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Photography by Spacecrafting

Jonny Reese

Pros of the Rope

Coach Jonny Reese can teach you how to double dutch in less than a minute. No matter if you’re crossing the Mall of America rotunda, fresh off a Starbucks run with shopping bags in hand, or stopping by his Edina gym to ask about membership. “We hang our hat on it,” he says.

The former collegiate and NBA development league basketball player discovered that jumping rope not only provides a body-firming, confidence-boosting workout — he says 10 minutes of rope work packs more punch than a 5K run — it also brings people together in a way that he never quite experienced with basketball.

Although Pros of the Rope is a youth fitness program, as soon as those ropes come out, people of all generations light up. “It’s a nostalgic art that comes from subsidized housing projects,” Reese explains. “I take this seriously as a Black entrepreneur. Being able to bring a culturally responsive program to the community is really something.”

While his cross-training classes and outreach work — he and his team of coaches turn ropes with libraries, parks and rec groups, you name it — strike a chord with lots of communities, Pros of the Rope struck a different kind of chord when they were invited to perform on the First Avenue stage with Minnesota musician Dessa in early 2020. The space on the hallowed stage was tight, but Reese knew he trained the team right, cheering them along. There was a swell of raves across social media almost instantaneously.

Then came the pandemic, and with it, an important lesson: “I realized we are essential to this community because a lot of kids have struggled with physical and mental health,” he explains. “The seriousness of what we do is the joy of these kids. It means everything to them and to their parents, too.”

Read this article as it appears in the magazine.

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