The first lesson of juggling is learning how to become comfortable throwing and catching a bean bag or soft ball from one’s dominant hand to their non-dominant hand.
This step may sound simple, but it’s where every beginner starts in the Texas Juggling Society.
Psychology graduate student Nathaniel Blanco said he joined the organization two years ago with relatively few juggling skills. But Blanco, now president of the society, said his persistence in going to weekly meetings helped him improve and learn that juggling, for all its challenges, is rewarding.
“Even as you increase in skill and master new tricks, there are always a large number of other tricks to work on or even invent at so that it never gets boring,” Blanco said. “A lot of other skills I’ve acquired in the past become boring once you get too good at them, but juggling allows for endless complexity.”
Blanco, who can now juggle multiple balls and clubs and even combine those props to juggle them all together, said expanding upon tricks requires patience and perseverance.
“A large part of learning quickly is practicing in a way that supports effective muscle memory learning,” Blanco said. “But patience is key because even as it seems like you are not making progress, your muscle memory is building, and it will eventually pay off.”
Jim Maxwell, adviser to the Texas Juggling Society, said that when building muscle memory and reaction time, calculated thought processes are of minor importance.
“Yes, there are decisions and adjustments that constantly have to be made, but it’s more reflexive than calculated,” Maxwell said.
Maxwell said there are various benefits to juggling, such as improving hand-eye coordination and reflexes. In addition, a recent study by professors at Johns Hopkins University revealed juggling could help scientists and neurologists understand how human senses help humans run. The research may lead to improved treatment of people with neurological diseases and better, more efficient prosthetic limbs.
The Texas Juggling Society offers tips to members on how to improve juggling a set number of props tossed in a figure eight motion above the hands, toss joggling with a partner or on a specific trick of the juggler’s interest.
The Texas Juggling Society, which started in the late 1970s, opens up membership to anyone interested. Maxwell said if one desires to learn how to juggle, then practice is crucial.
“Dropping [a prop] is an inevitable part of learning,” Maxwell said. “While a drop can be frustrating, growth comes from picking the object up and getting back into the pattern. It’s better to see the whole pattern peripherally than to focus intently on the individual objects in the pattern.”
Blanco said the society is a supportive community, which is one of the reasons he joined.
“Juggling is also playing,” Blanco said. “And really, I’m a child at heart.”