POULSBO — They juggle. They do tricks with jump ropes. They ride unicycles. But above all, they entertain.
They’re the 93 members of the Wonderfully Athletic Vinland Elementary Students (WAVES) team.
On Tuesday afternoon in Vinland’s gym the WAVES team treated more than 100 students and parents to a circus of sorts. The team also repeated its performance at 6:30 p.m.
“I have a whole bunch of fourth- and fifth-graders who are excited to come in and perform for you,” Jon Jones, Vinland physical education teacher and WAVES coach, told the enthusiastic audience. “All of these students will have a chance to impress you and they get to show off a little bit.”
Jones proceeded to introduce the WAVES members and the audience went ballistic, as wild cheering and applause echoed off the gymnasium walls.
The jugglers took the floor first.
A groovy beat began to pump and fluorescent handkerchiefs and vibrant colored balls and rings were brought out.
As the colorful juggling devices flew in a dizzying display, the WAVES members’ faces froze in smiling concentration.
Then it was time to jump rope.
The jumpers performed as a unified group, covering the entire floor while Van Halen’s “Jump” aptly pounded in the background. They jumped high, low, fast and slow. Some shared ropes and some did criss-crosses.
They even did individual performances, as the long ropes took the stage. Again the jumpers pulled from their repertoire of tricks and did full turns, single-leg jumps and jumped with short ropes inside the long rope.
“I thought it was good, it was a good program,” said Larry Busby whose fourth-grade daughter Morgan Walters is a WAVES member. Busby, who filmed the show, said the jump rope was his favorite.
As the audience’s vocal encouragement continued to grow and build, so did the difficulty of the performances.
It was time to unicycle.
The unicyclists all took a turn riding from one end of the gym to the other and then they demonstrated their skills.
“We have some tricks and I think we want to do a little showing off,” Jones said.
They clasped hands and spun in circles, they bounced up and down like bunnies and rode in a train holding hands.
Two brave souls even rode five-foot “giraffe” unicycles.
“Riding a giraffe is not really any harder, it’s just psychological,” Jones said. “You have to get over the fear factor.”
And the WAVES members, who’d only ridden the giraffe four or five times before the performance, controlled their nerves and awed the audience.
Tuesday’s performances were the grand finale for this year’s WAVES team. The program has thrilled Vinland students and parents for approximately 14 years.
And this year nearly all the WAVES students learned to ride a unicycle.
“A lot of these kids had never ridden a unicycle before joining WAVES at the beginning of the year,” Jones said. “And they worked really hard back and fourth across the gym day after day.”
Jones said kids usually learn to ride within three to five session. However, after four years Jones is still learning, as he said “I haven’t gotten it yet.”
The WAVES students began practicing in October. For the past six months the members met two mornings a week for an hour. Although their season is officially over, Jones said once the students get involved they can’t just stop and wait until next year.
“A lot of the kids are to a point where they start catching the bug and they get together on their own and start practicing,” Jones said, adding several moms have already begun “scheming” about what can be done next year.
And while WAVES students have tons of fun juggling, jumping rope and riding unicycles, they also experience a few academic perks.
Jones said research shows that juggling can help students learn to read. And different parts of the brain are stimulated whenever a student does movements that travel across the core of their body.
“WAVES helps them become better students,” Jones said.
Before next year’s WAVES team begins to practice the unicycles need some TLC and replacements. Therefore a fundraiser is in the works. Vinland Elementary has reserved a block of seats for an April 25 Seattle Mariners game against the Oakland Athletics. Tickets may be purchased online and three dollars of each ticket goes directly to WAVES. The game is at Safeco Field and the first pitch is at 7:10 p.m.