Encounter: The Indy Air Bears

A competitive jump-roping team. Est. 1986

Think back to the jump-roping you might have done in school—all that playground thudding and criss-crossing, while you intoned a few little rhymes. Now add spins, twists, multiple airborne teenagers, and some light breakdancing, and you’ve got the Indy Air Bears.

Boys and girls both get into it, and it’s among the more democratic sports. “Any kid can do this if they work hard enough,” says founder Niki Glover, who launched the group 30 years ago as a phys-ed teacher at Arlington Elementary on the city’s southeast side. “You don’t have to be a super-athlete.” We’ll take her word for that, as the group’s history of halftime shows and YouTube videos is a treasury of flips, backbends, two people doing splits, dozens of kids leaping in unison, and this one trick where they leap from their feet into handstands and back again. No one’s chanting rhymes.

The group is a staple at Pacers halftime shows. They’ll be at the NCAA Women’s Final Four in April. And they’ve performed at Disney World, the Rose Bowl Parade, and last year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, all while winning medals at international competitions drawing from 31 countries.

Tryouts are held every August, yielding around 40 Air Bears each year. Catch some of them in action next at the March 17 Pacers game.