a look into the film “Throw” on Vimeo
Coffin Nachtmahr is a modern day superhero. Growing up with a debilitating stutter amidst violence and poverty in East Baltimore, he’s known adversity his entire life. But with the help of a hidden superpower, he’s managed to create community, purpose, and positivity. What is that superpower? A yo-yo.
Since high school, Coffin has quickly become one of the top throwers in the growing subculture of yo-yoing. Amassing mind-bending skills, fans, and even venturing out to create his own brand of yo-yo products. Coffin and his yo-yo exemplify the power of staying true to yourself and how the simplest of objects can be used as a vehicle for good. When we first saw this film, we knew that we had come across something special. So we sat down with filmmaker, Darren Durlach of Early Light Media, to learn more about the making of the film.
Vimeo: How did you meet Coffin and what compelled you to create the film?
Darren: [Co-director and co-writer] Dave Larson and his wife Ashlene met Coffin while walking through a park near their home in Baltimore. Coffin was performing yo-yo tricks that appeared to defy physics, and he has a charisma that causes anyone within sightline to be entranced.
We had been looking for a story to sink our teeth into as part of a passion project series named “Invisible Thread.” The idea behind the series is to explore the unseen characteristics of human beings that tie us all together. In “Throw,” Coffin appears to be different from everyone else, but really he’s just looking for a way to connect and move past the obstacles in his life that gave him troubles. What’s very interesting is that the simplest of toys was the tool that allowed him to do it.
The theme of being true to oneself and not caring what others think is a really uplifting aspect of the film. Did Coffin’s perspective influence this approach?
100%. Selfishly, we look for people and stories that we learn from and help us grow, not just as filmmakers, but as people. Coffin never stops. Not just in throwing, but he’s an artist, an engineer, an entrepreneur … he’s never not created. And [he’s] never been influenced to not put himself out there, despite being bullied for his differences.
He’s incredibly brave. Most would crumble under the things he’s been through and never come out of their cave. Coffin does the opposite. He puts himself on stage with both his middle fingers in the air. It’s beautiful.
As filmmakers, I imagine you’d never filmed a yo-yo action sequence before, though you were able to do so with interesting movement, layered sound design, and punchy editing. What else did you learn through making the film? Were there any unplanned difficulties?
Something we struggled with as storytellers was how casually he spoke about the death of friends or family. We were afraid the audience would think he was unemotional about it and not be able to connect with him. But when we interviewed his friends, it started to make complete sense. He was numb to the violence because unfortunately it’s a way of life in some Baltimore neighborhoods. We think by interviewing his friends, who help give a more 3D image of the problem, it helps the audience understand his character more fully.
You also were able to seamlessly blend in what appears to be home videos. Where did that footage come from? What did it take to make it fit?
Luckily Coffin comes from the YouTube generation and shoots a lot of footage of himself and his friends. It was fun to work with because it was so organic, and when edited with music and sound design, it flowed pretty naturally.
While the film documents yo-yoing like I’ve never seen before, it also perfectly speaks about how a simple object — be it a yo-yo, an instrument, or anything else — can alter someone’s life and add significant depth to it. As a filmmaker, how have you experienced this sensation?
We didn’t seek out this concept, but recognized immediately the beauty of something so simple having great impact. Yo-yoing is like a locker combination: there’s nearly unlimited moves, but it’s pretty much just a ball on a string. When someone is able to spend deep focus on anything, greatness can be achieved.
Coffin is compelled to spend endless hours on this simple toy and he has become great. Olympians are the same way, refining micro movements, hours at a time everyday in order to improve their score by a fraction of a second or one tenth of a point. It was inspirational for us, so we laser-focused on this story to make it as great as we could with the time and resources available.
“Throw” is rooted in a strong sense of place. What is your relation to Baltimore? How do you think the backdrop of the city influenced the film and the characters within?
Baltimore is a beautiful yet complicated place full of wonder and dynamic people. Too often it’s written off or generalized as this or that. Both Dave and I worked as journalists for years in this city and have grown to love it in our own ways. It feels good to tell a story of a Baltimore native who wasn’t fed with a silver spoon, and is kicking ass in life. The city is alive and well.
In the light and the shadows exist communities of wonderful people who just want to live happy, healthy lives. Coffin embodies that to some degree and is using his skills to help others. Kids have been uplifted by his story and so many people told us that their first yo-yo was a gift from Coffin. He’s just a special dude.
What else are you looking to create? Anything new to expect from you?
We hope to continue our “Invisible Thread” series with more stories of human connection. It’s a wide-open topic on purpose. All the best stories are about people and how they connect. Early Light Media is a commercial production house that stays pretty busy, but we want to use the series to continue making stories that shine a bright light on people and/or issues that normally wouldn’t get the light of day. We have a lot of ideas, but if you know of something special, shoot us an email at [email protected]
Thanks, Darren. We look forward to future episodes of your series. Vimeo community, hit these guys up if you have any leads!
Asleep at the Wheel — How Yo-Yos Work
For most people, the hardest part of yo-yoing is getting the spool to sleep long enough to pull off some tricks. To get an ordinary yo-yo to sleep for a while, you have to throw it with a lot of force so it builds up strong angular momentum. But when you throw a yo-yo fast, your hand tends to jerk, pulling the spool back in. Beginning yo-yoists also have trouble «waking» a yo-yo (pulling it out of a sleep). It takes a lot of practice to get the right balance to put the yo-yo to sleep successfully.
