Hanging by a Thread

Hanging by a Thread

Hanging by a Thread

Jesse Williams, 18, Blue Springs, Mo., doesn’t have a backup plan.

For Williams and his yo-yo, the motto is succeed or die trying.

“I’m pretty confident,” Williams said.

Williams moved to Joplin two weeks ago, after being offered a job leading the new yo-yo program at the local specialty store Eccentrix.

When Williams graduated from high school in May, his parents asked what he wanted to do with his life. He unapologetically announced his intention to use his yo-yo skills professionally.

“They asked, ‘what else do you want to do?,'” he said.

But Williams didn’t have a backup plan. He never submitted a résumé, electronic or otherwise, and didn’t seek out a job. But Williams couldn’t escape his fate.

After seeing Williams’s yo-yo demonstrations at several area venues, including The URT, several people contacted Ron Erwin, owner of Eccentrix, who had been interested in starting a yo-yo program for some time.

Erwin invited Williams to discuss a business opportunity, and when Williams traveled to Joplin for the interview, he was offered the job immediately.

Williams’s obsession with yo-yos dates back to a demonstration he saw at school while in the sixth grade. Now his repertoire includes 300 tricks he strings together in an attempt to defy the laws of physics.

“It’s more interesting that way,” he said.

He practices his skills four to five hours a day and at any given time carries $300 worth of yo-yos and equipment with him in a small black bag in the shape of a cat’s head.

Everywhere Williams goes, people stop and stare. His skill level makes him an oddity in the region.

“They usually don’t know what to say, they stare blankly, ” Williams said. “When I stop they don’t know what to do, they’ve lost track of what they were doing. I’m pretty much it (for the area).”

Instead of the cocky world-class exhibitionist that would befit his skill, Williams is quiet and unassuming, letting his yo-yo do the convincing. Williams qualified for regional, national and world competition, but has never been able to exhibit his skills there because of lack of money.

“Nationals are Oct. 12,” he said, ” it’s on my birthday, so I have to go this year.”

Despite the comments and stares, Williams said he never gets tired of people asking him to do his tricks.

“My parents are sometimes still impressed by my tricks,” Williams said.

Williams’s responsibilities at Eccentrix include working the cash register, ordering yo-yo stock, demonstrating yo-yo tricks and teaching yo-yo classes on the weekend at Eccentrix. Williams appears in the new Eccentrix commercial debuting this week. The classes will begin later this

month for an undecided fee Williams described as “inexpensive.”

Yo-yo equipment was very popular worldwide from 1998 to 2000, but fans and merchandise carriers lost interest and now professional-grade yo-yo equipment is hard to find in most small areas. Williams would like to change that.

“There’s still an underground following that keeps it (yo-yoing) alive,” Williams said.

Yo-yos are more complex and allow for more creativity than Williams thinks most people realize.

“It’s a lot more complicated now than it used to be,” he said. “I guess people are just figuring that our now.”

Shelly Jordan, 18, Neosho, Eccentrix customer, remembers the yo-yo fad’s height and demise while she was in high school and is excited about the idea of bringing it back.

“I like the old school yo-yos,” Jordan said. “I used to buy them all the time from 1999-2000. I even had a friend who went to nationals.”

Specialty stores sell professional yo-yos for $15-40, but can cost as much as $400 for a top of the line handcrafted magnesium yo-yo. Persons with the interest, time and money can customize their yo-yos by changing the weight, structure and ball bearings.

“If you’re really into it, you can tell the difference between the different models,” Williams said. “Within the first minute I can tell if I’m going to like it or not.”

As part of their new yo-yo program, Eccentrix will begin carrying all the equipment a serious yo-yoist requires, including string.

For the time being, Williams is looking forward to his new career, home and the upcoming competitions, but is always focused on his dream of joining a Duncan Yo-Yo traveling demonstration team. Williams offers upcoming yo-yoists the advice he never took himself.

“Keep at it, see how it goes, but always have a backup plan.”