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String Fever: Eldersburg club shares a passion for the ups and downs of yo-yos

Michael Engles, 8, of Sykesville, pulls off a trick during a meeting of the Eldersburg Yo-Yo Club. The club, formed by a Woodbine family, meets monthly at the Elddersburg Library to teach tricks and share their love of yo-yos.
Michael Engles, 8, of Sykesville, pulls off a trick during a meeting of the Eldersburg Yo-Yo Club. The club, formed by a Woodbine family, meets monthly at the Elddersburg Library to teach tricks and share their love of yo-yos. (Staff Photo by Jen Rynda)

On a Tuesday evening, the activity room at the Eldersburg Library is swirling, as a dozen or so kids of varying ages and skill levels practice and expand upon their repertoire of yo-yo tricks.

Yo-yo players — particularly young, enthusiastic ones, bonded by a passion for learning the ups and downs of this ancient toy — don't stand still.

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When these Eldersburg Yo-Yo Club members unlimber the tools of their trade — Yo-Yo Factory, Duncan, Yomega, Dark Magic, Diablo and other name-brand devices ranging in price from $10 to more than $100 — they tend to slide and skitter back and forth across the room in ever-changing configurations.

They seem to be working on their own moves as they practice the yo-yo standards: Sling Shot, Stop n' Go, Darth Vader, Gerbil, Mach 5, Atomic Bomb, Round the World, Rock the Baby, Elevator and Spirit Bomb (in no particular order of difficulty or complexity).

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Some of these involve little more than running the yo-yo down its string and back up again; others are more convoluted and faster than the untrained eye can follow.

"Lots of people here working on a lot of different things tonight," said Colin David, 15, the club's unofficial director and master instructor, with satisfaction as he demonstrated a trick called grinding, which is running the yo-yo up your arm and back down again.

A couple of boys were working on "off-string" tricks in which they toss the yo-yo right off the string and — at least on a good night — to another player, who catches it in mid-air on his string. It's a tricky move, and more often than not, the yo-yo hits the floor with a clunk and goes skittering away.

"He's destroying his yo-yo," Colin said, shaking his head, as he watched a pair trying the move.

"I did destroy it," one of the boys replied with a resigned grin as he scurried off in pursuit of his runaway device.

"Off-string is hard," Colin said. "Plus, if you're gonna do off-string, you have to use a good yo-yo. And if you're gonna use a good yo-yo, you have to be confident it's not gonna end up on the floor every time."

Family circle

The David family of Woodbine — Philip and Andrea and their three children, Colin, 15; Brian, 12; and Michelle, 10 — are the founders and nucleus of this ad-hoc yo-yo club, which started earlier this year.

Philip and Andrea David playfully blame their familial yo-yo craze on Brian and Colin, who, about a year ago, became the first of the clan to get caught up in the challenge, intrigue and allure of the yo-yo.

"When we first started, Brian was doing it all the time," Colin said. "He was just watching and replaying yo-yo (instructional) videos all the time. Pretty soon after he got his Dark Magic yo-yo, I got my own yo-yo, which was different style, made for different tricks."

"My older brother started with the 'gravity pull' stuff, and I sort of took it to the next level with advanced stuff," Brian said.

Colin and Brian have since advanced to even more complicated tricks, including what they call "advanced two-hand string tricks."

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With his long, dark hair, sharp features and animated personality, Brian resembles a yo-yo wizard as he eagerly demonstrates moves and shares his expertise with novice players.

The brothers say on average, they practice a couple hours a day.

"If I'm bored, I just get out my yo-yo and start playing, sometimes for a couple hours, sometimes for 30 minutes," Brian said.

Their mother, Andrea David, who home schools her three children, said it's seldom that her kids don't have their yo-yos in their hands … or close by.

"They take their yo-yos with them like other kids take their electronic stuff," she said. "We'll be waiting in the doctor's office, and they'll be playing their yo-yos."

