I started twirling baton when I was three years old, way back in 1988. I am just now realizing that that was three decades ago. Wow. So many changes have come to the sport since I started, and I was ecstatic when my daughter told me that she wanted to be a twirler too. I was worried though that the sport had dwindled almost to nothing. You see, when I started twirling, our team numbered around a hundred plus girls. By the time I left thirteen years later though, our team consisted of maybe twenty of us, most being around my age. The “young blood” of twirling was not there. Fast forward to today, I did a little digging and to my surprise, I noticed that baton twirling was making a comeback. Across the US, forty-four Collegiate baton twirling teams exist as well as dozens of featured twirlers. This doesn’t consider the number of middle and high school twirlers that I found online as well as younger twirlers.
As our modern society pushes for our children to become more active and to live healthier lives, parents are looking for extracurricular activities to help achieve this. The classic sports of baseball, football, soccer, and even dance and gymnastics have always been great choices. I think several reasons though have helped set twirling apart and increased its popularity. One of the most obvious when you look at champion and novice twirlers alike is the fact that age, sex, body shape or size, and race do not matter! It is a sport for anyone! Many of our national champions are what society may consider to be “bigger” or “older” people. You know what I see though? Bold, confident twirlers out to bring smiles to the world.
Twirling isn’t about marching in those mid-calf, white boots in a glittery costume while tossing a “metal stick” around anymore. Baton twirling is so much more. Baton is about so much more (sparkles and glitter are a plus though ?). With regards to childhood development, the benefits of baton twirling can and are no longer being ignored. Fine motor skills which are used in writing, when using a fork and knife, and simply tying a shoe are developed through baton twirling. Hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness increase too as the twirler progresses. As a twirler ages and competes or performs, confidence and self-esteem levels increase. When twirlers are on a team, they learn about working together and relying on each other, an important quality in the “real world”.
You may ask then why not dance or gymnastics? Baton twirling is special. It’s a combination of it all. Girls use dance technique and gymnastic movements within routines, and in some cases, we even use items such as the ribbon baton from rhythmic gymnastics. But baton twirlers just throw around a shiny little stick! That little “stick” though can create pictures and emotions just like other art forms.
My favorite part about baton twirling has to be involved within the community. Twirlers are seen performing in parades and at festivals showing support for their city or town. Other times, twirlers entertain at events to help raise awareness. When at competitions, twirlers get to proudly announce and represent even the smallest little town. We also join national organizations, such as the United States Twirling Association (USTA), which help further develop our youth. In some cases too, such as with the USTA, development continues beyond the sport into the classroom with scholarships for college. Whoever said you can’t be beautiful, talented, AND smart?
This will be the inaugural year for the team, Southern Charm Twirlers, my team. We have already had one summer camp in Screven County, Georgia and are looking forward to a camp in Effingham County, Georgia. Already in just the one week, I have spent with these beautiful twirlers, I have noticed the positive changes. The girls are excited about twirling, proudly announcing that they are majorettes. I had a shy little girl, I will call her E, at camp. E was very quiet and shy while at camp. While practicing our solos, E was unsure and didn’t want to do it at first. The day before our performance though, before I could even ask if she wanted to practice, she popped up and headed to the center of the court (we practice in a gym). She was proud of what she had accomplished and wanted to show it! Talking to her mom the other day to find out that she had bought E a little play ribbon baton from the store, and E was at home practicing and showing off all her moves from camp and even making up some of her own. This is twirling. Baton twirling isn’t just about looking pretty in lots of sparkles and glitter. It is about getting active, personal growth and development, being involved in your community, and most importantly, expressing who you are… while looking awesome in sparkles and glitter!