Jim's Balls and Clubs Page

Ball juggling

Ball juggling is usually the first thing people attempt when they learn how to juggle. When I say balls I mean a generic term for objects which are usually round and about 2" to 3" in diameter and may be hard or soft. These may consist of objects like beanbags, lacrosse balls, tennis balls or even golf balls (I learned how to juggle four with golf balls). But, if you get desperate, you can also resort to objects like oranges, grapefruit or, if your daring enough, eggs. So I may use the term balls or bags interchangibly.

My preferred balls for juggling are fergie bags or silicone balls. I have my original set of fergie bags (three 2.2" bags) which I bought when I first joined the Illini Juggling and Unicycle club (IJUC). I then bought a set of five 2.5" fergie bags at the '83 EIU juggling fest. And I purchased a set of seven 3" bags at the beginning of '96. I am still using my fergie bags to this day, and if they ever wear out I may eventually have to find another vendor since Fergie has since retired from making bags.

I also have a set of seven 2.75" silicone balls which five were given to me for my birthday and Christmas in 1995 by my wife (bless her heart) and I bought the other two at the 1996 IJA Festival in Rapids City. I have always wanted a set of silicone balls since I first tried them when I joined the IJUC. Definately the Cadillac of juggling balls. I got mine from Todd Smith Products. Other types of balls I have laying around in my prop bag are five 4" Dube stage balls, five old lacrosse balls, five old square bean bags, and miscellaneous filled tennis balls and racquetballs.

Within the last year I have added a few more different balls. I have eleven 63 mm bubble balls from The Higgins Brothers props. I also have six 62 mm MMX balls. And lastly I have added six Elite Series 2.75" bags from Gballz.

I learned to juggling when I was a sophmore in high school using three tennis balls. At that time I learned how to do the cascade and the shower. But since I knew no other people who juggled, I lost interest. It wasn't until I started college at the University of Illinois in the fall of '85, and joined the Illini Juggling and Unicycle club, before I picked up juggling again. In the first year I was in the juggling club I learned how to juggle four and five balls. I also started getting into bounce juggling by learning the five ball lift bounce. One of my favorites is just juggling three balls. I love it because of it's simplicity and innumerable varations.

I am currently working on all kinds of ball tricks. I picked up the 3b Different Ways video and think I am set for new tricks for quite a long time.

I have started practicing four balls more frequently because of some interesting siteswap patterns to work on. I am also consistently working on four ball mills mess. I have the pattern down and can do a few cycles of it before it blows up. I'm still wondering why this seems so difficult to me since I have four and five balls down solid. Of course if I ever start working hard on five ball mills mess I may take that back.

I have just recently felt that my five ball pattern has become pretty solid. I try to practice five balls whenever I pick up my props. Practicing different patterns and tricks has also really helped in solidifying my pattern. I work on half and full reverse, under leg, behind back, over the shoulder, and kickup from four to five. There are a few multiplex patterns I work on as well. I play around with six and seven balls ocassionally, but have never been bitten by the "numbers bug." I did happen to qualify seven balls for the first time during a juggling club meeting (8/13/2001), not once, but twice. My personal best with seven balls is 18 catches (11/15/2001). However, some of my favorite ball juggling is bounce juggling.

I learned how to lift bounce five balls a long time ago. It wasn't until I got my silicone balls before I started seriously working on bounce juggling. Some of the more interesting bounce juggling I do is with four balls. There are tons of variations I have been working on. Alot of them are site-swap combinations, along with a mills mess variation and I am even working on a burkes barrage variation with four balls. I also work on alot of different transitions with five balls; lift to force, force to lift, five in air to bouncing, and bouncing to in the air. Some of these transitions are definately easier than others. One pattern I really like with 5 balls is the W pattern. It's the basic three ball force bounce pattern, but you let the balls bounce twice before catching them. And after the catch, you force the ball being thrown between the ball rising from the second bounce and the ball rising from the first bounce. It's a fairly easy pattern (if you can even understand it from my brief description). I am working on my seven ball lift bounce, which is coming along pretty nicely. My average amount of throws and catches with seven is about 50. I haven't quite hit the hundred mark yet, it always seems to blow up just before I get there.

Here is a not so clear picture of me working on my 7 ball lift bounce. (One ball is below the wooden "fence", the other is lost in my light shirt.)

Club juggling

When I joind the Illini Juggling and Unicycle club in the fall of '85 I already knew how to juggle (albeit not that well). However, I did not know how to juggle clubs and immediately set out to rectify that problem. I was able to learn how to juggle clubs and start passing that first semester I was with the club. When I joined the club there were quite a few good club jugglers and I was able to learn quickly with their help. My best progress came when I moved in to a dorm room second semester with one of the juggling club members, Jim Robinson. We would constantly pass clubs after our classes were done and long into the night. However, for some reason I just never got interested in juggling clubs like I did juggling balls.

Even though I can pass clubs and have four clubs down fairly well, I would have to say that clubs is probably one of my weaker props. I just haven't spent the time on it (unlike fellow juggling club member and club juggling monster Chris LaReau, who started juggling clubs around the same time I did). Recently I have picked up the Radical Club News videos and it has renewed my interest in working on clubs. That along with a personal goal of learning how to juggle five clubs before one of my sons does ;-). Another thing that has sparked my interest in getting better with clubs is a number of tricks that I have been coming up with on the devilstick. There are alot of throws and spins that I am starting to do with the handsticks, which are very similar to club tricks. And I realized that if I was a better club juggler these tricks would be a whole lot easier.

So I am trying to spend a fair amount of time working on club tricks, four clubs and five clubs. I have recently started using Renegade clubs and I really like them. A bit heavy at first, but I like the feel of them.

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