Yo-yo manufacturers have tried a number of things to make it easier to keep a yo-yo sleeping, and to make it wake up again. One of the simplest improvements was to redistribute the weight in the yo-yo in order to alter its moment of inertia.
An object’s moment of inertia is a measure of how resistant it is to changes in rotation. This is determined by two factors: how much mass the object has and how far that mass is from the object’s axis of rotation. Increasing mass makes an object harder to rotate and harder to stop rotating, as does increasing the distance between the mass and the axis of rotation (a rolled-out slab of clay, for example, is harder to spin than a tight clay ball with the same mass).
If you increase the moment of inertia in a yo-yo’s discs, the yo-yo will be able to sleep longer; it takes more work to stop the rotation. For this reason, manufacturers often concentrate the weight in high-performance yo-yos around the outer edge of the spool. Since the distance is larger between the axis of rotation and much of the mass, the spool will have a greater moment of inertia.
Another approach is to further reduce friction between the yo-yo string and the axis. One popular method is to configure a ball bearing assembly around the yo-yo axle, so the axle itself is separated from the string. You can see how a typical bearing system works in the diagram below.
The bearing assembly consists of two races, essentially grooved tracks for ball bearings. The inner race immediately surrounds the axle, and the outer race is spaced a bearing’s width apart. The ball bearings are positioned between the two races. The yo-yo string is looped around the outer race, so it never touches the axle itself. The races are not bound together: The inner race can tilt slightly inside the outer race.
When you throw the yo-yo, the unwinding action spins the outer race. The force of the throw tilts the inner race inside the outer race, which increases the friction between both races and the ball bearings. Effectively, the tilting action locks the races together, so they turn in unison. In this way, the spinning outer race spins the inner race, which spins the yo-yo axle.
When the yo-yo reaches the end of its string, the gyroscopic motion of the spinning discs tends to level the races out, so they are aligned with one another. With this configuration, the ball bearings can move smoothly between the two races. If the bearings are properly lubricated, they will significantly reduce friction between the two races and protect the bearings.
To wake the yo-yo, you jerk on the string. This tilts the outer race in relation to the inner race, increasing the friction on the bearings. The spinning motion of the outer race carries the yo-yo back up the string.
This mechanism makes it easier to keep a yo-yo sleeping, but it doesn’t help much with waking the yo-yo up. In the next section, we’ll look inside the new «automatic» yo-yos that sleep and return on their own.
Pop the Clutch — How Yo-Yos Work
In the yo-yo craze of the 1990s, a new sort of automatic yo-yo started popping up everywhere. Yomega, the leading manufacturer of these yo-yos, advertised their model as «the yo-yo with a brain.» It does seem like these yo-yos have some level of intelligence, since they know exactly when to sleep and wake up, but the «brain» is actually just a centrifugal clutch. You can see how this mechanism works in the diagram below.
As in the ball-bearing yo-yo we looked at in the last section, this yo-yo design does not let the string touch the axle directly. Instead, the string is wound around a spindle piece. The axle, which is mounted to the two halves of the yo-yo, runs through the middle of the spindle, but the two pieces are not actually connected.
The spindle and axle will move in unison when the yo-yo spins slowly, however, thanks to the yo-yo’s clutch mechanism. The clutch mechanism, which is housed inside one of the yo-yo discs, consists of two metal spring-loaded arms. These arms are weighted at one end and connected to the body of the yo-yo at the other end. When the yo-yo is stationary or spinning slowly, the springs press the arms up against the spindle, so the spindle’s rotation turns the entire yo-yo. But as the yo-yo speeds up, centrifugal force pushes the weighted ends of the arms outward, against the springs. The arms release the spindle, so that the spindle and the rest of the yo-yo move independently.
When you throw the yo-yo, it initally spins slowly. The clutch is locked, and the discs are spun by the unwinding spindle. But just before the yo-yo has reached the end of its string, it is spinning fast enough that the clutch releases the spindle. The disc’s angular momentum keeps the yo-yo spinning, but the spindle slows down. Eventually, the discs slow down too, and the centrifugal force acting on the arms decreases. When the outward centrifugal force dips below the inward force of the springs, the arms clamp shut on the spindle. This transfers the spinning motion of the discs back to the spindle, which causes the spindle to rewind the string and return to your palm.
This toy is a lot more elaborate than the terra-cotta yo-yos of ancient Greece, but it has the same basic appeal. Yo-yos continue to be so popular because of their wonderful simplicity. There’s some undefinable magic about taking an ordinary spool and, with nothing but a flick of the wrist, turning it into an active, spinning top. No matter what advanced mechanisms are added to yo-yos, this simple joy will be the heart of their appeal.
To learn more about yo-yos, including how to pull off some popular yo-yo tricks, check out the links below!
More Great Links
How do yo-yos work? | Who invented yo-yos?
by Chris Woodford. Last updated: July 21, 2018.
Who’d have thought you could have so
much fun with a bit of plastic on the end of a string? If you think
nothing could be simpler than a yo-yo, it’s time you tried looking
into the science behind it! How does it keep spinning so long? How
can it «sleep» (hang at the end of the string)—and what makes
it climb back up again? Why do yo-yos feel so strangely stable as
they spin? There’s a lot of physics going on in your yo-yo. Let’s
take a closer look!
