By Freddy Tsao, 15, South Pasadena HS
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Freddy says that as long as you put in the time to do something, you’ll succeed.
Photo by Charlene Lee, 16, Walnut HS

I love juggling. It calms me down when I’m stressed. I turn on iTunes and juggle and dance to whatever is playing on shuffle.

I got into juggling in sixth grade when I saw a notice on the bulletin at my middle school inviting people to join the South Pasadena Juggling Club. I’d been curious about juggling ever since I went to circuses when I was little, so I jumped at the chance to learn.

I had no idea what to expect when I arrived at my school gym where the juggling club met. I was astonished by the commotion. There were people juggling balls and rings, and a group of people juggling clubs with one another. There were about 20 people of all ages, and I even recognized a few people from school.

Still dazed by what was going on around me, a man came up and introduced himself as Bryan. He turned out to be the founder of the club. He got me started by tossing one ball in the air. Easy enough, right? After a couple of tosses of throwing one ball in the air at the same height, he handed me a second ball. It started to get challenging. Juggling with two balls requires you to toss each ball at a certain height and approximately within shoulder width of each other. As I tried to juggle with two balls, they were flying out of my reach and I couldn’t catch them. I have never been a great multitasker, and trying to juggle two balls was a lot to get my head around.

Before juggling three balls I had to master two

A couple weeks later I was still trying. “Imagine yourself in a box,” Bryan said. This technique failed for me, because I couldn’t imagine myself in a box when the balls were still flying all over the place and would sometimes land 10 feet away from me. I became too lazy to pick the balls up from the ground, so I started juggling next to the stack of mats against the wall so I wouldn’t need to bend down and pick up the balls when I dropped them. Bryan suggested that I juggle in a “J” formation to absorb the shock when the ball comes down, meaning that you should catch the ball like you’re catching a water balloon.

After weeks of practice, I could finally juggle two balls. I was excited for a moment, but then Bryan gave me a third ball. I knew it was going to be hard, but when I couldn’t do it after trying for a month, I decided to stop juggling. I didn’t think I would ever figure it out.

Juggling popped up in my life again the next school year in seventh grade P.E. My teacher would test us on how many times we could juggle without dropping what we were juggling. We started with scarves, and then moved on to balls, rings and finally clubs. Scarves were easy and I quickly moved on to the challenge of juggling three balls.

When I saw all these people who had never juggled before move ahead of me in class, I was jealous. Being the competitive person that I am, I decided to join the juggling club again. I went back with a goal—to pass juggling in P.E. I was greeted with familiar faces, and I also saw that a lot of my friends had joined for the same reason.

Bryan and I tried more techniques, such as a two-person, three-ball juggling technique, where two people stand side by side and use only their outer hands to juggle three balls as if they were one person. That helped a lot, because it gave me a feel for the rhythm of juggling without actually having to juggle three balls at once.

After much practicing and bending down and picking up dropped balls, I was finally able to (clumsily) juggle three balls in P.E. and moved on to rings. Rings were easier once I was able to juggle balls. After all the hard work and dedication, I was finally able to juggle! Now that I could actually juggle, I decided to continue with juggling club; not only to learn new juggling tricks, but also to try other juggling equipment such as the unicycle and hula hoops, and hang out with my new friends.

The hula hoop made it more fun

One day my friend, a woman named Yukie, brought several hula hoops to juggling club. I had always been good at hula hooping, but I had no idea that it was part of juggling. Yukie and I became hula hooping buddies. We learned how to do several hula hooping tricks, including one where you start with the hoop around your waist, bring the hula hoop onto your arms while the hula hoop is still revolving, and bring it back down again to the waist. The trick we’re currently working on is juggling balls to each other while hula hooping at the same time. This is difficult because our hula hoops can easily bump into each other if we get too close. However, one day when we were practicing, we did the trick for a minute. “Oh my god, we did it!” Yukie said. We were both ecstatic. Usually, we last for only 30 seconds, so we’re still working on consistency.

I love the people in my juggling club like Bryan, Yukie and Spencer, who is a librarian and an actress. When we take breaks from juggling, I enjoy talking to her. Once I asked her a question for history class and we started talking about Shakespeare. “I’ve been in hundreds of Shakespeare plays!” she said. I think it’s cool that she knows about a bunch of different things. I also ask her for book recommendations, since I’m a fan of mystery novels. My friends who joined the club in middle school stopped going in ninth grade because of homework, but new middle schoolers and high schoolers have joined. When my friends and I grab juggling balls and start passing them with each other, I’m amazed at how diverse and close we are. 

It’s a fantastic feeling to know that I’ve learned to do something that took a lot of hard work, dedication and patience. The experiences that I have had juggling with friends are completely worth it. It’s wonderful being so close with people who share the same passion as me—juggling.