Last week I was hired to perform a Basketball Freestyle workshop & performance at a school in Taunton, with my good friend & BMX flatland extraordinaire, Matti Hemmings. We have both been in the game for a long time, which was demonstrated by how the day went. We absolutely smashed it! All the kids left school with smiles on their faces, telling their parents all about what they've been up to & all the new skills they have learnt. For Matti and I, this is what we expect from each other, reliable, professional and an inspiration to the younger generation.
On the journey home we started talking about how great the day was, even with us trying to catch the other one out by setting each other challenges during the show. Matti has me balancing his BMX on my head & I have him performing his most high risk difficult trick in the show, turns out we need to start setting harder challenges. Saying that, we wouldn't want to make any mistakes during the show, which brings me to my point. It's not as easy as it looks. We got talking about some funny moments, when things haven't always gone as planned, whether it's in practice, behind the scenes or even under the spotlight on the main stage with all eyes staring at you.
Here is an example of one of these moments that happened in a show 9 years ago!
We were hired for a big tour of shows in theatres to thousands of year 7 students from around the area. The four of us put on an exciting Basketball Freestyle display, coming out one by one as we were introduced to the crowd. The last person comes out, does a massive backflip & the show begins. However on this particular occasion, the stage we had to perform on was slightly slanted towards the audience. During rehearsals this caused a bit of concern about doing the backflip, we all reassured him & said "don't be silly, you do it all the time & nothing has ever gone wrong".
Anyway it is now showtime, we are all on stage two stepping, clapping & working the crowd ready for this massive flip. The beat drops, his name is announced, out he comes unsure & not very confident, he launches up for the flip & half way around he changed his mind... Crunch! He landed upside down in the ugliest way possible. It looked painful & he did not get the cheer he normally gets from the crowd.
He jumped straight back up & carried on with the choreography. The first freestyler takes the spotlight and continues on with the show, myself & the next freestyler could not contain ourselves, it was the funniest thing I've ever seen. We had to cover up our laughter by putting the ball in front of our faces as we kept up with the two step, then all I heard was "I knew I shouldn't have done the backflip" which just made us laugh even more. We got through the show, smiling & giggling about the back flop all the way through to the end. In case you're wondering, he didn't hurt himself, just his pride. We all learnt to only ever do what we are comfortable doing, a valuable lesson through my career.
Fortunately I haven't made any mistakes of that magnitude on stage, don't get me wrong, on the rare occasion I have slipped up but I always try to do my best to recover the move in to another move disguising the mistake ever happened to begin with. Often inventing a brand new trick in the process. My good friend & fellow freestyler Tarryn "The Teacher" Algar who has performed with me all over the world, calls me "The Recovery King". Even he finds it difficult to spot any small mishaps I might make. Bigger mistakes are a lot harder to cover up, like the time I performed along side a group of very talented acts from a range of disciplines touring the country, one of the stops was in Manchester at the Trafford Centre, local to Oliver Hayes one of the top Football Freestylers in the business. He and I go
way back & we are very close friends, I was even best man at his wedding last year. Anyway, as a good friend he was sure to show his support by watching the show. As soon as he told me he was coming over, I called out to the Football Freestyler who was on the job, to let them know they need to be on top form for today's show because Oliver Hayes is coming to watch & he's big in the game.
I get the show started & because Oli & his family are watching, my energy levels are even higher than usual. I'm bringing out all my best moves trying to show off to my mate. Next up, Matti Hemmings does his thing, displaying his biggest BMX tricks. Then the Football Freestyler comes to center stage, right from the beginning I could sense the pressure was on trying to impress the one & only Oliver Hayes. Some small mistakes were made, which was no big deal but to make up for the little mistakes, the Football Freestyler tried to go big on the finish, with a very difficult acrobatic move... It went terribly wrong. The move involves flicking the ball up from being laid on the ground, spinning around & controlling the ball on the head, when executed properly, it is a real show stopper. It was not executed properly & was most definitely still a show stopper, just not quite the way it was anticipated.
As the ball was flicked into to air, it went a lot higher than it was suppose to, the freestyler jumps up, turns around & before the Football Freestyler was ready to control the ball, it had hit the ceiling of the stage & powered down right into the face of the freestyler pinging into the crowd. The Freestyler took a very quick bow & went backstage. We were all meant to stay on stage, so I took a peak behind the curtain to see what was going on. The freestyler was sat down with their head in their hands & the quiet sound of a sniffle as they were clearly very upset.
I felt bad for adding pressure to the performance, you know what they say. Pressure can burst a pipe or make diamonds. No one wants to be hit in the face with a ball, let alone with an audience watching.
Although I felt bad, I couldn't help but laugh & as I looked out to the crowd, I could just see Oli laughing uncontrollably, which didn't help us on stage trying to hold in the giggles.
Due to the sheer difficulty of all of these acts, the odd drop or mistake here & there can happen, which is why I train as much as I do to be as close to perfection as possible but on the very rare occasion it goes drastically wrong, it's always been one to remember. Over the years there has been some great memories. In this blog I feel like I have just picked on other people, so to make up for it, here is a ridiculous clip on me trying to skateboard for the very first time. Enjoy!