Artwork: Jiggling yo-yos use the science of force, motion, and energy.
What makes yo-yos go up and down?
A yo-yo might look like a toy, but it’s also an energy converting machine. Understanding how it constantly changes energy
from one kind into another is the key to figuring out how it works. If you’re not familiar with scientific terms like
potential energy and kinetic energy, you might want to browse through our energy article before you go any further.
When you hold a yo-yo in your hand,
it has potential energy: it stores energy
because it’s high above the floor. When you release it, the potential energy is
gradually converted into kinetic energy (the
energy something has because it’s moving). When a yo-yo is spinning at the bottom of
its string, virtually all the potential energy it had originally has
been converted into kinetic energy. As a yo-yo climbs up and down its
string, it is constantly exchanging potential and kinetic energy—much
like a rollercoaster car.
Photos: The string is like a yo-yo’s fuel tank: it supplies the energy the yo-yo needs to keep moving. Photo by Eric Harris courtesy of US Air Force and Defense Imagery.
A spinning yo-yo actually has two different kinds of kinetic energy: one kind because it’s moving up
and down the string and another kind because it’s spinning around.
When you release the yo-yo from your hand, it falls toward the ground
just like a stone, and it picks up speed because it’s falling. But a
yo-yo is different from a stone because it has string wrapped around
its axle. As it falls, it starts to spin. That’s why a yo-yo falls
much more slowly than a stone: some of the energy that should be
making it fall quickly is actually being used to make it spin around
at the same time.
Whatever it’s doing, and wherever it
is on the string, a yo-yo usually has a mixture of three different
kinds of energy:
- Potential energy—because it’s a certain height above the floor.
- Kinetic energy of movement—because it’s moving up or down relative to the floor.
- Kinetic energy of rotation—because it’s spinning around.
Artwork: A yo-yo starts off in your hand with only
potential energy. Once it’s spinning and moving, rising and falling, it
has a mixture of potential energy and two kinds of kinetic energy. You
have to keep adding more energy by jerking the string.
In a perfect world, a yo-yo could
rise and fall on its string forever. But as the string spins on the
plastic axle, friction (the rubbing force
between two things that are in contact and moving past one another) uses up some of its
energy. Although you can’t see it happening, the spinning
yo-yo wheels also rub against the air that surrounds them. This air
resistance also eats away at the yo-yo’s energy supply. If you
don’t keep giving the yo-yo more energy, by pumping the string up and
down, it slows down very quickly and grinds to a halt. Every time
you tug the string, you jerk the yo-yo so it keeps on spinning. In
effect, you are recharging its energy batteries with each tug.
Why does a spinning yo-yo feel weird in your hand?
Things that are moving like to carry
on moving. We call this phenomenon momentum (loosely
speaking, momentum means «mass in motion»; things have
momentum because they have both mass and velocity). A
truck speeding down the freeway has more momentum than a car going
the same speed because it has more mass. A person has more momentum
when they ride a bicycle than when they walk because a bicycle goes
faster (it has a higher velocity or speed).
Artwork: A spinning yo-yo behaves a bit like a gyroscope. You can find a wonderful
animated version of a spinning gyroscope on Wikimedia Commons.
Just as a yo-yo has two kinds of
kinetic energy, so it has two kinds of momentum: linear
(because it moves in a straight line, up and down on the string) and
angular momentum (because it spins around).
objects have angular momentum. And anything that’s spinning around
likes to keep on spinning so its
angular momentum stays the same. If you try to make it spin a
different way, it will compensate by changing its motion somehow. If
an ice skater is spinning in a circle with her arms out and she
suddenly brings them in, she’ll spin much faster than she did before.
That’s because she changes the way her mass is distributed. Her body
compensates for this by changing her velocity to keep her angular
Angular momentum is why a gyroscope
behaves so strangely. A gyroscope is a heavy wheel mounted on a
framework of three axles that allow it to spin around in three
Once you set a gyroscope spinning, it will strongly resist any
attempts to make it spin another way. So if you try to tilt it, it
will tilt back the other way. Like an ice skater, it tries to keep
its angular momentum constant or, as physicists say, to conserve its angular momentum. A spinning yo-yo behaves just like a gyroscope.
That’s why it feels strangely stable as it spins on the string. It
feels almost as though it has a built in stubbornness to change its
movement. That’s one reason why you can do all kinds of neat tricks
How does a clutch yo-yo work?
The best yo-yos for doing tricks have what’s called a centrifugal clutch.
It’s an extra mechanism of weights (shown here in blue) and springs (black zigzags) built inside
the body of the yo-yo that makes it behave differently according to whether it’s spinning fast or slow.
When the yo-yo spins fairly slowly, the springs clamp the weights firmly against the axle like brakes so
the yo-yo rises and falls on the string (gray line) as normal.
Make the yo-yo spin faster, however, and the weights fly out from the axle because of
centrifugal force (or, if you prefer, because the springs cannot provide enough
centripetal force to keep them in). Now there’s nothing to clamp the axle so it spins freely and the
yo-yo «sleeps» at the bottom of the string. When it slows down, the weights go back in again
and the yo-yo rises and falls on the string as normal.
Read more about centrifugal and centripetal force in our article about centrifuges.
