Appendix I - Ball Tricks

This appendix contains instructions for a number of ball juggling tricks which you need to be able to do in order to try certain moves described elsewhere on the site.

Ball on the Head

Juggle a normal cascade and choose one ball, catch it and quickly bring your hand up and place (do not drop or throw) the ball on to the top of your head, take your hand away and allow the ball to drop off to the other side. As it comes down begin to juggle again in the usual way. In order to give yourself more time to position the ball on your head you may wish to catch it a bit earlier than normal, say just after it peaks, rather than waiting for it to drop down to your hand and then having to lift it back up again to your head.

The Shower

A shower is a pattern where all the balls travel round a loop, with one hand throwing up high, and the other catching and feeding the balls across the bottom. The throwing hand usually starts off holding two balls and the feeding hand one. With the throwing hand send the 2 balls one after the other in a high arc over to the other side. When both balls are in the air and the throwing hand is empty, pass the remaining one across the bottom, preferably using a short horizontal throw rather than actually handing the ball over. Finally catch the two incoming balls and stop. Do this practice exercise until it doesn't feel rushed anymore, and then try the real thing.


In the shower whenever a ball lands in the feeding hand pass it straight over to the other side using a short throw or 'zip'. Whenever a ball is fed into the throwing hand throw it back across straight away. If the feeding across movement feels awkward then make sure you are holding your hands at the same level or that the throwing hand is a little below its neighbour. If the feeding hand is held lower then your zips must travel upwards, and you will have to turn your hand palm down for each catch resulting in ungainly throws.

Make sure that your first and second throws are as quick as possible to get the pattern off to a good start. Note that the shower can be done either with the left hand throwing or with the right, try both directions to see which is easier for you.

The Box

The box is closely related to the shower. It uses the same short horizontal throws, but this time they go in both directions so practice left- and right-hand showers before you try to learn this trick. The name comes from the shape of the pattern, the vertical throws form the sides of the box and the horizontal throws make its base. To start off put two balls in your right hand and one in your left. Throw a right-hand ball straight up, when it starts to come down again two things happen at once: the second right-hand ball gets passed across the bottom as in a shower, and the left-hand ball gets thrown straight up on the other side making room for the catch.


Now the situation is reversed and a ball is coming down toward the left hand, so the left passes its ball back across to the right hand which throws straight up again.

Keeping your hands at the same height is important for this trick. If you're doing the pattern correctly then each ball should follow the same path every time it is thrown - the two balls that are thrown up and down stay in their original hands and never cross, and the third ball is zipped back and forward along the bottom.

Mills Mess

Mills Mess is a wonderful trick to watch, the juggler's arms constantly cross and uncross and the balls snake around, first one way and then the other. It is best to learn this type of trick from another juggler instead of by reading about it, the sequence of throws and catches is quite complex and it is easier to get the 'feel' of the pattern from watching it than to piece it together from diagrams. For anyone with no choice in the matter however, I have attempted to explain the trick.

Firstly try the two ball exercise shown below:


This sequence of pictures shows Mills Mess with one of the balls missing. Notice that the black ball is always thrown from the top hand, and the white from the bottom hand. Both balls are thrown in the same direction, in the full Mills Mess 3 throws go one way and then 3 go back.

Once you can juggle the sequence shown, it's time to add the third ball. Take another look at the diagrams above. Watch the right hand - it throws its ball in the second frame and then remains empty all the way through to the fifth. On the way back the left hand is empty for the same length of time. Try to take note of this 'gap' as you do the exercise, click your fingers in the space when your hand is empty. You should be able to establish a rhythm: throw, throw, click, throw, throw, click.

Now take the third ball. You will be throwing the third ball instead of clicking your fingers. While you are learning this trick just throw the third ball straight up and down as shown in the diagrams, when you become more comfortable with it you can introduce a little body movement so that all three balls travel along the same path, this makes the trick look a lot more fluid. The third ball starts off being held in the underneath hand and it is thrown first:


Three Ball Cross and Follow

This is a very nice looking trick with either balls of clubs. The idea behind it is fairly simple, but it demands precise timing if it is to be performed well.

Start with two balls in your right hand and one in your left, and cross your arms left over right. Throw one of the right-hand balls up and slightly to the right. As soon as the ball has left your hand, quickly swap your arms around so that they cross the other way - right over left. When the ball that you threw starts to descend, exchange it with the ball in your left hand. This second ball should be thrown up and to the left. Once again, as soon as you have made the exchange swap your arms over - left over right again. Now exchange the incoming ball with the one in your right-hand, throwing it up and to the right. This last throw is identical to the very first one, and you can continue the trick by simply repeating these steps over and over. Always throw from the underneath hand, and swap your arms over after each throw:


An interesting variation of the Three Ball Cross and Follow is produced if you use the same arm movements, but throw from the top hand each time instead of the bottom hand.