The Social Benefits of JUGHEADS Membership, Part 1

Having touched on the body & brain boons of juggling, I’ll wrap up this fall series with the social benefits of Jughead membership. This vast topic warrants two parts: our co-ed age range & special events; then Juggle Jam & leadership development next month.

Compared with the more tangible benefits of athletics & academics, the social benefits of being a Jughead member are intangible—but arguably far more lasting.  Consider: in what other setting can both boys and girls in a 10-year age range work (and/or serve) side-by-side in a structured, shared activity that is both adult-led and student-led, and invites maximum member input? Smaller schools/church youth groups have some age crossover, and some sports or productions can be team-led, but ours is a unique combination of demographics through a shared (and unique) culture with common technical and performance goals.

When I started out coaching through the Wise Guys childcare program, the jugglers had a special identity because their skills at our weekly club were carried over to free time, overnights, and gigs. As we developed, spun off, and expanded to 12th grade, the company’s social culture took on a life of its own. For instance, girls and women represent a small minority of jugglers worldwide, but we’ve enjoyed a vibrant percentage of girls in our history, including many serving as student leaders, captains, award-winners, and grads. Beyond a mere bragging right, our balanced co-ed culture makes for a more enriching environment and a place for healthy, platonic friendships. Theatre & music groups do offer such co-ed experiences, but usually only for a season (such as a play) and in a limited age range (e.g., two to four years).

All of our special events were grassroots from the start. In 1995, I took just two kids to MONDO. In 1996, our first IJA Team had 13 kids in 5th-7th grade, and Jingle Jam was a multi-night, club-specific event in the Arneberg home with 10-30 kids at a time. To this day, special events allow for joyful gatherings that transcend the setting of each weekly club, and Jingle Jam and our festival trips are among many Jugheads’ most cherished experiences in all of childhood, let alone in their juggling-specific identities.

Whether in snack-time conversations, playing dodge ball at Jingle Jam, or attending a winter festival with us, may the Jugheads treasure their social connections here and know that being a Jughead—and a Jughead parent or coach— is a blessing from above (James 1:17).