YARMOUTH — When high school soccer practice begins next week, Waynflete will be missing his left wing.
Patrick Shaw will juggle a soccer ball not in Portland but in the Czech Republic. He will be one of a dozen Americans among approximately 550 competitors at the Super Ball in Prague.
Shaw, 16, participates in a fledgling sport called freestyle football. It’s basically doing tricks with a soccer ball, but Shaw’s background in break dancing elevates his routines to something approaching art.
Her skills landed her a role in a TV commercial and garnered nearly 6,000 Instagram followers. And last weekend in New York, Shaw won the U.S. Championship and a spot in the sport’s World Finals this fall.
Back in Maine this week, Shaw showed off his artistry on the grass court at Yarmouth High, tapping the ball from foot to foot, twirling one foot around the ball while he was in the air not once, not twice, but three times before intercepting it with the same foot before the ball hit the turf.
Looking like he should be in a Harlem Globetrotters pre-game circle, Shaw effortlessly flipped the ball over his head and caught it between his shoulders on the back of his neck. At one point he tossed the ball in the air, somersaulted backwards and caught the ball with his knees before landing.
The week-long competition in Prague marks the first international event for Shaw, who got into freestyle football at the request of a Spanish exchange student who lived with Shaw’s family in North Yarmouth for a year in eighth grade.
“He introduced him to me,” Shaw said of Alvaro Obregon. “I had heard of it before, but I never really put the time into it. It was he who pushed me to do it. »
For three years prior to Obregon’s arrival, Shaw played for the New Hampshire-based Seacoast Academy football program, traveling three to four times a week for practices. He only played for Waynflete last fall and the Flyers won the Class C state title. The Maine Soccer Coaches Association selected him as a regional star.
“He kind of got burned out,” said his mother, Sue Ellen Shaw. “He’s a very good soccer player, but he really likes freestyle. They are considered two different sports.
Shaw also plays basketball in Waynflete and ran track in the spring. As a youngster, he learned break dancing through Casco Bay Movers and tried his hand at gymnastics when he was 10 years old.
Standing 5 feet, 8½ inches and weighing 150 pounds, Shaw controls the ball as if on a string by standing, sitting, on his back, or briefly bracing himself on one or more hands out of two. His record for juggling a ball with his feet (and the occasional use of his knees) is 2,660, a record he set two years ago.
“After that, I thought to myself, this is too much to count,” he said. “I don’t do that anymore.”
Last weekend in New York, Shaw took on 32 competitors in the US Freestyle Championship. Two years ago he failed to make the last 16. Last year, he qualified in the top four. This year, the judges determined that Shaw was the best freestyler, giving him a spot in the Red Bull Street Style World Finals. This event is scheduled for Miami in mid-November, when it will face freestylers from over 50 nations.
Since 2008, Red Bull has hosted the World Finals, which feature champions from around 50 countries. The defending champion hails from Norway. Others came from Poland, Argentina, France, Great Britain and Japan.
Once a field is winnowed down to a manageable size of 16, a bracket format takes over in which two competitors with a ball alternate 30-second routines for a total of three minutes in a one-on-one battle . A panel of three judges decides the winner based on five categories: originality, execution, difficulty, versatility and control.
The eventing competition consists of five freestyle parts: upper body tricks, lower body tricks, seated positions, transitions, acrobatics and floor movements.
Freestyle football was born from football warm-up exercises, notably performed in the 1980s by Argentinian Diego Maradona. Shaw said he was Maine’s only freestyler. There are a few in Massachusetts, but most come from New York or Los Angeles.
“Some guys are more straight-forward football,” he said. “My style is more inclusive of break dancing.”
A talent agency has Shaw under contract and in February 2018 flew him to California to perform in a ad for Samsung’s Galaxy A80 mobile phone with a rotating camera.
“It was pretty cool,” Shaw said. “Once in a while someone will say, ‘Dude, I saw you on TV.'”
As for aspirations, Shaw hopes to become a professional freestyler. He spends two to three hours a day practicing his craft, perfecting tricks and inventing new ones.
“I’m open to college football,” he said. “But that’s my main thing.”
Friday’s major league roundup: Tigers slow Rays, 2-0