Whenever I used to say to anyone that I was a ‘twirler’, I often got comments such as “oh you mean like majorettes?” or, “does that mean you do carnivals and stuff?”. Well actually, no, it doesn’t mean that. And I spent my whole twirling career trying to explain what baton twirling really meant.
When you’re a baton twirler, the comparison to being a majorette is not one that we appreciate. It’s not because there is anything wrong with majorettes, but twirling and majorettes are actually quite different disciplines and require different skills. And often the skills of a baton twirler can be misunderstood if they are just compared to those of a majorette.
When I first started twirling over 28 years ago, there wasn’t really a distinction between majorettes and twirling so I can understand why the general public continue to make the connection. In the twirling world however, there has been a movement to separate the two entirely and disassociate majorettes from twirling and attempt to get baton twirling recognised on it’s own. It’s far more aligned to a rhythmic gymnastic sport nowadays and in my view is the most beautiful sport to watch when it’s done right.
My twirling career started in 1989 when one of the friends that I made after moving down south said to me “do you want to come twirling with me?”. I asked my mum and dad if I could go and they took me along and I was hooked. I was incredibly lucky that the absolute best trainers in the country lived in my town. Not only were they the best trainers, but they had also been National, European and World Champions!
And I never looked back after that first try out session. I tried other sports as well as twirling, but twirling was always my priority and my favourite and eventually ended up being my sole sport focus.
By the time I was 10 I was a National Champion, had got a silver medal at Europeans and become a World Champion. And over the course of my whole competitive twirling career I became a multiple times National and European Champion, mostly in team events but also individually. I was in the same twirling team for my whole career and, without wanting to sound big headed, we were the best team in the country!
When I made the decision to stop competing I went into coaching and started coaching some of the younger ones in the team. I ended up with a really successful coaching career as well, going on to train people who became National, European and World Champions themselves. And it was so rewarding, although very challenging at times. I also qualified as a judge and for a time I was on the Technical Board of the English national association. I had such a fantastic career which I am exceptionally proud of!
So what actually is baton twirling?? Well here’s a description:
Baton twirling is a sport of agility and coordination coupled with grace and flexibility. It naturally involves twirling a baton, which is a balanced stick usually comprised of metal, but at competitive levels, baton twirling is much more. As with gymnastics, figure skating, and other sports combining agility with grace, competitive baton twirling requires a routine containing mandatory elements for scoring points.
In a competition, a baton twirler is required to twirl vertically and horizontally displaying variety and difficulty of content. Similarly, they are required to make a certain number of catches and releases and vary them throughout their routine. Baton twirling at some levels of competition requires twirlers to use more than one baton.
Choreography is a major part of baton twirling, but coordination in general is the primary skill needed to perform. Baton twirlers work with coaches who help them learn and perfect their catch and release skills and fluidity in movement in their releases, catches, and choreography.
At a competitive level, athletes compete in a variety of both individual and team events, including Solo 1 baton, Solo 2 baton, Rhythmic Twirl, Super X Strut, Duet, Twirl Team and Dance Team. There are also a number of large corp events.
It’s truly beautiful to watch and I’m so proud to say I was a baton twirler and a coach.
There is so much opportunity within the sport if you work hard – the same as within any other sport really. Representing your country and getting to visit amazing places around the world, as well as getting to watch the very best athletes in your sport performing is a real privilege.
But it’s expensive and it’s very very tough to get funding in the UK.
I retired from the sport totally, including from coaching, nearly two years ago now. It was the right decision for me, but there are some small parts of it that I miss. Choreography being one of the biggest things. Creating a new routine or putting some new moves together was one of my most favourite things ever. And then seeing the athletes work on perfecting them and progressing was so rewarding.
Unfortunately, there’s not really a proper career to be had from baton twirling. There have been a few people who have gone on to use twirling in a career – for example you may see a twirler in a Cirque Du Soleil near you! But generally speaking it’s not something you can make money from. It’s not a “recognised” sport and isn’t in the Olympics yet (for various internal political reasons) so the opportunities are limited. For those that have made a career from it, I envy you!
I’m not sure I was ever really good enough to have made a proper career from it, either as a twirler myself or as a coach (despite my successes!) but I like to think I could have given it a go had the opportunity presented itself. Who wouldn’t like to travel the world and meet new people while getting to do the sport they love?!
I have no intention to get back in to twirling to the same level that I was before, but my passion for the sport definitely still exists and I love getting my baton out every now and then to have a little twirl and I love keeping up to date with international competitions. I think I’d quite like to do the odd one off training session here and there, or get involved in seminars and stuff. But when you’re not fully involved in a sport all the time it can be really difficult to be useful! Maybe one day 🙂
There are plenty of videos on YouTube that demonstrate the awesomeness of proper baton twirling, so if you’re ever a bit bored and feeling a bit curious you should check them out. You might be pleasantly surprised!
Until next time folks, much love!