Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Juggling: A Conduit for Character-Building

One of the most oft-repeated phrases I use in meetings, interviews, and in writing regarding this juggling company and my own career path is that juggling is just an excuse to work with kids. Due to the long-term, developmental, and relational aspects of this work, such a philosophy is meted out on a daily basis. After all, even from the kids’ perspective, the vast majority wouldn’t bother returning year after year were it not for the friendships and life lessons they’ve gained here on a regular basis!

Having said that, juggling itself (like virtually every other worthwhile endeavor, whether hobby or profession) does have some inherently beneficial qualities and rewards. Over 20 years of coaching, I’ve directly observed, heard from parents, and read research about juggling’s physical benefits: improved hand-eye coordination (notable for athletes such as goalies, golfers and other precision sports); better reaction time and peripheral vision (making for better drivers and general physical awareness); and even arm strength and cardio for the most driven jugglers (have you ever seen the amount of sweat by hard-working Jugheads at summer camps?). Then there are the cognitive benefits: improved math scores, reading ability, concentration, focus, and even the literal growth of the brain’s grey matter. Finally, the social benefits: goal-setting, self-confidence, performing ability, leadership skills, risk-taking, permission to fail, and more relaxed, personable interactions between boys & girls, 3rd graders and seniors.

Even with all these researched and time-tested values of juggling (physical, cognitive, social), it still all boils down to character. I’ve seen countless instances of kids earning international, regional, local, and company-specific recognition, and nearly every one of those kids will testify that more important than records, standards, rank and fame is the value of strong personal character.

Juggling in general, and Jughead membership specifically, has many benefits; the unseen benefits are the most lasting. Whether here for one year or 10, the mission is that each Jughead will walk away better people for being here, with juggling as the conduit and the means toward that noble end.