Who invented yo-yos?
No-one knows for sure where yo-yos came from, who thought of the idea, or even why they have that unusual name,
but they’re believed to be an ancient invention: on Wikipedia, you’ll find a
picture of an ancient Greek vase
from around 2500 years ago featuring a boy playing with a yo-yo. It’s amazing to think that this clever little toy
was amusing people in ancient times in exactly the same way that it puts a smile on our faces today.
What about modern yo-yos? The earliest patent (invention record) for a yo-yo was granted to James L. Haven and
Charles Hettrick of Cincinnati, Ohio, United States on November 20, 1866. The invention they described was «an improved
construction of the toy, commonly called a bandelore, and consists in forming the same of two disks of metal, coupled
together at their centers by means of a clutch and rivet…»
Artwork: Original drawings from the yo-yo patent granted to Haven and Hettrick in 1866. The figure on the left
shows the relatively simple construction: just as in a modern yo-yo, the two outer discs have a space between them held together by a rivet (green)
around which the string wraps. Artwork from US Patent #59,745: Bandelore courtesy of US Patent and Trademark Office.
Find out more
On this website
On other sites
For younger readers
These aren’t about yo-yos; like this article, they’re general introductions to energy and simple physics, best suited for ages 9–12:
- Can You Feel the Force by Richard Hammond. DK, 2015/2007. A funky, sparky, and sometimes quite funny look at the physics of forces. A great choice for reluctant readers. (I was one of the consultants and contributors to this book.)
- Energy by Chris Woodford.
New York/London: DK, 2007: One of my own books, this is a bright and jolly introduction to energy, where it comes from, and how we harness it in everyday life.
- Force and Motion by Peter Lafferty. DK, 2000. There’s a lot of science history here as well as a basic introduction to forces and motion.
- Yo-Yo: Rolling, sliding, pulling by Rhett Allain. Wired, January 27, 2010. Using more complex physics equations to understand the unusual motions of a yo-yo.
- A New Spin on an Old Toy by By Mark Anderson. IEEE Spectrum, October 30, 2009. Explores some of the new technological developments in yo-yo design.
- The Ups and Downs of Competition by John Branch. The New York Times, August 18, 2008. The Internet is credited with raising the bar at the World Yo-Yo Contest, which draws around 200 entrants from 20 different countries.
How the yo-yo test became a selection standard
In October last year, Suresh Raina was picked for India’s home ODI series against New Zealand. He took a late-evening flight from Delhi to Bangalore, where he was headed to the National Cricket Academy. He had just played a Ranji Trophy match for Uttar Pradesh but hadn’t batted in the second innings because he wasn’t fully fit.
The next morning he took a yo-yo test at the academy, and flunked it, failing to reach the minimum level set as a mandatory criterion by the Indian team management for a player to qualify for selection.
Raina missed the first two ODIs, and he was told that once fit, he would need to take the test again. He did but failed once again to attain the 16:1 mark, the minimum level set for Indian players by the team’s strength and conditioning coach, Shankar Basu.
Raina was the first big-name player to have failed the test since it came into effect in mid-2016, when Anil Kumble took over as India coach. Soon he was joined in that dubious achievement by Yuvraj Singh.
A yo-yo test involves a player shuttling between two cones that are set 20 metres apart on flat ground. He starts on a beep and needs to get to the cone at the other end before the second beep goes. He then turns back and returns to the starting cone before the third beep. That is one «shuttle».
A player starts at speed level 5, which consists of one shuttle. The next speed level, which is 9, also consists of one shuttle. Speed level 11, the next step up, has two shuttles, while level 12 has three and level 13 four. There are eight shuttles per level from 14 upwards. Level 23 is the highest speed level in a yo-yo test, but no one has come close to getting there yet. Each shuttle covers a distance of 40 metres, and the accumulated distance is an aggregate of distance covered at every speed level.
The player gets ten seconds to recover between shuttles. At any point if he fails to reach the cone before the beep goes, he gets a first warning. Usually a player gets a few «reminders» to keep to the pace, but three official warnings generally marks the end of the test.
As a player moves up the levels, the time available to complete each shuttle diminishes, which means he needs to run quicker to reach the next cone before the beep. The player runs until he gets his three warnings, and the level achieved at that point is the test result.
Teams have different speed levels as qualifying marks. India have set 16:1 as the qualifying speed level, which means it is mandatory for their players to finish the first shuttle of speed level 16, which in terms of accumulated distance is 1120 metres. Pakistan’s minimum level is now 17:4; West Indies are at 19, and New Zealand probably have the highest level, 20:1.
As for «civilians», the simplest way to know if you are fit for a yo-yo test is to run two kilometres in eight minutes.
Why do cricketers need it?
The yo-yo test is mainly derived from the Leger Test, created by Luc Leger of the University of Montreal, which was popular till the turn of the century. The Leger multi-stage test, where an athlete would run non-stop 20-metre shuttles for 12 minutes, was not considered suitable for sports like cricket, which are marked by bursts of activity separated by recovery periods.
«You bowl, you throw, you hit, you run, you have about 30 seconds before the next ball starts,» Andrew Leipus, who was till recently the head physiotherapist at the NCA, says. «So you’ve got to get your heart rate down, your breathing rate down for the next delivery.»
