‘So cool to watch’: At-risk youth empowered by circus training during COVID-19 pandemic

Lachlan Holmes-Pringle has only been juggling for a few months, but the 13-year-old Calgarian has a good handle on the fundamentals of his new pursuit.

“Don’t look at your hands,” Pringle said. “Look where you’re throwing the balls.”

Watching him practice, his 15-year-old sister is amazed at how quickly he’s progressing.

“He’s doing all these things and he’s so good at it,” Julianna Holmes-Pringle said.  “I’m so proud, because it has really brought him out of his shell.”

Read more: Airdrie teen shares his pandemic perspective through video

Lachlan picked up this new hobby thanks to Calgary’s Green Fools Theatre, which is offering free weekly online coaching sessions for some Calgary kids eager to work on their circus skills.

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“These are youth-at-risk that come to us through social service partners,” Green Fools artistic director Dean Bareham said. “It’s about trying to empower youth to believe in themselves and empower themselves.”

Green Fools has been supporting at-risk youth for several years, work that’s particularly needed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s really important that we keep kids active, especially when we’re locked up and we’re locked at home… keep their minds challenged, keep them physically active,” Bareham said. “When I see somebody like Lachlan, it has been so cool to watch him move his level up and his confidence.”

Read more: Connections with parents and important adults key to youth coming out of pandemic with strong and healthy minds

Lachlan’s mother is grateful for the training Green Fools has been providing.

“Lach got a little bit anxious with the pandemic,” Bree Holmes said. “He was very alone, and this has brought him a community, because he juggles in my kitchen with them on Zoom, and he does so many things – it’s just wonderful for him.”

Lachlan says developing his circus skills has helped him become more focused while doing other things in his life, such as schoolwork.

When asked what he likes most about working on skills like juggling, Lachlan’s answer is simple: “It’s peaceful.”

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