UWRF Spanish instructor shares passion for unicycling
April 15, 2015
Sometimes people are surprised to learn a professor might have skills in a totally unrelated area, different from the subject they teach.
UW-River Falls Spanish Instructor Julie Kovacic has a passion for unicycling.
Kovacic explains to her classes that she believes there is a connection in how people learn both a language and learn to ride a unicycle. She says if she could learn to ride a unicycle at 50 years old, they can learn Spanish.
“Learning a foreign language is a lot like learning a unicycle--it’s the same kind of mental process," Kovacic said. "Learning how to do something with a different kind of balance, in foreign language you learn to do something with a different cultural aspect and different pronunciation.”
Learning to ride a unicycle was a necessity for Kovacic. Even though she says it is something you can teach without knowing how to actually ride, her daughter gave her an ultimatum. She had to learn to ride if she was going to be watching others ride.
“I would have to say that first of all, it’s a heck of a lot of fun. It's super good exercise and a stress reliever," Kovacic said. "So, being on campus with just books and studying and everything, trying something you’ve never tried before. It’s when I’m unicycling I forget all my problems, it’s such a great exercise, better than yoga.”
Her 16-year-old daughter competes and they both belong to the Twin Cities Unicycle Club along with around 300 other members. Some in the club even participate in the grueling Twin Cities Iron Man bicycle race.
The club competes nationally and internationally. Kovacic plans on going to Spain next year with her daughter for a competition. The club rides in parades all over the area and performs riding tricks for different functions. There are different sizes of cycles to fit different statures.
Kovacic is not only a Spanish instructor but she teaches unicycle classes and will be teaching this fall at Hudson Community Education classes. She has taught there two other times and looks forward to introducing new students to the skill.
When riding outdoors, Kovacic says it's important to wear a helmet, with leg and arm protection as well. If a rider falls, most often they land on their feet unlike taking a tumble on a traditional bicycle. She said she loves to watch new riders master the skill, it reminds her of the first time a small child rides their bicycle. The delight and awe is the same.
Unicycling has been around for over 100 years, according to the online publication UnicycleToday.com: “Although historians can’t exactly agree on the exact origin of the unicycle, one much favored theory of the origins of the unicycle is due to the general popularity of the old-fashioned big-wheeled penny-farthing (also called the "ordinary") ridden in the late 1800s. In this old incarnation with the tall front wheel and tiny back wheel, the pedals were connected directly into the front axle, and the rear wheel would lift off the ground allowing the rider to move slightly forward to ride.”
Anyone interested in learning more or interested in starting a student unicycling organization can contact Kovacic by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by contacting the Twin Cities Unicycling Club at tcuc.org.