Leipus says that the yo-yo test is not simply a fitness test, in that it also helps players improve their fitness while testing it. He used it as such when he doubled up as strength and conditioning coach at the Darren Lehmann Cricket Academy in Adelaide earlier this decade. «I used to actually run it back to back after 10-15 minutes’ recovery time. Alternatively, I would get the players running at a set level.»
The intention behind the yo-yo tests and the «beep tests» of old (similar to the Leger tests, where a player shuttles between cones without taking breaks), Leipus says, was and is to establish a «baseline fitness», showing the players were fitter than the common man. «It is going to mean less injuries because the guys are fitter. It is going to mean high level of performance, because guys are going to recover better out on the field. The turnaround time between matches is shorter now, so they are going to recover quick between games.»
Also, once a player gets into shape to routinely pass the yo-yo test, Leipus says, «he will find it will improve his batting ability, because you recover better between runs running ones, twos, threes».
A yo-yo test also helps measure the aerobic capacity of a player. «We use it to show them how fit they are,» Chris Donaldson, the New Zealand strength and conditioning coach, says. «The major physical components of cricket are based around aerobics, strength, speed, so how fit, fast and strong they are are the components we train for a cricketer so that they don’t break. This way, they can play the game for longer and faster and they can do things like stop the ball, take a miracle catch or run between wickets faster.»
«Like level 15 on a treadmill»
Fitness was high on Kumble’s list of priorities when he took over as India coach in June 2016, and he found backing from Virat Kohli, the captain, and senior players like MS Dhoni, who supported the idea of making passing the yo-yo test a requirement for selection. Basu was asked to come up with benchmarks that players needed to be able to reach playing at the international level.
It is not only in India that the yo-yo test is mandatory. Umar Akmal was sent back home from England on the eve of the Champions Trophy this summer after he failed to attain 17:1, the PCB’s qualifying mark at the time. Reportedly, Akmal could only get to 16:5.
Yo-yo tests help players recover faster between games Getty Images
Since then, Grant Luden, the Pakistan strength and conditioning coach, has raised the mark to 17:4, to motivate the players, he says. «The reason why we have come up with 17:4 is, it is not going to make you hit a cover drive or bowl faster. All it does is, it helps with the recovery.» Luden says that research shows that if a player plays three matches in a week, he has the ability to not just show consistent performances but also recover a lot faster.
Luden arrived at 17:1 after sustained testing, from which he calculated averages: 17:1 was where his players showed consistent performances. «With us continually doing yo-yo testing, the standard of players started improving. That is how we moved up to 17.4.» Doing a 17:4 is the equivalent of running 1580 metres, which is a touch under four times around the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore.
Luden says that if a player who has never taken a yo-yo test is able to shuttle for 20 minutes around a cricket oval at about 16-17kph, he will be able to pass the test without breaking too much of a sweat. «That is like level 15 on a treadmill, and you have got to be able to do that for ten minutes. If you can do that for ten minutes on a treadmill, you should pass.»
With a level of 20:1, New Zealand’s cricketers are probably the fittest in the sport. For good measure they have Donaldson, a former New Zealand Olympic sprinter, as their strength and conditioning coach.
In New Zealand, all cricketers, international and domestic, are subject to yo-yo testing. Like Luden, Donaldson too arrived at 20:1 based on the average scores of New Zealand players. Passing a yo-yo test is not a prerequisite for selection in New Zealand, however.
Still, the best New Zealand players, Donaldson reveals, have gone past 22. Not that that means they line up for the test. «They always dread it,» he says. «They are always a bit scared of it, probably because they want to do well. It is a tough test because you push yourself to the absolute limit to know where you are at.»
What is Donaldson’s own level? «I have never done it,» he admits with a chuckle. «Thankfully it wasn’t around when I was running. Too hard.»
Where and when you take the test matters
While it is obvious that players coming off long flights or returning after injury breaks will struggle more often than not in a yo-yo test, players who have been on the field frequently in the days leading up to a test also find it tough going.
This September, Raina was again asked to take a yo-yo test. Once again, it came on the back of a busy schedule: he had played two Duleep Trophy matches when he flew to Bangalore to take the test. He failed again.
The folks at ESPNcricinfo put themselves through a modified version of the YO-YO test. Let’s see how they fare.
Ramji Srinivasan, one of the most senior trainers in India, a former strength and conditioning coach for India, and currently in that role for the Tamil Nadu side, says players need to be given time to prepare. «Players should also be allowed to appeal and redo the testing in ten days,» he says. «They should be allowed to prepare physically and mentally for the testing.»
The case of Tamil Nadu offspinner Washington Sundar illustrates his point. Ahead of selection of the squad for the New Zealand T20 series in October this year, Sundar was summoned to Bangalore for a yo-yo test in the middle of what had been a busy domestic season for him.
He was in Lucknow, playing for India Red in the Duleep Trophy final, when the call came. He had got there from Dehradun, where he was at a preparatory camp for the Ranji Trophy, only a few days earlier.
Sundar, who had never taken the test, took it immediately after the Duleep Trophy final. He missed the qualifying mark narrowly, getting to level 16, and missed out on selection for the New Zealand series.
He was clearly disappointed and did not hide it. «The next day I came back home and I woke up and saw in the newspapers that I flunked the fitness tests,» Sundar told the media after hitting a century at the start of the Ranji season. «Nobody [from the management] spoke to me. I got to know the results later and did not get to know there on the same day from them.»
