It’s not every day that a hobby picked up at age eight develops into a world title, a thriving business, and a future marriage.
That’s real life for doctoral student Kaylee Couvillion, a Baton Rouge, Louisiana, native and world-class jump rope athlete studying sports psychology and motor behavior at UT.
In the summer of 2018, Couvillion competed in the World Jump Rope Championships in Orlando, Florida, and came home with several first-place awards, one of which was for her performance in the female single rope freestyle event.
According to Couvillion, competitive jump rope is a combination of elements, including gymnastics, break dancing, and acrobatics.
She began participating in the sport roughly two decades ago, advancing through school competitions and jump rope camps through the years.
It was at one of those camps that 10-year-old Couvillion got to know fellow champion jump rope athlete—and now fellow Vol—Nick Woodard. At age 12, Woodard was already an instructor at the camp.
“As we grew through the sport, we started staffing things together and doing shows together—competing against each other—and we just became really great friends,” Couvillion said.
One day, the two realized that they wanted to be more than just friends.
“That was five years ago, and now we’re getting married in December,” said Couvillion.
Woodard, originally from Houston, Texas, and currently pursuing a master’s degree in sports management, participated alongside Couvillion during the 2018 World Jump Rope Championships and also took home awards for multiple events.
Another accomplishment the two share is their Knoxville-based jump rope program, Learnin’ the Ropes. Through the program, Couvillion said, her goal is to give kids the same great experience she received from attending jump rope camps, instilling a passion for the sport and the values of hard work and persistence.
Couvillion says she chose Knoxville and UT to further her business and education for the family atmosphere of the community.
“Everybody is super passionate about the school—not only the students and the faculty here, but just really the whole town,” Couvillion said. “And it’s just really great to be back in the SEC.”