We left off last month with Juggle Jam 5 (May 2003). That summer kicked off a five-year period where we came of age as a company.
From ‘01-‘04, we were blessed to have long-term Ultimate Club Specialist Dextre Tripp. Dextre, a veteran pro juggler, only worked with UC about 10 times a year, but his three-year plan took our talented kids (with respectable standards even “back then”) and introduced now-staple tricks and patterns such as hatchets, wraparounds, the Y, and dropbacks. His influence overlapped the last year of Dan Berman & Peter Frey (aka The Propellerheads, IJA Teams Bronze ‘00) and inspired legendary student leaders Billy Watson & Kelvin Ying (both JH Class of ‘07) to spearhead three consecutive years of training for and competing in the IJA Teams Championships. In 2002 (after JJ4), we were thrilled just to make the Finals in Reading, PA. In the wake of JJ5, that the shared vision of Dextre, Billy & Kelvin came of age, earning us our first UC Teams bronze medal.
Leading up to JJ6 (2004), UC trained to “three-peat” their bid for IJA Teams, but that training wasn’t done in a vacuum; those kids represented the backbone of a company of kids who became pioneers at lasting longer through high school, going further with team training, and making their Jughead membership more of a centerpiece than a sideline in their teenage pursuits. UC repeated their bronze feat at IJA-Buffalo, NY ‘04, and JJ6 also saw new levels of quality throughout the production. Fittingly, JJ6 was also the first year we produced a DVD and issued cast photos to every Jughead, the latter thanks to my brother Tom Arneberg and his innovative and nostalgic initiative.
JJ6 also marked the last year that Wendy Arneberg had to balance a full-time graphic design career with her hundreds of hours devoted to producing JJ and being my main supporter and cheerleader. She left her job on July 30, 2004; I threw a surprise retirement party for her at the Watsons’ home; and she has enjoyed a more balanced hybrid vocation of homemaking and half-time JH work ever since.
Those two consecutive IJA Teams bronze medals after JJs 5 & 6 lent an additional credibility to my top Jugheads choosing to stay in this for the long haul. JJ7 featured some of those kids as sophomores and juniors, now branching out to compete at IJA in smaller teams (The Swing Sisters, Guava, Les Filles, Swatch, Genetic Fallout and eventually The Five of Clubs) and add to our litany of 12 IJA Juniors to date started by Lana Bolin and her two appearances after JJs 3 & 4. That post-JJ7 summer, three Swing Sisters (Kelsey Harr, Jill Koralewski & Lauren Rice) made the game-changing decision to return for their senior year, becoming my first HS graduates in JJ8. The JJ8 DVD records how difficult it was for me to read my comments to each young lady whom I’d coached and mentored for an average of 8.33 years, leading parent Jeff Shlosberg to aid me in pre-recording my comments (with Wendy adding her Slide Show panache) for our first media-based Senior Presentation in JJ9.
Speaking of Jeff, he was one of many parents in those years that practically made an avocation out of volunteering for JH. His era is shared by Doug & Mary Watson, who founded the EYJA and chaperoned for countless trips and hosted countless parties; Danny & Lai Ying who ran our merchandising for years and inspired the founding of the Winter Showcase in 2006 (just before JJ8); and Darcy Wiklund, who to this day is a stagehand for JJ despite the fact that Riley hasn’t been a Jughead since 2008!
Of equal importance to our stalwart parent involvement and the fulfilled dream of expanding through high school as of JJ8, I began hiring grads to help me coach starting with JJ10. Inaugural grad-coach Scott Richter worked multiple club days for five years, giving me support and boosting our JJ production quality throughout his professional tenure. On a side note, my JJ’s 6-10 cold openers were Gimli, Wendy’s JJ7 video montage, Bob the Tomato, Elvis and Mufasa.
Our coming of age led to much thriving after JJ10, with a jump in rosters, coaches, and accolades. Next month, I’ll recount the ups & downs of our maturing youth juggling company.