Leipus agrees with Srinivasan that preparation time is important. «The test is both mental and physical. If you have not done it before, you don’t know what to expect. There is the pacing element because the speed of the test increases as the time goes on. So you are going to probably going to go too hard too soon, as opposed to pacing yourself.»
A couple of important factors that can influence the final reading are the surface the player undergoes the test on and the weather. The surface is significant due to the traction available, since the ability to pivot quickly is an important element. Turning on a natural surface like grass outdoors is not like doing so on, say, rubber matting laid over concrete indoors (as is the case at the NCA).
Leipus says that the fact that the ambient temperature is more stable indoors helps with consistency in the players’ levels. «But if the variables change outdoors and if it is very hot, you will obviously be fatigued a lot quicker and the numbers will be pretty low.»
Numbers aren’t everything, or at least they shouldn’t be
All the strength and conditioning coaches agree that age does not normally have much of a bearing on the results of yo-yo tests. Misbah-ul-Haq, Luden says, got to 18:5 without any fuss in his farewell series, at the age of 42. Ashish Nehra, who retired at 39 recently, clocked 18:4 during a yo-yo test earlier this year — reportedly better even than the likes of Virat Kohli at the time. Ravindra Jadeja, India’s best fieldsman, reportedly clocked 16:1, and it is understood that Manish Pandey has set the Indian benchmark, with 19:1.
Ashish Nehra, at 39, was doing better at yo-yo tests than his younger team-mates, having been an enthusiastic runner earlier in his career AFP/Getty Images
ESPNcricinfo understands that the minimum qualification for the Indian team is to be to raised to 17 soon. According to Leipus, a major drawback of having one standard to reach is, it is not individualised. «And that is where some guys are going to be at disadvantage.» Leipus and Srinivasan also agree that fitness quotient and cricketing ability are and should remain distinct. «For example, Yuvraj has had cancer, so he has reduced lung capacity, based on the treatment he received. So that is obviously going to affect his running performance in a yo-yo test, but that is not going to directly affect his cricket ability,» Leipus says. «You are going to have to make those exceptions.»
Indeed, there always have been exceptions. Nehra remembers: «[Sachin Tendulkar] would say: ‘How many runs do I have to run?’ Four. So his test was to run four in minimum time. Sachin was always quick between the wickets, even at 39.»
According to Leipus, injury management is also a factor. «We never used to make Sachin do them back in the day because of his broken toe. You don’t want to exacerbate injuries just for the sake of the getting a number. Yes, these benchmarks are really important, but then you do have to take them on a case-by-case basis — when the players are more established, have had some significant injuries and you have to modify your expectations somewhat.»
Does fitness equal success?
Has the yo-yo test made a difference to the Indian team on the field? A BCCI official says the impact of the test is evident in the improving standards of Indian players. «Any player who covers 20 metres in less than three seconds it is hugely helpful,» he says. «It helps the fielders pursue and grab difficult catches on the boundary line. Say a guy whose level is 15, and if there is a catch that is about 15 metres away, he might just get his fingertips to it. But somebody who covers 20 metres in 2.8 or 2.9 seconds, for him the same catch will be easy.
Leipus points out that the yo-yo test favours batsmen, as it emphasises the physiological and biomechanical demands of batting more than it does those of running in «linearly» for the bowlers. But he adds that players needn’t be distracted by specific pros and cons. «For an elite athlete whose job is effort-recovery, whether you are a batsman or a bowler, the yo-yo test mimics that quite well. So I do not think it is unreasonable to have that as the [minimum] level.»
Kumble is no more the India coach, but his fitness-first mindset is alive and strong. Kohli, for one, is uncompromising on fitness too.
«If there is one player who is putting on too much body weight, who is not doing the training, he can bring the team down. He is not being the best he can be for the team,» Leipus says. «And Virat does not want that type of thinking to come into the squad. I have been waiting for this for 15 years. It is fantastic they are doing it now to change the culture.»
As Nehra says, though, only a player can push his own boundaries. «When it comes to running, you have to push yourself. Virat Kohli has not become a fit athlete overnight. He has worked hard on his fitness for the last three years and that is why he is successful.»
One Good Turn — How Yo-Yos Work
The yo-yo is one of the most popular and enduring toys of all time. The ancient Greeks were playing with them more than 2,500 years ago, and there’s some evidence that the Chinese had developed similar toys before that. In any case, the yo-yo has demonstrated phenomenal longevity — it’s older than any other toy except the doll.
There have been several variations on the yo-yo design through the years. In the original design, which was still popular until the early 20th century, the string was tied securely to the axle. This design achieved huge popularity in Europe in the 18th and 19th century, where it had a number of names, including bandelore, quiz and L’emigrette.
In the modern yo-yo, brought to the United States from the Philippines in the 1920s (see below), the string is only looped around the axle. To understand the significance of this difference, let’s examine the physical principles at work in both sorts of yo-yos.
In both designs, the yo-yoist winds the string tightly around the axle. Sitting in the yo-yoist’s palm, the yo-yo has a certain amount of potential energy (energy of position). This potential energy takes two different forms:
- The yo-yo is held up in the air, giving it the potential to fall to the ground.
- The yo-yo has string wound around it, giving it the potential to spin as it unwinds.
When the yo-yo is released, both forms of potential energy change to kinetic energy. The yo-yo spool falls straight to the ground, which builds a certain amount of linear momentum (momentum in a straight line). At the same time, the string unwinds, and the spool spins, which builds angular momentum (momentum of rotation).
When the yo-yo reaches the end of the string, it can’t fall any farther. But, because it has a good deal of angular momentum, it will keep spinning.
The spinning motion gives the yo-yo gyroscopic stability. A spinning object resists changes to its axis of rotation because an applied force moves along with the object itself. If you push on a point at the top of a spinning wheel, for example, that point moves around to the front of the wheel while it is still feeling the force you applied. As the point of force keeps moving, it ends up applying force on opposite ends of the wheel — the force balances itself out. This phenomenon keeps a yo-yo’s axis perpendicular to the string, as long as the yo-yo is spinning fast enough. (See How Gyroscopes Work to learn more.)
If the string is attached securely to the axle, as in the original design, the spinning axle will grip the string and start rewinding it; the yo-yo will travel back up the string. The yo-yoist must give a slight tug on the string as the yo-yo rewinds, in order to compensate for the energy lost to friction.
In the modern yo-yo, there is less friction between the string and the axle, since the string is only looped around the axle. When the spool completely unwinds, it will not automatically grip the spring — it will simply spin freely. To get the yo-yo to rewind, the yo-yoist jerks on the string a little bit. This tug briefly increases the friction between the string and the axle so that the axle starts rewinding the string. Once it starts rewinding, this sort of yo-yo will return to the yo-yoist just like the older design.
The ability to make the yo-yo spool spin on the end of its string, or «sleep,» made yo-yoing a much more interesting challenge. Yo-yoists try to keep the spool sleeping while making shapes with the string and swinging the yo-yo around them. Another trick is to «walk the dog» — let the spinning spool roll along the ground before pulling it back in.
Over the years, manufacturers have come up with a number of mechanisms to make it easier to do these sorts of tricks. In the next section, we’ll check out a few of the more popular variations found in modern yo-yos.
Better Than Pokémon!? How Yo-Kai Watch Is Marketing Itself To Japanese Children
“Can you draw Warunyan for me?” a girl asked during recess.
“Warunyan is cool, but Orochi is stronger!” a boy standing nearby shouted.
“I like Kyuubi!” another boy added as students gathered around the table.
My mind had stalled at Warunyan. Were my students speaking another language? What was Orochi? Who was Kyuubi? What was going on?!
Better than Pokemon
“What are you talking about?” I finally asked.
“They’re characters in Yo-Kai Watch (妖怪ウォッチ).” The answer offered little understanding. Yo-kai are Japanese ghosts. But what about the “watch”? Did it mean “to view”? Was it an actual wrist watch? Or did it have some other Japanese-English meaning? Was it an TV show? A game? The tables had turned, I became the student.
“It’s a game and anime,” one student explained.
“There’s a manga too,” a girl standing nearby added.
For years I prided myself on staying on top of the latest trends among students. Pokémon and Kamen Rider remained my student’s favorites year after year. But something new had crept into the picture. I had never heard of these characters. Had I finally fallen into the generation gap?
“You catch yo-kai. I have almost all of them.” a boy bragged.
“So it’s like Pokémon?” I asked.
“It’s better!” Nearby students nodded in agreement.
Better than Pokémon?! Could it be true? Did this Yo-kai Watch dethrone the reigning king?
Back in the late 1990’s I played Pokémon Blue on an old spinach-screened Gameboy. I never imagined the series would still be relevant nearly twenty years later – or that I’d be writing about it.
But Pokémon grew into a media giant, bolstering its popularity with popular games, anime, movies and cards. In Japan its characters are inescapable – appearing on t-shirts, socks, shoes, on bentou boxes and in bentou boxes as food.
Thanks to Pokémon, I could start conversations with most students. We discussed Pikachu and listed our favorite Pokémon – mine is Bulbasaur (Fushigidane in Japanese) just for the love saying it. Pokémon became a key to my students’ world.
But the times changed and I lost step. If I wanted stay on-top, I needed to experience Yo-kai Watch for myself.
The World of Yo-kai Watch
If you’re familiar with Pokémon or similar series, you know what to expect. One day a boy named Keita ventures into the woods hunting for bugs but finds the yo-kai named Whisper instead. Whisper gives Keita a watch that enables him to see and summon yo-kai.
Thanks to the open premise, Keita gets into all sorts of adventures. At times he’s a spirit detective, investigating strange occurrences or helping and befriending yo-kai. Other times Keita uses yo-kai to help himself or friends. Of course yokai battle as well.
Unlike Pokémon, Yo-kai Watch is set in “real-life” Japan. Most conflicts take place at Keita’s home, school or around his neighborhood. This gives the series a definitive Japanese feel.
The yo-kai add to the franchise’s Japanese stylings. Yo-kai Watch’s art walks a squiggly line between Pokémon’s monsters and Ni no Kuni’s familiar’s. But unlike those series, most of the yo-kai carry a distinct Japanese style – inspired by Japan’s classic ghosts and monsters.
For example there’s Jinmenken the human-faced dog. Naruto and Digimon fans will recognize Kyuubi the nine-tailed fox. A kappa, red and blue oni, and the wall monster nurikabe also appear.