At some point, the boys' father, Philip David; and their 10-year-old sister, Michelle, also hopped on the yo-yo bandwagon.

"I had one when I was a kid, but I wasn't very good," David said, as he patiently showed a couple of bashful girls some yo-yo basics, such as "how to throw it down and make it come back up again."

For the monthly meetings of the yo-yo club, he and the library staff always make sure there are extra yo-yos for kids who show up without one. He also brings extra strings, since broken strings are common — particularly among this young, high-energy crowd.

Though he's not the hotshot that his two sons are, David is clearly no slouch. He demonstrates by executing a sophisticated move called The Trapeze.

"I guess Brian is next (best in the David family), after Colin, and I'm after Brian," David offers modestly.

"No, Dad," Michelle protested with a grin as she unleashed her yo-yo. "I'm gooder than you!"

Sharing the ups and downs

Colin said he and his family came up with the idea for starting the club as a way to further sharpen their skills and share their love of the toy.

"We taught our friends some stuff, and we looked for a club, but we found out there weren't any around here," Colin said. "So we decided to start one. We wanted to find people who were better than us to teach us, but it turns out that we're the teachers."

Andrea David approached Buff Kahn, children's services coordinator at the Eldersburg Library, and Kahn helped them get the club off the ground.

"Right away (the people at the library) thought it was a great idea," said Kahn. "They made posters and things, and got really interested in it."

Kahn said a yo-yo club was a perfect fit with her mission as children's services coordinator to "make the library a welcoming community place."

"It's been very popular," she said. "It's really nice to offer kids in their age group something that brings them together with a shared hobby and gives them a chance to meet each other.

"The other nice thing is that we have members of the community like the Davids who are willing to donate their time and talent, and share their skills with others."

And that's just what Colin did on a recent night when a younger boy walked over with a puzzled look on his face.

"I think there's something wrong with this yo-yo," he said with a frown.

"Well, what do you want it to do?" Colin asked.

"Can you teach me the Baby in the Cradle?"

"You mean Rock the Baby?"

"Yeah," the boy laughed sheepishly. "I always mess up and call it the Baby Cradle."

Across the room, another boy used his iPhone to watch an instructional video as he attempted to emulate the moves on the small screen.

One of the most avid of the young yo-yo-ers is Matthew Fuksa, 13, of Taneytown, who attends Northwest Middle School. Wearing a "Gods of War" T-shirt, "Ghost Busters" cap and high-topped tennis shoes, he runs through an array of yo-yo moves.

"I started about a year ago and try to practice enough to get stuff like I want it," he said.

Matthew said his mother saw a notice in the newspaper and told him about the yo-yo club. He's been coming to the once-a-month meetings since last summer.

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His younger brother, Chris, 12, is more of a novice. Chris said he's handicapped at the moment because he doesn't yet have his own yo-yo and had to borrow one from the Davids.

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"I'm trying to save up for one, he said.

Asked if his older brother lets him borrow his yo-yo, Chris grinned shyly, as if the question involved sharing a treasure, and said simply, "No."

Nadine Giampapa, of Eldersburg, and her 9-year-old son, Cody, happened to stop by the library to pick up a book and noticed the kids playing in the activity room.

"I told Cody to go look in there and see what they were doing," Giampapa said. "And it turned out he knows one of these boys from school."

Before long, Cody was out on the floor with the others, yo-yoing for all he's worth.

Near the end of each meeting, Philip David has all the kids form in a big circle and take turns demonstrating what they've learned.

Many have a reach beyond their grasp and attempt moves they can't quite complete. That's good, said David. It means they are learning and stretching.

And when it comes to yo-yos, that's what it's all about.

If you go

The next meeting of the Eldersburg Yo-Yo Club will be after the holidays, on Jan. 17, at 7 p.m., in the activity room of the Eldersburg Library, 6400 Hemlock Drive, Eldersburg. All are invited. For more details, call Buff Kahn, 410-386-4460, ext. 6628.

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