Understanding the Sport of Yo-Yoing
The skills and proper techniques that will help you or your child be successful
Yo-Yoing has been around since 440 B.C. as a toy and now as a sport thanks to the advancement of design. Like any sport to be successful, you must have the proper equipment, learn how to use it, and understand how the sport works.
As one of the oldest and best-known toy makers we are experts at what makes a good yo-yo great. But we are more than just a toymaker, we are a team of yo-yo champions and enthusiasts. We have compiled this guide to help you and/or your child be successful in the sport of yo-yoing. Broken into three parts, you will learn about yo-yo types, yo-yo accessory equipment, and the important/proper techniques needed.
What type of yo-yo is right for me?
To get started, you will need to find the perfect yo-yo for your level. Are you a beginner or do you already know how to make the yo-yo sleep? If you are just starting out, we recommend a beginner yo-yo with a winged wide body shape like the Duncan Butterfly XT™ because of its versatility. Having a wing-shaped body allows “string tricks” to be done with ease. These yo-yo’s also sleep easier than a non-wing-shaped yo-yo.
However, if you are under 8 years old, we recommend a more traditional rounded shape. These yo-yos are usually much more responsive and will help a young child feel successful with the simple up and down tricks. You can make these yo-yo’s sleep and complete basic tricks like walk the dog and rock the baby. They are also the primary shape for looping tricks and two-handed yo-yo play.
Now that you know what shape to choose, let us break down why some are listed as beginner and others advanced. Why do they look similar but are different in cost from $5 vs $20? The answer to that is, it is the design. To complete intermediate to advance level play you will need a yo-yo that has long “spin time” and provides a “smooth” feel as you transition through trick movements. Think about it like a car. A beginner or basic yo-yo is like driving an economy car vs a sports car. The ride is either very bumpy and loud or exceptionally smooth and quiet. The engine power is minimal or is powerful.
A yo-yo that will deliver this is one with rim weight (heavier around the outside than the inside) as well as an overall weight difference. In addition, the bearing or "guts" play a big part in how long it will spin and how smoothly you can transition from one trick to the next. There are a few additional design factors that matter to advance players, but we can talk about those another time.
What about the size? Most beginner to intermediate yo-yos has a size that works for a child of any age. However, as you really get into the sport, we encourage you to try various yo-yo is and find the one that feels best to you. Being that we all have different hand sizes and styles of yo-yo play, our needs are different.
What additional equipment will I need?
Now let us talk about yo-yo string, bearings, and other accessories like bearing oil. Half the battle is having the right string and string length. When you are first getting started, we recommend that you cut your string to the waist/belt level. You do that by placing the yo-yo between your feet and holding the string up. If it is slightly below your belt line, do not worry. If it is above the belt line you need to cut it and tie a knew top loop. You can view how to do that here: Getting Started
As you practice you will need to replace the yo-yo string. String becomes dirty, knotted, and loses its bounce. They also eventually break. Replacing a string is up to the user, but we recommend changing it often especially when it gets dirty. Playing with an old string only prohibits progression in skill level and will often leave a child frustrated. When I was practicing, I would often change my string every 30 min – 1 hour of yo-yo play. Think of it like a rubber band, with so much stretching or use it loses its elasticity. If your child is really into the sport, go for the bundle of 100 strings. They will need them! If this is the first time picking one up, buy a small pack to get started.
Oil is important to. You will need to add oil every once and a while to the bearing. For example, if your child has been playing with the yo-yo for a while and it stops coming back up, you may need a little oil. You can learn about this in the tutorial video link above.
Proper Yo-Yo Technique & Coaching
First and foremost, you need to watch the yo-yo instructors’ hand and finger movement not the yo-yo. There are three parts to learning tricks or maneuvers. Hand and finger movement, yo-yo positioning and timing, and the actual string/trick pattern. If you are not able to get a trick, you need to step back and troubleshoot. Are you doing all three parts correctly? Is your hand position and starting point correct? Where is your finger placement and where is the yo-yo supposed to go? If you are learning from a video watch it in slow motion paying attention to all these areas.
When you first throw a yo-yo, you should be throwing the yo-yo so that you wind up with an open hand/palm up. Once the yo-yo is down there spinning, then you turn your hand over. Are you throwing the yo-yo down, but it just comes back right away? You are probably turning your hand over too soon.
If you can master a solid long sleeper you should be able to achieve most tricks once you learn the patterns. So, focus first on getting that perfect sleeper. Last, pay attention to finger and string placement. Most yo-yo tricks use thumb, index, and middle fingers only with the ring finger and pinky usually tucked or out of the way.
What is the best way of learning? Independently with videos or through actual lessons with a yo-yo professional? Having an in-person coach always makes learning something easier. But you absolutely can learn from videos. Most of my beginner years were spent learning from a yo-yo trick book, yo-yo tutorial videos, and then when I could an in-person coach. Now thanks to the internet you can even do private lessons via a video session. Checking in from time to time so that a coach/yo-yo pro can evaluate your technique is also a great idea. Like any sport, you do not want to develop bad habits.
For more info and video tutorials on all the above check out our tutorial page at www.yo-yo.com/tutorials.