At Cornell, Matan Presberg ’18 juggles more than just his schoolwork. He has broken several world records, won international awards for juggling and serves as the president of the Cornell Juggling Club.
The Rochester native said he has been juggling since the age of six, when he first saw the Rochester Juggling Club at a local festival and learned how to juggle with three balls.
“My dad took me every week to juggling club,” he said. “Before I turned seven, I [could] juggle my age [with] six balls.”
From there, Presberg proceeded to set several world records in juggling — including “most catches in a minute with five balls and seven balls” and the longest time performing various juggling patterns like the “933” and the “nine ball halfshower,” — which is when the juggler executes bigger throws with one hand and smaller ones with the other.
He also won first place at the International Juggling Association’s Numbers Competition in 2015 and 2016, reaching 25 catches with nine balls and 28 catches with nine balls, respectively.
“It’s really interesting how fundamental [juggling] is to who I am,” Presberg said. “[With juggling,] you can impose any limitation and still have infinite possibilities.”
Presberg said one of the most difficult components of juggling is the time commitment required to master each trick. He explained that some of his favorite moves took him many years to perfect.
“There’s a trick I do a lot — five balls, where I throw them behind my back,” he said. “I’ve been working on that trick since I was fourteen, and it’s finally becoming comfortable.”
Presberg said he juggles for at least two hours a day, every day, and usually tries to get in at least a few rounds with three or four props every day.
“I always, always think that I should be making more progress than I do,” he said. “I can be stuck on one thing for years.”
Presberg added that one of his goals is to spread enhance the reputation of juggling as a competitive sport.
“People don’t really know what juggling is,” he said. “When people think of juggling they either think of a clown or just someone juggling three balls. But to me, it’s so much more than that. It’s an art form, and it’s a sport.”
Many jugglers are athletes, pursuing an array of different tricks, with different props and always trying to push their limits, Presberg said. He stressed that this competitive mentality unites the juggling community.
“The way I approach juggling is to [think about] what the next thing is, what’s more difficult,” he said. “What can I do to improve what I’m doing, how can I … do more technically difficult and visually appealing things. Whatever I can do now, I know I can take to the next level. It’s what motivates me, and I think it’s a mentality that a lot of jugglers share.”
By performing at many events both on and off campus, Presberg said he hopes illustrate the complexity of juggling to students at Cornell. As juggling club president, he said he also teaches beginners how to juggle and encourages their progress at club meetings.
Presberg’s current self-imposed juggling challenge is to reach 100 catches while juggling nine balls. He said his best — as of right now — is 72.
“Practicing gets really frustrating sometimes,” he said. “But it’ll happen eventually.”