Chippewa Herald * September 8, 2005

Youth jugglers coming to town this week

by Tom Arneberg, Community Columnist

It all started with a little book called "Juggling for the Complete Klutz." When I spotted that in a bookstore in 1988, I finally found what I needed.

I grew up knowing people who could juggle. My own dad could do three balls forever, and my cousin could even juggle while on a unicycle. But every time I tried, I could only get a few tosses before it all fell apart.

When I relocated to Oregon in 1988 to work for a chip design startup company, I found that several engineers in my new department were good jugglers. They encouraged me to learn, but I was convinced that I simply didn't have what it takes to juggle.

The Klutz book changed my mind.

If a "complete klutz" could learn to juggle, then maybe, just maybe, I could learn, even at the ripe old age of 28.

I decided to devote one weekend to it. (Okay, it was a four-day weekend.) My wife's parents came to visit for Thanksgiving, and they liked to watch a lot of TV. I hate television, but I figured it was important to spend time with the in-laws. My solution was to spend the weekend in the back of the living room learning to juggle while they watched the tube -- a win-win situation.

The cool thing about the Klutz book is that it leads you step-by-step. It tells you to do a certain exercise, then when you're done, you turn the page and it tells you what you did wrong. Really! Everyone makes the same mistakes while learning to juggle, so the author can diagnose with confidence. It is reassuring to know that you are not particularly uncoordinated, but that you just have to go through the process.

To be sure, some people learn more quickly than others. But everyone can learn to juggle, if they give it enough time. I nailed it in a few days, once I buckled down. Most people can learn in three to ten hours' time. (I realized upon reflection that I never really spent more than a few minutes trying as a kid.)

Once I mastered the basic three-ball pattern, I was unstoppable. Now, 17 years later, I am up to -- let's see -- three balls. But hey, I did figure out how to pass-juggle from another book, and taught others to do the same. We had some great lunch-hour breaks of team juggling in the mild Oregon climate.

My biggest impact on the juggling world, however, was convincing my kid brother to learn. Paul, nine years younger, had just started working with youth in an after-school program in the Twin Cities after he finished his education at the University of Minnesota.

I sent him a Klutz book and wrote him a letter, telling him that if I could learn to juggle, he could surely do the same. I pleaded with him to give it a few hours, and told him that juggling would be a great thing to do in his work with kids.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Paul, a very intense individual, took youth juggling to new heights. He learned to juggle and began using juggling in his school program. (He tells his kids that it's "the art of throwing up and catching.") The juggling portion of his program grew and grew, until several years ago, when his employer gave him an ultimatum: either cut back on juggling, or step down from management.

Without hesitation he chose the latter, and there was no looking back. For seven years now, he has been a full-time youth juggling instructor! And his kids have been making a mark in the juggling world, scoring big in IJA (International Jugglers' Association) contests against formidable opponents such as professional circus performers from Russia.

Paul's secret is his philosophy. "Juggling is just the vehicle," he says. "The real aim is building character in the kids." Indeed, the official slogan of his "Jugheads Youth Juggling Company" is "Developing Youth Through Juggling." (You can read more about this remarkable group at "".)

The great thing about this is: THEY ARE COMING TO CHIPPEWA FALLS! No, not all 120 kids who appear in their annual show in Edina. That size of an entourage is tough to travel with, but a smaller group of ten to fifteen elite members occasionally juggles in shows around the midwest.

They will be performing a FREE juggling show on Saturday, September 10, at Chippewa Valley Bible Church, behind K-Mart. The church is bringing in the Jugheads in conjunction with their Fall Festival, an outreach event to the community that features free food, games and entertainment.

In addition to performing at the CVBC Fest, a brother-sister duo of Jugheads will help kick off the new season of the Chi-Hi Juggling Club. They'll be at the club's first meeting in the high school cafeteria at 4:00 p.m. Friday, September 9. This is also open to the public; call Kayla Robb (Chi-Hi junior who started the club) at 720-7646 if you're interested.

And remember, you, too, can learn juggling -- even if you're a complete klutz.


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