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Community Profile: Hayden Brickman

April 25th, 2015

HAYDEN BRICKMAN: BURLINGAME’S YO-YO KID

Hayden Brickman is a normal 11-year-old boy who likes skateboarding and basketball. His parents, Stuart and Rachael, have run Burlingame Optical on Burlingame Avenue since the 80s. Maybe you’ve seen him there. Last fall, Hayden started sixth grade at BIS (Burlingame Intermediate School). With his late August birthday, he is be one of the youngest kids in his class, and one of the smallest, which he doesn’t mind because it means he can “fit through certain things.” He wears stylish glasses, which is appropriate, given the family business, and favors shorts and t-shirts, like any kid his age.

If you attended my annual barbecue in Washington Park last year, you know something else about Hayden, something besides the hip glasses and diminutive frame that separates him from all the other “normal” 10-year-olds: Hayden is a national yo-yo champion.

The barbecue is an annual thing, one of the best perks of my job. I love getting the chance to hang out with friends, family and clients in a relaxed setting. Last year, I decided to hire Hayden, who I’d recently met, to perform yo-yo tricks for my guests. Hire a 10-year-old as entertainment? This is no “normal” 10-year-old. He was, just as I’d figured he’d be, a huge hit.

What’s amazing is that Hayden got his first yo-yo a little over two years ago, in December of 2012. “I was nine,” he remembers. “One of my dad’s employees came into (the store) with a yo-yo and I thought it was really cool.” He asked his parents to get him a yo-yo for Christmas.

“He immediately started doing some tricks that were already beyond what people usually can do,” recalls his father, Stuart Brickman, a lifelong Burlingame area resident who opened Burlingame Optical when he was only 27 years old. “The light came on, definitely.”

“My dad showed me a few tricks,” Hayden recalls. “It took me about a month to get consistent (with them).” Soon after that, Hayden singlehandedly started a yo-yo craze at his school, Franklin Elementary. “At first I didn’t take (yo-yos) to school because I wasn’t sure they’d allow it,” he explains, “but then I started bringing them to school. I got other kids to get yo-yos and it was a trend for a few months.”

“For awhile, there were 25 kids bringing yo-yos to school every day,” adds his father.

Among the “yo-yo crew,” Hayden’s skill was unsurpassed. Within a few months, his mother, Rachael Dominguez-Brickman, was searching the web for local yo-yo competitions. Last October, competing in his fourth contest, he took first in Yo-Yo Sport Ladder (10-and-under division) at the Yo-Yo Nationals in Chico. Not bad for a kid who says he still doesn’t quite understand how the scoring works at competitions.

“There are certain tricks you have to do,” he says foggily. “I’ve looked at the judges when they’re writing things down, but I’m not really clear on what you should do and shouldn’t do.”

As you compete more, Hayden continues, you “start to figure things out.” You learn, for example, that most competitors take the stage with two yo-yos – a main one and a spare. That way, should your string get tangled (a common occurrence among yo-yo amateurs but not as much among competitors) you won’t waste too much of your allocated three minutes undoing knots. Instead, you simply reach for another yo-yo.

You also learn, he says, that the competitive yo-yo world is like any other sporting world, complete with corporate sponsorships and its own stars, says Stuart Brickman. At age 10, Hayden, he says, is already making inroads into that world. “He’s on the same stage with guys who are 15, 18, 25 years old, sharing the stage with the Buster Poseys and Tim Lincecums of the yo-yo world. He got to hang out with them; they know who he is now.”

“The 1-A national champion,” he adds, “told him that when he was (Hayden’s) age, he wasn’t as good.”

The 2014 yo-yo world championships were in Prague. Hayden really wanted to go. “I’d really like to go…hopefully next year” he admits.

At last year’s nationals, Hayden competed on the second stage. This year, he hopes to move up to the main stage, where competitors perform for a crowd Stuart estimates at 250, hoping not only to score points with judges and the assembled crowd but also with sponsors. These aren’t the light, plastic Duncan Butterflies of our youths we’re talking about here; high-end yo-yos from YoYo Factory and Oxygene can cost as much as $300.

Great things are ahead for Burlingame’s most serious 11-year-old yo-yoist. For now, though, Hayden Brickman will have to be satisfied performing for the 100 people who saw him at my barbecue. I can’t speak for all of them but I was personally blown away, not only by the yo-yo tricks (Tommy Smothers has nothing on Hayden) but by Hayden’s poise. He wasn’t at all nervous, mingling with small groups and even doing a little one-on-one yo-yo instruction with individuals. He told everyone his story of how he started, getting his first yo-yo in December 2012, and answering questions from kids and adults alike. He was such a hit that I booked him again for my entrepreneur group a few weeks later.

So the next time you’re strolling Burlingame Avenue, dropping into Burlingame Optical for some new frames, or even attending the 2014 Yo-Yo Nationals in Chico, keep your eyes peeled for the 10-year-old with the cool glasses and the yo-yo t-shirt, dazzling passers-by with a dizzying array of yo-yo tricks. That would be Hayden Brickman, Burlingame’s own “yo-yo kid.”