I have set myself the challenge of learning to juggle.
Generally, I’m cack-handed. I can’t run, throw, or catch. But I can swing – a bat, stick, or club. I was the kid who cracked the first pitch into the outfield, but still got run out at first. I was the kid who could return the tennis ball over the net, until we got to the running around the court bit. Now, I have to learn how to juggle, which has no swinging.
When you watch “How to juggle” videos, the instructors, being very good jugglers, assume their audience can throw and catch. Then juggling is just about timing. (It’s like English teachers who assume that bad spellers can fix that by “checking their work for errors,” but I digress.)
So I began to learn to juggle and, not unexpectedly, started by doing a lot of this:
Unable to find juggling balls, I started with small tennis balls. They were too big. I switched to racquetball balls, which were the right size and had the added advantage that they bounced back to me, except for when they shot off up the hall and I got to act like a collie.
But I am not a collie, and I thought “There has to be a better way to learn”. And there is. Years ago I came across the Alexander Technique. This is a method of learning movement, and it proceeds with the assumption that many of us have learned to move incorrectly, and need to relearn. I found an Alexander Method juggling website, and began to discern what I had previously learned by observing my movements.
By concentrating my gaze at a point in the distance behind the top of the arc of the ball, I could see much of the process, except for the actual catch. I quickly realized that my eyes weren’t communicating with my hands. I knew where the ball would come down, but my hand wasn’t getting the message. I also knew that trying to watch the ball into my hand would fail. Although the instructor spoke in generalities, not the specifics of my issue, I found that by concentrating on getting the message to my hand, it was suddenly in the right spot. Suddenly, I could smoothly toss the ball from hand to hand. Then I could toss two balls, although I developed a new problem – I was twisting my shoulders so skewing the plane of the throws. I concentrated on that and ironed it out, even if only temporarily. So far I have made 20 single ball catches, seven doubles, and one triple ball cascade. I feel more like this, now:
Today I realized that while the bounce of the racquet ball balls was an advantage earlier, it was a disadvantage now that I had to juggle three of them. Traditional juggling balls are not bouncy. I found a video showing me how to make balls with balloons and rice, and experimented until I had the size I want. Rice in balloons gives me the size and grip I need.
My “learning moment” is that the rice and balloon balls are the ones that will do what I need my juggling balls to do:
Dog chasing ball photo licensed free for commercial use from:
Dog with balls in mouth photo licensed free for commercial use with attribution from:
The Alexander Technique applied:
How to make juggling balls: