on my vimeo page today, a guy asked me a pretty tough question. he wanted to know how i'm sponsored if i don't really compete.
it's a great question when i think on it (which i don't often), because virtually every sponsored player out there is either expected to compete by the masses/company or else is naturally driven to do so. there are really just a handful of anomalies like me who either stink at competing or else have no desire to do so, yet remain sponsored by legitimate companies.
i do try to count my lucky stars. i absolutely recognize that i get a lot of perks and free yo-yo's and stuff for doing essentially what i would do anyway. that was kind of driven home yesterday when i caught myself looking for a 'perfect' bearing to replace a screechy one in my purple ronin. i was doing flick-tests when it occurred to me that i probably have about 50 extra bearings sitting around in various jars. some thin, some thick, some gold, some grooved. my mind flew back to several years back to when i had exactly one really consistent bearing and i would trade it out from one yoyojam to another. you don't mean to take it for granted, but somehow you don't fail to either.
i'm not altogether sure how it happened, or how it maintained itself. i'm fairly certain that i never did anything to deserve an amazing yo-yo covered in gold. (but hey, i'll take it!) spyy isn't really a 'competition team'... sometimes i wonder if we're not more like a 'band'. we all play different roles, and i'm sure we've all had very different conversations with steve about what we bring to the equation. i'm an anomaly in a team of anomalies, and there's no way i could adequately thank steve for seeing the value in a team like that.
i hear a lot of kids clamor about the idea of sponsorship like it's thor's hammer; seemingly unliftable, but 'man if i had it i'd be unstoppable'. the truth is obvious: if you're not unstoppable without it, having it doesn't mean a thing. there's no way a 15 year-old takes that kind of thing to heart, but it's true. a lot of guys seem to fade into oblivion right after aligning with this or that company. if you're expected to compete, the pressure can be extreme, and if you're not, your contribution always feels ambiguous at best. it's a bit like the advice i dread having to give my daughter in a few years - if you're not enough without some guy who wants to dangle you on his arm like a patek philippe, then you won't be enough with him either.
if you're prepared for all that (meaning you're ignoring it), and you still want to be sponsored, you have to do something to stand out. maybe you make neat videos with old dixieland jazz soundtracks. maybe you have 9 fingers on your left hand. maybe you dress in the loudest conflicting plaid imaginable. i've seen guys sponsored for lesser traits than any of those, but if you don't actively share your playing (or who you are) with the greater community, no 'pro scout' is going to show up at your high school looking for you... and if they should, do not - DO NOT - get into their van!
if, beyond that, you want sincere advice, here you are:
- look like you enjoy yo-yoing. better yet... ACTUALLY enjoy yo-yoing (it is enjoyable). would you hire someone to manipulate your toy and make it look like it steals your girlfriend and leaves shrapnel in your palms?
- don't talk about wanting sponsorships. if that's all you really want out of yo-yoing, you're pre-destined to fail as mentioned above, but the more you blather on about it, the more unlikely it is to even happen. it makes you look cheap.
- do something that no one else can do (or that no one else could give a crap about doing). this could be 'winning' or it could be something else, but chances are, whatever it is, you're going to have to work really, really hard to get close to it.
- be a nice person. i love how this one gets overlooked. i'm no math teacher (i am a math teacher), but by my count there are around 10 yo-yo companies out there that can offer a legitimate sponsorship, and since yo-yoing is still such a niche thing, virtually all of the players and owners are buddy-buddy. if you conduct yourself poorly on the regular, you'll be blacklisted like the hollywood ten.
... unless they offer you a yo-yo like this, in which case yes, you should sell out right now.