CUMBERLAND — Balls and clubs, flaming torches and knives: none are a match for the juggling skills of Will Silvers.
The 14-year-old, who will be a freshman this fall at Greely High School, will match talents with other people his age next month in the World Juggling Federation’s junior competition.
He got into the craft about two years ago, taught by a friend. It took a lot of practice at first, he said last week, “but once you get the hang of it, it can be really fun, like when you get a really long (juggling) run, you can do it for a while.”
Silvers’ longest run with three balls has been more than 5,000 catches, which took about 20 minutes to complete. He’s done 71 catches of seven balls, which took him about a year of practice. To juggle that many, he makes a triangle of balls in one hand, with a fourth on top, and three in the other hand.
Silvers was selected for the WJF’s seventh annual event, which runs July 4-10 in Springfield, Ill., after he submitted a video of the routine he intends to perform at the competition, as well as a list of his moves.
While he can juggle seven balls, Silvers will stick with five at the event, with an eye toward a flawless performance.
“This is his first competition, really, because there aren’t many,” Silvers’ mother, Kate Silvers, said. “It’s not like soccer or basketball, where you have a lot of games or people that do it. … It’s kind of unusual.”
Although Silvers is new to competition, he is an accomplished performer, both in the community and as far away as a juggling festival in Philadelphia. His mother noted that jugglers are “a society, a group of wonderful people … and when you’re a juggler, you’re kind of in this family.”
Silvers’ tactile talents also include the ability to play piano at an advanced level. He has shown off both talents by playing piano with one hand while juggling with the other.
“Interestingly enough, whenever we hear connections of exceptional jugglers, a lot of them are pianists,” his mother said. “… There’s some sort of link.”
Silvers has had trouble finding a coach. He has worked with a juggling club at Bates College in Lewiston, and has otherwise picked up pointers by watching juggling videos.
He has his eye on juggling 11 balls.
“I might not get that, but that’s my goal,” he said.
Besides balls, Silvers also juggles clubs and rings. And, sometimes, flames and knives.
“Just because there’s fire on the ends, it doesn’t make it any more difficult,” he said. “It may make it more dangerous.”
Silvers noted, though, that even if jugglers do catch the fiery end, their automatic reaction is to drop the torch immediately. While his hand has turned black from a bad catch, it washes off.
And the knives aren’t actually sharp, but rather painted to look that way, he said.
Will Silvers, a Cumberland 14-year-old, will perform in the World Juggling Federation’s junior competition next week.