Brett Nemeroff stands in front of the UCF Reflecting Pond showing off with his yo-yo. The tricks seem effortless, with the yo-yo spinning into intricate patterns in different directions, only to loop back to its owner for a brief moment before it’s sent off again.
As he performs, students passing by stop and observe. But Nemeroff is completely still, oblivious to the growing crowd, as he’s focused on the strings in his hands.
“Sometimes I’ll show people a basic rock-the cradle and people will be like ‘Oh neat, a yo-yo trick!” Nemeroff said. “And then I’ll do something really mind-blowing.”
Nemeroff, an industrial engineering major, is passionate about his yo-yo’s — that much is certain. Not only is he a frequent competitor in Florida yo-yo competitions, but he’s also in charge of an unofficial yo-yo and Kendama club at UCF. Kendama is a Japanese skill toy that highlights tricks akin to yo-yoing.
His interest in the craft started at the young age of 12 when his father gave him a yo-yo, and his love it only grew from there.
“My dad was supportive of me and could see I was putting the time into learning those basic tricks. He found out there was a big competition in Orlando, so we drove over and made a vacation out of it for those few days,” Nemeroff said. “And that’s when I saw those expert-level yo-yoers — literally world-class yo-yoers from so many different countries. I thought it was incredible.”
Nemeroff has come a long way, and he credits his success to his willingness to take risks. He’s competed in 12 state competitions, most recently winning first place at the Florida State Yo-Yo competition in February.
“I’ve been known to try and execute more difficult tricks on stage, [as] opposed to just always doing fast tricks like other people do,” Nemeroff said.
More than anything, he is happy on how he’s grown through his yo-yo competitions.
“I was watching these expert yo-yoers nine years ago,” Nemeroff said. “And now I’m yo-yoing at their level and competing against them on the same stage.”
Nemeroff started a yo-yo group at UCF in fall 2014 to help build awareness and talent for the hobby.
“If you want to be good at yo-yo, you have to exhibit an intense amount of patience and put in hours of practice,” Nemeroff said. “The students have put in the work and demonstrated the patience to get really good — almost at my skill level.”
Among the about 15 members is Robert Sulmonte, an English literature major. Sulmonte met Nemeroff at a competition in March 2014, and he decided to join the club later that year.
“Brett’s really great at slowing down and explaining to us how to perform tricks, which is good for me considering how intricate they can be,” Sulmonte said. “I’m planning on entering a contest myself now that I’ve learned how to be innovative with my tricks.”
Nemeroff now spends his days working hard to expand the size and scope of the yo-yo club. Between negotiations with sponsors to supply more yo-yo’s to train with and a desire to spread awareness on campus, keeps busy. But to Nemeroff, it’s more than worth it.
“When people see someone like me doing a really difficult trick, a lot of them think ‘this is impossible,’” Nemeroff said. “I want to go out of my way to show them that it is possible by teaching them how to really do well at yo-yo, and once they do that, they always want to learn how to do more.”