Working With Kids
“We have good news,” said Mr. Groth,
“April is in The 20 Club!” The fifth graders
erupted in applause, and he continued, “she did 23 throws.”
“I put my name on The 20 Club list,” April
said with a smile. “That’s why I came to school
early. Now I am going to make the 50 Club! ”
“Congratulations, April,” said Mr. Groth, “here’s
your first certificate.”
Concrete recognition, applause and “belonging”
motivate young jugglers. Invite a beginner and a few of
his or her friends to commit a few hours per week. Those
hours and these twelve tricks for working with kids will help
to create the newest generation of manipulators of gravity.
SHOW OFF! “The best way to motivate
kids is to show off some of your own juggling skills first,”
says Mike Vondruska of the Illinois Juggling Institute.
“They get excited and want to try, too.”
PROVIDE THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT Jugglers
learn best with proper equipment, not with rolled up socks or
tennis balls. Make sure there is enough equipment for
all. Find equipment suppliers who will provide discounts.
TEACH THAT DROPS ARE A SIGN OF PROGRESS
A writer’s group in Minneapolis starts each session
with applause for everyone who brings a fresh rejection letter.
These letters are to writers what drops are to jugglers, a sign
that risks have been taken. A drop is a sign of progress. Teach
your students that we learn to juggle drop by drop.
AFFIRM LOUDLY AND OFTEN (tosses and
drops!) “Nice drop” is a comment
frequently heard from adults in the Oregon Juggling Club, asserting
that jugglers value gravity and admire the perseverance
of beginners. A correct toss with one beanbag merits as much
praise as a juggler’s first five-ball flash. “Way
to go!” Who knows, the five-ball flash may not have
happened without the earlier affirmation?
ENCOURAGE PARTNER WORK Ask a
new juggler, “Will you please show Jimmy how to start
with one ball?” Though that new juggler may not
yet have mastered the cascade pattern, his or her confidence
and understanding of juggling will be reinforced.
Encourage jugglers to work on partner tricks, which are
fun and a good way for more confident jugglers to help reluctant
jugglers. Front steals, side-by-side cascade with three
beanbags and one ball take-away are not difficult tricks. Bud
Markowitz, who works with the Special Olympics, shared that
side-by-side is especially helpful for beginners with special
PRESENT CHALLENGES As soon as
a beginner has a solid cascade, encourage a throw off-the-knee
or under-the-leg, then move on to juggler’s tennis and
columns. Before a juggler has imagined he or she is ready,
push for four balls and five. The suggestion to add balls
to a pattern is a compliment and spurs focused effort.
BAIT WITH CHEESEBURGERS AND ICE CREAM CONES
Set personal goals and provide rewards. Local businesses may
be glad to provide delicious incentives for jugglers.
It may be easier for a youthful beginner to practice with an
ice cream cone in mind than just for the sake of learning columns;
small treats make a big difference.
PUBLICIZE PROGRESS Laminated
progress charts are on the doors of the juggling equipment storage
cabinets where Paul Arneberg works with Minnesota’s Jugheads.
Updated by the students, they record personal endurance records
and milestones. Remember the power of pictures.
The Flamingo Club, (www.juggler.net/flamingo)
has a page where youth pictures may be posted. Also,
acknowledge accomplishments by listing names in a juggling or
APPRECIATE OTHERS Encourage all jugglers
to show their improvement, from beginners who correctly toss
two throws to those who are working on Mills Mess and four ball
showers, Teach them to be an attentive and encouraging audience,
as well as gracious performers who finish with a bow.
PERFORM! Performances in the community,
with jugglers of all levels, serve as an incentive to continue
to practice. Nursing homes provide non-discriminating
audiences, as do daycare classes. Welcome audience members
to participate and your group will grow.