail of the team … every waking hour … 11 months out of the year. In July, he starts placing kids who made the team into their respective positions for each trick. He does this based on skill level, current grade, whether they are right-handed or left-handed and where he already knows they will be placed the following year. When scheduling the team’s shows, he carefully reviews stats to create a schedule of progressively larger crowds, with the Dallas Mavericks being the career maximum at 20,000, so the kids will not get too overwhelmed in the beginning. When school starts, he spends every afternoon, evening and weekend on jump rope, until Spring Break. Then, he adjusts the performance set for the Rockin’ Ropers’ tour of local elementary schools. In May, at Family Night, alumni Rockin’ Ropers join the team to perform more complex tricks the rest of the world never gets to see. 

With 32 kids on the team, 14-20 on the junior varsity team and around 100 in the jump rope club in any given year, his mastery of logistics is astounding. Coach Trimble can recall the name, skill-level, list of injuries and position of every student he has ever had on the team – for the past 15 years!

While attending Bullock Elementary in Garland, at the age of five, Coach Trimble’s dad left the family of three kids. Coach Trimble watched his mom work three jobs to make ends meet. Then, at age 10, his grandfather died of a heart attack and his family moved to Plano, where he watched his stepdad, a former Marine, go to night school for seven years. As a promising baseball player for Plano Senior High School, Coach Trimble hoped to go to college on a baseball scholarship, but an injury shattered those dreams his junior year. With the prospect of college out of reach, he turned to the military, choosing the Air Force.

Before he knew it, he was in Mountain Home, Idaho, working on F-111s and shoveling snow. One day, security police escorted him to see a visitor. He was asked if he was a volunteer for a special duty assignment in Las Vegas. Coach Trimble laughs, “It did not matter if I said yes or no.”

He was quickly transferred to Las Vegas. From there, he flew out to Tonopah Test Range every week to work on a top-secret project: the F-117A stealth fighter. He met a fellow Air Force member, Becky, who became his wife of 28 years. He was then asked to work on F-16s at Homestead Air Force Base in Fla., but within a year, Hurricane Andrew destroyed everything and they were moved to Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, Ga. While there, a friend repeatedly called to request that Coach Trimble join the Thunderbirds, and eventually, he agreed. So, back to Las Vegas he went.

During his tenure with the Thunderbirds, Coach Trimble spoke at a traveling Jump Rope for Heart assembly for the Las Vegas area. After following speeches by the mayor, the police chief and the fire chief, he created what became his much-requested “Three Rs” speech. Wanting to see what all the fuss was about, his Air Force supervisor attended one of his speeches and was quite impressed. Coach Trimble earned the Thunderbirds’ Non-commissioned Officer of the Year, which also earned him the privilege of jumping tandem, twice, with the Golden Knights, the Army’s formation jump team.

Coach Trimble had been taking night school, one college class at a time. Once his 20 years of service in the Air Force were nearing an end, he enrolled full-time in the University of Nevada at Las Vegas to complete the remaining credits of his physical education degree. Days before his graduation, he received a job offer for a PE coach, rotating between three Las Vegas schools. After only six months, one of the three principals snatched him up for a new school, Peterson Elementary, opening in inner-city Las Vegas. The school sat on a city block, and Coach Trimble was asked to design the playground. With 12 tether courts, 12 four-square courts, four basketball courts, two softball fields and a soccer field, it was the best playground the kids had ever seen.

In a full-circle moment, the Jump Rope for Heart assembly, which included a little jump rope team performance, came to that school. Coach Trimble’s students were begging to learn how to jump rope because they wanted to be on a jump rope team, too. “I had wanted to be a baseball coach,” he admits. “But, they were so poor and had no money to play baseball. I figured I was just going to have to give up my dream and go toward their dream.”

Jump Rope for Heart donated hundreds of ropes, so the kids did not have to pay a thing. “We would drive away and hundreds of ropes would be turning in the parking lot in my rear-view mirror,” says Coach Trimble, choking back tears. “They wanted to be on the team.”

Before long, they had a jump rope team that replaced the original Jump Rope for Heart jump rope team. These inner-city kids were touring 20 days a year and performing all over Las Vegas. Coach Trimble says, “If we went 10 minutes out of town, they were like ‘Wow! Where did we go?’”

Many kids lived in weekly and monthly rentals. And there, Coach Trimble learned what a “trash bag kid” was. “Their mom or dad could not afford to live there, so they would skip rent,” he explains. “A ‘trash bag kid’ had everything they owned in a trash bag so they could get away fast.”

One day, before a performance, one of Coach Trimble’s students said she did not have her shoes or uniform because her trash bag had been thrown away. Coach Trimble and his wife decided that was never going to happen again. They negotiated with a local Payless Shoe Store to purchase shoes out of their own pocket. “We had hundreds of shoes and started passing them out to kids who needed them,” Coach Trimble says. “I would give a pair of shoes to a kid, and he would go dancing down the hallway because he had a $10 pair of shoes on. We were just trying to meet the needs of the children.”

Coach Trimble and his wife had no reason to leave Las Vegas, but a visit back home with his mom and a chance meeting of Davis Buescher, the husband of Laurie Buescher, a PE teacher at Isbell Elementary, led to whirlwind interviews for PE teacher and music teacher positions at a new Ashley Elementary. Within a matter of days, Coach Trimble and his wife were hired.

During his first year at Ashley Elementary, Coach Trimble attempted to start a jump rope team without luck. The kids in Frisco were often involved in outside sports and did not need a jump rope team. It was hard for him to watch kids toss the rope to the side, especially when the ropes had been so revered by the inner-city students of Las Vegas. Back there, kids had really needed him, but the principal insisted these kids needed him, too. Slowly but surely, with lots of trial and error, a jump rope team started to form. 

As for the formations of the team … the Thunderbirds influenced that. After losing half his team when they aged out of elementary school and then waiting for new members to catch up, he created a progression of ranks, from club jumpers to junior varsity jumpers to team jumpers, where the kids taught the ranks below. The split-second precision of his jump rope team came after years of watching performance videos to make corrections to techniques, transitions and coaching mantras. 

After 15 years of volunteering every spare hour over an 11-month yearly cycle, Coach Trimble’s Rockin’ Ropers team is now the pride of Ashley Elementary. Each member of the team has had a life experience and a coach they will never forget.

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Amy Richmond is a writer who relishes faith, family, intriguing conversations and inspiring words. She wishes time could be saved in a bottle because one lifetime is not enough.