Many children have a hard time juggling their homework and their hobbies, but for a group of students at Paine Intermediate School, juggling is their homework and their hobby. For close to a decade, the intermediate school has maintained a juggling team made up of fifth graders.
To qualify for the team, students have to pass a gauntlet of tests. The student’s progress through a series of objects ranging from scarves, to a variety of balls, then rings and finally clubs. They must be able to flawlessly juggle each item 30 times before being allowed to learn the next object. Once they have progressed through the items, they must prove they can juggle each of the items 100 times before being allowed to perform with the team.
Coach Ronda Chrisenberry said the students can begin to learn the basics as early as third grade but only fifth graders can try out for the team and perform for an audience.
“We (perform at) the high school basketball team half time show, the middle school half time show, and we perform during the Christmas parade,” Chrisenberry said. “We do shows for the YMCA and we do one for Samford University early next year. The kids get to juggle for the older kids and the older kids love it.”
Eric Taylor, 11, has been juggling since the second grade and can now juggle while riding on a Ripstick – a kind of two-wheeled skateboard. To him, juggling was easy but he admitted that learning to do it while moving “took a little while.”
“It’s like riding a bike,” Matthew Roberson, 11, said. “Once you get the hang of it you never forget.”
In fact recent studies in Sweden, Germany, New Zealand and several universities in America claim a link between improved scores and juggling. One study published in the scientific journal Nature, claims that juggling can even improve memory and learning ability in adults. The study claims that people learning to juggle even show an increase in the size of their brain.
Some experts claim that this brain growth is due to the thousands of juggling patterns that can be learned from a single group of three objects and the near limitless potential of adding new objects to the mix. Others claim that the growth is caused by the concentration needed to juggle. Proponents of this theory claim juggling increases concentration in other aspects of life, such as study. Several schools across the nation have begun juggling programs. Other schools in the state and surrounding areas also have teams, including Clay-Chalkville schools.
That is not why the students enjoy juggling, however.
“I did it because it was awesome and if I wasn’t doing this I’d be sitting at home doing nothing,” Austin Collar, 11 said
. “And we get to go to the high school basketball games for free.”
This year’s team includes members John Parker Milliken, Matthew Roberson, Austin Collar, Luke Aaron, Brylan Somers, Sam Jones, Nicholas Lee, Turner Corley, Max Pate, Andy Poole, Preston Williams, Eric Taylor, Cameron Glover, Colin Glover, Logan Blank, Davis Harper, and Erica Jones.