Juggle

    Sophomore Zach Strassberg-Phillips demonstrates his juggling abilities after school in the Palo Alto High School Media Arts Center. In addition to juggling, Strassberg-Phillips has mastered the art of riding a unicycle and throwing Chinese yo-yos. Photos by George Lu.

    The tennis balls are a blur. The hands behind them are swift, expertly directing the orbs in their designed path. Gravity pulls each ball down to earth, only to be defied once again when the balls are thrown upwards. The rhythmic pattern sets a steady beat, captivating nearby students who pause to watch. Sophomore Zach Strassberg-Phillips, “The Juggling Kid,” is at ease.

    Strassberg-Phillips’s nickname, “The Juggling Kid,” stems from the curiosity of passersby. He doesn’t know where the name came from or who started it, but somehow the name came to be, and it stuck.

    “I would randomly meet someone, and they would greet me with, ‘Hey, aren’t you the juggling kid?’” Strassberg-Phillips said.

    Despite its unusualness, Strassberg-Phillips doesn’t mind the nickname.

    “I am not just a kid, not even just a juggling kid,” Strassberg-Phillips said. “I am The Juggling Kid and I take pride in this uniqueness. If so many people take the effort to refer to you with eight more letters than everyone else at school, it must mean you’re more than an ordinary kid.”

    ZACH

    Strassberg-Phillips juggles four tennis balls. According to Hall, when juggling an odd number of balls, crossing between hands occurs while with an even number, each half of the balls rotate through one hand. GIF by Jeanette Wong.

    Strassberg-Phillips enjoys juggling because of the movement involved and the hidden mathematical and musical components.

    “I’m a pretty kinetic person, so that’s why I like motion,” Strassberg-Phillips said. “Juggling is basically a combination of math and music. In the regular three ball pattern, each throw you do is given a number. One throw, two, three, four, and then five. They get exponentially bigger.”

    Strassberg-Phillips’s experience with juggling has made the activity part of himself.

    “People talk about five basic senses, but there’s also a sixth one [that lets you] feel things,” Strassberg-Phillips said. “Sometimes I feel like tennis balls are an extension of my body, a sixth sense. So, the tennis ball can just bounce off the wall and I know where it is without even looking.”

    With the help of his freshman advisory teacher Matthew Hall, an internationally renowned juggler, Strassberg-Phillips ventured into the world of juggling at age 14.

    “I’ve only been juggling since the beginning of high school,” Strassberg-Phillips said. “Mr. Hall kind of got me into it. In middle school, when I was going to class, I’d just have one tennis ball and just bounce it off the wall and stuff. So it grew from that.”

    Strassberg-Phillips plays

    Strassberg-Phillips plays with his Chinese yo-yo, one of the several juggling equipments he owns. Over the years, he accumulated a collection of tennis balls, rubber balls, clubs, devil sticks. Photo by George Lu.

    As president of the Paly Juggling Club, Strassberg-Phillips spreads his passion to others.

    “I’m in charge of teaching the new people; there’s actually a whole juggling app that I sometimes get inspiration from,” Strassberg-Phillips said.

    The juggling club often practices on the Quad at lunch and recently performed at the International Lunch.

    “Generally we just practice and have a good time, throwing things around,” Strassberg-Phillips said.

    As his talent gradually grew over time, so did the equipment he owned.

    “Over the past two years, I’ve gotten a lot of stuff for juggling,” Strassberg-Phillips said. “Mr. Hall gave me his prized tennis balls from his world championship — priceless. I was using those for a while but then I gave them back because I didn’t want to mess them up. Now, I use tennis balls, clubs [similar to bowling pins] and devil sticks [batons used for juggling].”

    Strassberg-Phillips has recently taken his juggling to the next level by learning how to juggle while riding a unicycle.

    “Instead of using your hands you use your hips — but you can’t pedal or anything,”  Strassberg-Phillips said.

    Despite his huge passion for juggling, he still finds time for other activities he enjoys. According to Strassberg-Phillips, most of his juggling is at school between classes, and when he gets home, he prefers to focus on academics and extracurriculars. After school, he likes to play the drums in a band, volunteer and spend time with his family.

    Strassberg-Phillips is glad he discovered the world of juggling.

    “If you don’t give yourself the opportunity to experience something new, then you never know if you’d really like it or not,” Strassberg-Phillips said. “I am proud of who I am, so I am proud of my title, The Juggling Kid.”

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