If it sounds like Yo-kai Watch follows the footsteps of similar franchises, that’s because it does. By emulating strategies utilized by its predecessors, Yo-kai Watch is taking the child market by storm.
Source: Nikki Dugan Pogue
Like many series before it, Yo-kai Watch empowers children. From Momotaro to Tetsujin 28, Japan has a long, rich history of stories that depict powerful, confident children facing adult (not in that way!) or other-worldly responsibilities.
Child audiences relate to child heroes, as if they can be heroes themselves. Popular child-empowerment series include Pokémon, Digimon, Pretty Cure and Jewelpet. Although the child hero has a long history in Japan, more franchises embrace it’s marketing value than ever before. Yo-kai Watch is no exception.
The Anime Angle
As with Pokémon, Yo-kai Watch debuted with a game, but an anime tie-in soon followed. Animated series expose aduiences to the game’s universe, acting as a high-budget, high-quality infomercial. Yo-kai Watch is no exception with quality animation, a catchy bgm and jokes that had me laughing.
But Yo-kai Watch engages its audience in a way few of its predecessors have. Keita utilizes each yo-kai’s specific skill-sets to overcome conflicts, challenging child viewers to practice logical thinking and problem solving skills. The show is more engaging as a result.
The Game Angle
Anime and game combos deepen the audience’s connection to a series. Instead of passively watching a hero’s actions, children can literally act as the hero.
For example, Pokémon players catch their own Pokémon, battle Pokémasters and earn their own badges. A game provides players the power to forge their own paths, separate from the anime’s story.
The same is true of Yo-kai Watch. Although players take the role of Keita, they wander the neighborhood, catching and battling yo-kai themselves. Their choices determine their success in the game – either by “beating it” or completing their yo-kai collection.
The Lure of Collectables
Yo-kai Watch embraces another staple of its predecessors – collectables. From bugs, to baseball cards, to pogs, and Beanie Babies, kids love collecting things. And the toy market obliges, with consistent new offerings.
Pokémon took collecting to new heights. Children had to catch ’em all – both in the game and in the real world as toys and cards.
Yo-kai Watch takes a similar route. Fans can collect yo-kai in the game and in real life, as yo-kai medals that represent the franchise’s characters. Collectables add a physical experience to a game and anime.
Choice – The Ultimate Empowerment
Source: Simon Greening
Famed psychologist Edward L. Deci stated, “Individuals… are likely to enjoy, prefer, and persist at activities that provide them with opportunities to make choices, to control their own outcomes, and to determine their own fates” (Chua 44).
Choice sparks interest (enjoyment) and feelings of power and responsibility (control) in both children and adults. It’s no coincidence that many of today’s franchises exploit our preference for choice.
Yo-kai Watch is no exception. Which yo-kai will you level up? Which metal will you trade with your friend? How will you organize your collection? Where will you store it? Yo-kai Watch’s games and collectibles empower and satisfy children with virtual and material acts of choice, possession, organization, and responsibility.
Yo-kai Watch Appeals to Both Sexes
While series like Kamen Rider and Jewelpet focus on a specific gender, Pokémon and Yo-kai Watch tap a larger share of the market by appealing to both sexes. How do they accomplish this?
First, Pokémon and Yo-kai Watch games allow players to choose their sex. Next, Pokémon and Yo-kai Watch’s characters designs appeal to both sexes, varying in style and color. There are cool, masculine creatures as well as cute, feminine ones. Finally Yo-kai Watch staged a unique manga strategy. According to Wikipedia there are separate shōnen (boy’s) and shōjo (girl’s) versions of the manga.
By following in Pokémon’s footsteps and utilizing a marketing strategy of its own, it’s no wonder Yo-kai Watch garnered cross-gender appeal. In fact, I have never seen a series that had so many boys and girls talking about it.
Yo-kai Come West
While Yo-kai Watch has yet to debut in the West, plans are in the works. “We think there’s a fair chance (of a western localization),” Siliconera.com reported, “since Level-5 filed a trademark for Yo-kai Watch in the USA.”
Marc Harrington, of Dentsu Entertainment USA commented, “Several American companies that keep their eye on Japanese content and ratings success have already expressed interest in the title.”
But how will it fare? Can Yo-kai Watch recreate Pokémon’s global success? Pokémon’s ambiguous setting and characters give it a broad appeal in the global market. Unlike Pokémon, Yo-kai Watch is definitively Japanese, which has lead to mixed results in the past.
But the times are changing. Due to availability and exposure, today’s Western audiences are more accustomed to Japanese media and culture. If Japan-centric Digimon could find success abroad, there’s no reason to believe Yo-kai Watch can’t. The only question is, to what degree?
I’ll Be Yo-kai Watch-ing
Becoming familiar with children’s interests creates a bridge to their world. As a teacher, parent or friend that connection can overcome age differences and forge strong relationships.
By familiarizing myself with Yo-kai Watch, a child marketing juggernaut, I’ve climbed out of the generation gap and rejoined my students’ conversations. Whisper has replaced Pikachu at our recess discussions and we now list our favorite yo-kai instead of Pokémon – mine is Kyuubi because it looks badass and is fun to say. I just hope Yo-kai Watch becomes a long-time success, so I can ride its popularity for decades to come.