OK, the headline was more of an attention getter than a belief that yoyo contests are really boring. I love yo-yo contests, however, having been involved in them for years, I have observed a few things.
First, yo-yoing is awesome. I’m always blown away by the sheer talent and creative energy that players bring to contests. I know the time and effort that goes into their performances, and it is amazing to watch. But I have to admit, after a few hours of being blown away, I get a little tired of watching.
I know I’m not alone in this. Go to any contest and watch the audience. At the beginning they are completely captivated. By the end of the prelims, you’re lucky if half the people in the audience are even looking at the stage. If you get non-yoyo players in the audience, they are completely blown away, and then they leave after about 30 minutes.
Why is this? And what can be done to make it more interesting in the long run?
Let’s start with the why. It’s because too much of anything gets a bit played. While the routines and tricks can be amazing, and a particular player may electrify the crowd at any given moment, it’s still a lot of the same thing.
So what can be done to make yo-yo contests more interesting? I certainly don’t have a magic answer, but I do have some thoughts on the subject.
First is to make sure the contest runs well and keeps to a schedule. The haphazard way a lot of contests run really sucks for the spectators. People make a lot of effort to come to the contest, contest organizers (myself included) have a responsibility to start it on time and make sure it keeps to a schedule.
Next, mix it up a little. Have breaks where there is other things going on. What we did at PA States last year was have a juggler put on a 20 minute show around lunch time. It was a welcome visual change, it appealed to a lot of the spectators and players that were looking for something new to look at. It helped that we had the amazing Joe Showers on hand to put on a great show, but there are a lot of talented and skilled people out there that would love the chance to just get on a stage and put on a short show.
Contests often have the ingredients for a great event, but they can be put together a little better. It needs to be about the players. A lot of the players know each other, but a lot of spectators don’t know who these guys are. Did you ever notice when watching the Olympics, TV networks run these little montages about the athletes so you get to know them before their event? It makes it more interesting to know a little something about the people you are watching. I think we can do a little of that at yoyo contests. Pictures of the players on the big screen, maybe a quick interview with them before they perform, or even after the winners are announced. It would add much more drama and make it more engaging for the audience. Players are generally interesting people, we need to let the audience know them a little bit better. Certainly these things take time, which is often at a premium, but maybe limit the “get to know the players” stuff for the few players that make it to the finals.
I’m sure some contests have done some of these things, I know we have at NY States and PA States, and will keep trying new things. Have you seen contests that have been run exceptionally well? Have you seen different formats? Interesting twists on the usual events? Share your thoughts and experiences. Maybe if we keep trying new things and mixing it up a little, it can lead to a more engaging event where we find more spectators coming to watch and getting introduced to the great sport of yo-yoing.