Giving truth to Memphis youth
By Katherine Chappell
Cordova High School
What was once a simple plastic ring seen twirling around the hips of a young girl has grown into a worldwide movement of healthy activity. The Hooper Troopers, a group of hoopers formed by Megan Simpson, Adriene Holland, and Abbey Pommer, work toward spreading the movement of hula hooping to Memphis, Tenn.
Hooping dates back to ancient times where they were used in cultural rituals. Europeans made them from grapevines for many years before the invention of tapes and plastics.
It wasn’t until the 1950’s when Wham O began mass-producing plastic hoops for children that hooping became popular with youth. Modern hooping sprang into action in the late 90’s when a musical group threw a hoop into the audience during a concert. Soon hoops became the norm at concerts and music festivals. Hoops inspired a new form of dance, self-expression, and a fun way to stay healthy.
While walking down a city street, creators Simpson and Holland noticed a man hooping freely by the road. Captivated by his confidence to dance in front of strangers, the girls stopped to watch.
A couple years later, Simpson and Holland thought back to that man on the road and decided to make hoops of their own with other Hooper Troopers founder, Pommer. With the help of the Internet, the girls crafted hand-made hoops 45” in diameter.
After a year of hooping, the impact it made on them convinced the trio to spread hooping to people in the community.
“It’s contagious,” Holland said about the happiness and satisfaction that hooping produces.
The Hooper Troopers began showcasing hooping in as many ways as they could. They performed on a variety show and participated in the Race for Grace, where they walked and hooped for the entire race. They hand-make hoops, teach hooping classes, create original programming, perform, and even host children’s birthday parties. The women have even made it onto the cover of The Memphis Flyer.
Hooping isn’t just a fun hobby, however. It also is a healthy alternative to exercise. Much like Zumba or Yoga, hooping brings people together for a fun workout that hardly feels like a workout at all.
“It’s endless,” said one of the women in reference to the benefits hooping provides. Hooping relieves stress… It builds confidence.”
Simpson briefly told of a friend who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. The friend got into hooping soon after the Hooper Troopers formed. Since then, that friend has shown significant progress in her living with PTSD by using hooping as a healthy outlet.
The Hooper Troopers showed off their hooping skills in front of the students of Teen Appeal, on July 31. Dimming the lights and switching on light-up hoops, Simpson and Holland twirled the hoops about their hips, wrists, necks, and knees, never missing a beat.
They invited students down to the front of the class to try hooping out for themselves.
“Instant smiles!” Holland exclaimed as students hooped and laughter bounced around the room. With hesitation from the boys in the room, Holland and Simpson assured them: “It’s not a girl-specific activity by any means.”
The Hooper Troopers also invited the students to help out by “hoop bombing.” “Hoop bombing” started when Holland, Simpson, and Pommer noticed a pile up of unused hoops in their homes. Naturally, they would have quite a few, but many weren’t going to any use laying in the garage or spare bedroom. The girls decided to drive out to the not-so-good parts of town and leave the surplus of hoops on strangers’ doorsteps. Sometimes they would hear children playing in the back yards, so they would toss a hoop or two over the fence and race back the car unseen.
The Hooper Troopers plan to grow even more as time goes on, spreading the joy of hooping.
“Life is hard when you’re young,” said the girls. Hooping can help.
You can catch the Hooper Troopers at the Cooper Young Festival 4-Miler on Sept. 13 and the Cooper Young Festival on Sept. 14.