About two decades ago, University of Georgia students with atypical talents joined forces to create their very own space to showcase it — the UGA Juggling Club. While, its popularity slowly diminished with time, students with similar passions have decided to revamp the club and create more awareness for it than before.
Until recently, the UGA Juggling Club was a non-official organization, and practiced in outdoor spaces on campus and in the lobby of Boyd Hall. The club has since gained sponsorships, increased levels of awareness and expanded its opportunities to those who have no prior experience with juggling.
Members of the club practice by tossing neon-lit balls, clubs and rings. They also spend time advancing their skills by increasing the amount of balls they can “qualify” with — juggling for at least twice as many catches as the number of objects being juggled.
Patrick Russell, a sophomore political science and economics double major from Decatur, Georgia, is the club’s president. For those with no experience juggling, he said he offers his “three balls in 30 minutes” guarantee.
“My goal is to make sure that everyone gets a chance to learn it,” Russell said. “My biggest thing is that no one is uncoordinated and anyone can learn how to juggle if they truly want to.”
The organization gained sponsorships from those who were involved in the original club, such as UGA professor Mo Hendon, the undergraduate coordinator for the math department. Once Russell found out Hendon was involved, he reached out to Hendon and took the initiative to reintroduce the club.
“Patrick came up to me really just needing a faculty member to sign off for their club, but he ended up meeting a juggling professor,” Hendon said. “He’s honestly taught me more now and I’ve been doing this since the ’70s.”
Nationwide, there are very few university juggling clubs, most of them being at Ivy League schools such as Princeton University, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where some of the world’s best jugglers attend.
After reaching the desired amount of people to be considered a respected club, Russell and the other members intend to create an executive board, go to conventions around the country and meet those with similar talents at other schools. Through all of this, the club’s main goal is to teach students new skills and develop relationships with each other along the way.
“Long term, my goal is to make this group as big as possible in a short amount of time,” Russell said. “Through this time, I want to train people not only in juggling but in leadership as well.”
Another goal is to eventually compete in conventions, such as Groundhog Day Jugglers Festival and the International Jugglers’ Festival.
“I’ve met a lot of really talented people from these festivals who taught me a lot of important skills. It was a big part of my childhood for a while,” Russell said.
So far, the club has recruited members either through previous relationships or through more unconventional ways. Cason Smith, a senior agricultural business major from Hazlehurst, Georgia, was recruited via the UGA subReddit group after asking if people knew where to unicycle on campus.
“Patrick reached out then told me about his juggling club that he was starting, which I had started to learn recently, and I went from there,” Smith said.
This connection led to a built-upon skill for Smith and more connections for Russell which advanced the organization even more. The group’s next steps is to keep the skills alive and interest more people in order to form a solid foundation for the organization.
Although the members are currently practicing outside of Old College in the President’s garden, they intend to move to an indoor area so that more people can practice advanced skills. The club also hopes to become more professional as time goes on and ensure that everyone involved learns something about themselves through their newfound skills.
“I love how flexible the club is and how open and inviting everyone is about learning and advancing in this skill,” Smith said.