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What Goes Around Comes Around Fun and skill are a winning combination for local yo-yo champion. By Elliott M. Burke

Skyelar Whitehead demonstrates one of his favorite yo-yo routines. BELCHERTOWN – Serious play becomes a rewarding skill for Skyelar Whitehead, an eleven year old boy from Belchertown and a student at Chestnut Hill Community School.


Skyelar took first place in the Beginner’s Division for 10 to 15 year olds at the 2009 Massachusetts State Yo-Yo Contest. The competition was held at the American International College in Springfield on February 22nd. Skyelar first got interested in yo-yos about six to eight months ago but began taking lessons in January. He and his friends take classes at A to Z Science and Learning Store in Northampton. The classes are free and are held from 4:30 to 5:30 pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, with a fifteen minute evaluation until 5:45. The classes are designed to help beginners of all ages to learn basic yo-yo throwing techniques and onward to mastery of tricks that will prepare them to participate in State and World level competitions. While yo-yo mastery requires a commitment to daily practice, it’s a little less rigorous than other disciplines, and possibly even more fun. Skyelar carries a yo-yo with him and can practice leisurely wherever he is or at whatever he might be doing. “It’s really a great activity for kids to get into”, his mother, Jennifer Whitehead said. “He has a lot of energy and is kind of a fidgety kid and he needs something to do when he is just hanging around, so the yo-yo is just perfect for him.” Still, he puts in at least a half hour of practice a day in addition to all of the minutes and hours that add up. “He’ll be at his computer sending instant messages to his friends and practicing while he waits for them to respond back. You can hear the whir of the yo-yo coming from his bedroom, even after his bedtime. I never have to ask him if he has practiced”, she said. The modern day yo-yo as we know it came into prominence during the great depression. Pedro Flores, a Filipino-American businessman, originally opened the Yo-Yo Manufacturing Company in 1928, mass producing the yóyo, a traditional toy from his culture and country. Entrepreneur Donald Duncan bought the rights and assets to the toy in 1930, giving the name we now commonly associate with it. There is evidence that the yo-yo dates back at least as early as 500 B.C.; a Greek vase from 440 B.C. bears a depiction of a young boy with a yo-yo. It is commonly assumed that the yo-yo originated as a hunting weapon similar to a sling shot or a bolo, although that notion has been roundly disputed. It seems to be purely invented as a toy and can help develop the eye-hand coordination and dexterity necessary for other sport activities. Yo-yo competing – and the collecting that necessarily goes along with it – is a varied science of nuanced skill and can become expensive. The competitions not only engage other yo-yo enthusiasts in activities with one another, they also help provide for their hobbies. Skyelar


displayed his kit with an assortment of yo-yos and materials needed for maintenance and upkeep for practices and competitions, and pointed out a particular model that was recently purchased for one hundred and thirty dollars, and a new yo-yo he bought with the prizes he received from the competition. “This is a looping yoyo”, he explained; “I got this yo-yo with the gift card I won at the contest.” The first yo-yo we bought cost ten dollars, and the classes were free. Then he really started getting into it and it took off. I’d rather put the money into yo-yos instead of video games, which can easily cost more”, replied Mrs. Whitehead. Yo-yoing has developed into a major competition which is social over everything else. People come to these contests to not only compete but to meet other enthusiasts and fans, to learn from and share with one another. It’s a very community oriented event. There are also plenty of resources to be found online, with web sites where you can watch videos and learn new techniques to try. The State competition was organized by André Boulay, a former State Champion as well as a US Nationals judge and National Yo Yo Master, a title given to exceptional teachers of the art of yo-yoing. Andre also works as a teacher with the Yo-yo Club at A to Z learning center and is captain of Team YoYoJam, a competition team made up of some of the best yo-yo players from around the world. Jack Finn, the owner of A to Z, loves yo-yoing and really wants to see more and more people get exposed to it by offering free classes. “It’s really for everybody. There are little kids there and the parents enjoy it; it’s quite a social thing as well. Skyelar has gotten to know many people in just a couple of months,” Mrs. Whitehead said. “I had a mother approach me at the store the other day, and she told me “Oh, my daughter said that Skyelar was really good at yo-yoing, so now we’re going to A to Z to learn how to do it too!” “What is really great about the competition is that everybody is there to help each other out. You are really there to compete against and challenge yourself, and even though someone will win first or second, they were all there cheering each other on.” In such a short time Skyelar has not only managed to master the skills involved to win the contest but is very knowledgeable about the different types and models of yo-yos as well as the different tricks, explaining how one yo-yo works differently from another.


Now that he has finished the State competition he will be working to enter the intermediate sports ladder level next year, a competition based on how well you perform a set of skills involving string and looping, the two main types of yo-yo tricks used. Starting from easy maneuvers and progressing through harder ones, you are only permitted to miss two tricks before you are disqualified. Skyelar also studies the trumpet and french horn and plays in his school band, and his favorite subjects at school are math and history, which is also evident in his love and expertise for yoyoing. He and his friends are busy designing yo-yos and need to know the math involved as well as the history. “When you start out, it’s easy to design a yo-yo that has already been made”, he explains. “So you need to know a lot about different types of yo-yos and the way they work to be able to design a new one.” Skyelar has much to look forward to competing and contributing his expertise to the community, and at his age has the talent to become an instructor himself. “If you want to get good at yo-yoing, don’t stop after the first hard trick. Keep on trying, even if it is hard”, he advises from his own experience. “That’s the reason I stopped after the first time, but I kept on trying and stuck at it”.

What Goes Around Comes Around  

BELCHERTOWN – Serious play becomes a rewarding skill for Skyelar Whitehead, an eleven year old boy from Belchertown and a student at Chestnu...

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