Norwich Cadet Cole Nickerson has his own unique spin on life

Yo-yo whiz Cole Nickerson shows off a trick for our Guidon photographer Andrew Thomas. His unusual passion has caught the attention of many classmates.

Norwich University’s Cole Nickerson was once a passionate fan of the art of yo-yoing, but life took him down a different path. Luckily for Nickerson, and many others, that passion was sparked once again.
“I was amazed the first time I saw someone with a yo-yo that didn’t retract immediately. That was in seventh grade. A buddy of mine got me into it, and the passion took me pretty far,” said Nickerson, a 20-year-old junior in the Corps of Cadets from Nashua, N.H.
“I found my old yo-yo from seventh grade while I was cleaning out my bedroom over spring break, and I felt the passion reignite me into the yo-yo life,” said Nickerson.
Nickerson’s re-sparked joy for yo-yoing has gained him a respectable following as a result of his cool tricks, quirky lingo, and approachable demeanor.
Since March 19, when he launched his Instagram page, Nickerson’s following has seen rapid growth racking up a multitude of likes, comments, and views on his pictures and videos using Instagram as his only social media platform.

“I have my own personal Instagram page, but I felt for my yo-yoing, I needed to create my own page dedicated to my progress, and newly developed skillset,” he said.

In the first two days Nickerson’s Instagram page, @yo_yo_its_cole, attained over 100 followers, and has seen a consistent following of three to five new followers a day.

He has said his presence on Instagram is “merely an accountability tool, and not a means of getting Instagram clout or fame.” Despite this, he does receive a lot of love for his posts both on the page and in person.

“I’ll be walking to class, or around campus, and somebody will stop me and ask when the next video will be up. To me that is just the coolest thing,” said Nickerson. “That is just a huge bonus for me.”

Nickerson’s fan base goes beyond his group of close friends to spread among a relatively diverse segment of the Norwich student populace.
Richard Hu is a new follower to Nickerson’s yo-yoing escapades, and up until recently has had very little interactions with the student some viewers refer to as the “Yo-Yo God.”

“I never really saw Nickerson too much, but my rugby teammate showed me his page, and I’ve been a devout follower since,” said Hu, a 22-year-old senior from Naperville, Ill.

“His posts brighten my day. Whenever a new video drops, or I see him busting out a new trick, I can’t help but to smile,” Hu added.
Nickerson isn’t in the business of yo-yo trickery for the fame and glory. He aims to “reach the people who don’t know how cool yo-yo’s can be.”
Even though Nickerson’s fame within the niche Norwich yo-yo community steadily grows, he remains humble about his skillset.

“I can do some cool tricks, but I am nowhere near comparable to the pros that I look up to,” Nickerson said.
The 2014 world yo-yo champion Gentry Stein is the pro Nickerson idolizes most within the yo-yo community.

“Stein is bar none my favorite yo-yoer, I definitely try to emulate some of his tricks, plus he’s a super nice guy,” said Nickerson
Although he greatly appreciates the yo-yo greats, Nickerson still desires to follow his own path. “As much as I think I want my yo-yoing to be like those high tier yo-yoers, I know I have to have my own style,” said Nickerson.

The style Nickerson is developing is not something that comes effortlessly for him. He is training on the string daily.
“I don’t necessarily have allotted training times, but I practice throughout the day, in between classes, or when I would normally just watch a movie or play games, I’m spending that time crushing tricks,” Nickerson explained.

“I hone my skills every day. I’ll pick up my yo-yo and start with repetitions of tricks I know until I feel confident in my execution, and then I’ll practice them some more,” Nickerson continued.

“After that, when I want to learn a new trick, I’ll hop onto YouTube, prop my phone up, put my air pods in, and get deep into work on some harder tricks,” Nickerson finished, “This’ll go on for hours.”

Nickerson said yo-yos have evolved a lot since the old wooden spools with a simple cotton string.

“These modern yo-yos are made to not come back right away and stay spinning for long periods of time. They are usually metal like aluminum and stainless steel or plastic or some sort of hybrid of the two (metal and plastic),” he explained.

Different manufacturing techniques provide different results when you spin a yo-yo, he said.
“Some yo-yos can stay spinning and also come back to you with a tug, I use an unresponsive metal yo-yo that requires a bind to get it to come back, this can actually be a trick on its own. Your average string is made out of cotton but there are strings that are much softer that reduce friction when rubbing the side of the yo-yo as it spins,” he said.

The days of a simple $1 yo-yo are in the past, as technology has evolved even in this simple device.“The least you would have to spend to get started could be around $25 for a plastic yo-yo setup, but metal yo-yos are all so uniquely crafted and just really are kind of works of art,” Nickerson explained. “There are many factors in determining price but metal yo-yos are usually $35 for a really basic design, to $180 for a very high quality yo-yo with very unique design with fantastic colors.”

“I spent somewhere in the middle,” he said.

By the time he shows his tricks to his Instagram fans, Nickerson has already spent hours training to post something he deems acceptable.
One of his favorite tricks is “The Man on the Trapeze,” which is a trick Nickerson describes as “a pretty basic trick, it’s easy to learn, but very difficult to master.”

“To hit this trick you throw the yo-yo to the side, and it’ll wrap around a finger on your non yo-yo hand, and the yo-yo will land back on the string,” Nickerson explained.

“Like learning anything new, when I accomplish something like a trick I’ve never done, it’s motivating and uplifting to see and feel the progress. It’s also incredibly difficult and there is so much progress I could make because the tricks are ever more difficult and advanced. I just always want to learn a cooler trick once I nail one,” he explained.

For Nickerson, one of the “coolest things is that a yo-yo is so small and portable that it can be brought anywhere.” He added, “And when you see the crazy things that are possible with what is really just a simple toy, it becomes something to behold.”
To see Nickerson hit “The Man on the Trapeze” and other tricks, or to just enjoy his yo-yoing journey, you can follow his yo-yo dedicated page, @yo_yo_its_cole, on Instagram.

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