When teaching very young children to juggle, most jugglers choose to use scarves to try to slow down the juggling pattern. This addresses the biggest challenge that young children face in learning a three ball cascade, which is the problem of hand speed. However, the use of scarves has one very giant drawback. There is very little carry over of the skill of scarf juggling to ball juggling. We call this “transfer of training.” You don’t juggle three balls like you do three scarves, so learning with scarves first does very little to help someone to learn a three ball cascade, other than building some confidence in them.
There are rare cases of extremely young children being able to juggle three balls. Rudy Cardenas could juggle three balls at the age of three. By the age of seven, Rudy was performing five balls and five bell sticks, similar to clubs.
Thomas Dietz could also juggle three balls at the age of three. Anthony Gatto started toss juggling at the age of four or five, depending on the source you believe. However, the first teaching method that I would like to discuss here is one used by Albert Moriera, the father of Albert Lucas and his brother David Lucas (David Lee). The method was obviously helpful, as Albert Lucas could juggle three balls at the age of three and could juggle four balls, four rings, and three clubs at the age of four. His brother David could juggle three balls at the age of three as well.
The Moriera Method
The method used by Albert Moriera to teach his young sons is one rarely if ever seen today, but it is very ingenious and apparently quite successful. The child stands as normal and is taken through the usual steps to learn a three ball cascade. However, the teacher stands behind the child (sometimes on a box or even a ladder) and catches each toss at the apex of the throw, palm down, and pauses before dropping the ball to be caught in the child’s other hand. This allows the child to learn to juggle balls in a normal fashion, but with the pattern and the affect of gravity slowed down considerably. As the child learns to make more accurate tosses and catches, the catches made by the coach are made lower and are held for less and less time until the child can cascade the balls unassisted. To understand this method more clearly, please watch the following video.
While this method is ideal for very young children, it can be used for anyone struggling with learning a three ball cascade. If you know someone who has struggled with learning a three ball cascade, this method is something that you may want to try.
The Cain Method
I taught my children to juggle three balls at the age of seven using a different method, but one that shares the important element of slowing down the pattern. I taught each of my children to do a three ball lift bounce juggle before trying to learn the cascade in the air. This allowed them to learn the exchange of balls in the hands and the basic feel of tossing and catching, but with the advantages that the pattern is slower and the catches are made when the balls are near their apex and are moving much slower, if at all. It is also a big confidence boost.
With both of my children, I taught them an in-the-air cascade about a week and a half after learning the lift bounce. The lift bounce prepared them for learning the standard cascade. I also used this method in teaching my son five balls. Learning the lift bounce first made things quite easy when we started five balls in the air shortly afterward.
This method has proven useful for teaching adults who have struggled with learning a three ball cascade. The last two times I’ve attended the Ann Arbor Juggling Festival, jugglers have brought their non-juggling girlfriends to me, frustrated that they were unable to teach them how to do three balls. In both cases, I was able to quickly teach them a three ball lift bounce and get them headed in the right direction with three balls in the air.
If you want to teach a young child to juggle or have an adult who has failed to learn a three ball cascade using traditional methods, the two methods above might prove useful. If you do use either one, I’d love to hear from you about how it went.