This coming week is the school half term holidays across much of England and Wales. And this is a week that always holds a special place in my heart. That’s because for 26 years on the trot I spent the week in Torbay, Devon at the National Baton Twirling Association national championships.
The last two years however I’ve spent this particular week at home because two years ago, I gave up the thing I loved the most – twirling.
As this week was approaching this year, I realised that the past two years have gone by incredibly quickly. And it got me thinking about what I’ve been up to in that time. How did they pass so quickly? What have I achieved? And in particular, what did I do with myself after I gave it all up?
Well firstly, let’s go back a bit and let me explain why I gave it all up in the first place. Because if I loved it so much, why would I have given it all up? Seems like a stupid thing to do doesn’t it?
From when I very first started twirling at the age of 8, I was just in love with the sport. It was different to all the other sports that the other kids at school did and as time went on, I got to experience some wonderful things. Over the course of my career I was a multiple times national and European champion and a world champion (go me!).
As I got into coaching I fell in love with the sport even more. Not only do you understand the technical skills better, but for me choreographing routines was the thing I loved the most. That and seeing the progress of your students is one of the most rewarding things you could ever do. Seeing them fulfil and accomplish the dreams and goals they have set themselves along with your help and encouragement is one of the best things and I truly loved it!
So why then, I hear you ask, would you give up the thing you love the most??
The thing is, when you’ve devoted yourself to a sport (or anything really) for as long as I did and had as much success as I had, there does come a point where it consumes you so much that it’s hard to see the wood for the trees. Other than school, and work once I’d finished school, twirling was my whole life. When you want to be the best at something, you have to work hard for it. And as a team, that’s what we did. But that meant doing extra training where possible, whether that be on an evening or giving up free time at the weekends. Plus there was all the additional work you have to put in outside of the training hall. But that was ok, that was what I wanted to do.
As time went on though I started changing how I thought about twirling in general. There were multiple factors in my change of feelings towards it – how people treat you because you’re a coach, the resentment and jealousy of others because of your success (yes it happens!), always having to say the “right” thing (as perceived by others), the money you shell out for it, and most importantly the bureaucracy and political nature of how the various organisations are run. In the past I’d always managed to just brush it all off, but it started getting to me a hell of a lot. Perhaps that was because I was getting older and less tolerant, who knows!
But because of all of that, my feelings towards twirling started significantly changing. I started looking forward to having weekends off rather than looking forward to having extra training. I started wishing I didn’t have to go training 3 nights a week. I wanted to have time off. I didn’t want to answer the many texts or emails I was getting. Basically I was starting to resent the whole twirling world. My dislike for all of the above things was outweighing all the fabulous things I’d experienced and all the memories I had of a wonderful twirling career. And I always said to myself that if I ever started feeling like that, it was time to go.
So I made the really difficult decision that, at the tender age of 33, it was time to retire completely from the sport. I’d had a break a few years previously for about 15 months, but when I decided on taking that break, I knew deep down that I’d be back at some point. This time however, I knew deep down that I’d never be back. And that was what I wanted. It really was time to leave altogether. And I felt so free once I’d made the decision and told everyone which means it was definitely the right decision.
At the end of the national championships in 2015 I left the twirling world behind and I’ve never looked back! There are times that I miss it. But what I’ve come to realise is that what I miss is just the raw beauty of the sport of twirling. I still love watching the international competitions because I can still watch the best twirlers in the world and I can still appreciate what they’re doing, the skills they have and what they’re achieving. But I don’t miss anything else in the slightest.
So what do you do with yourself when you literally just stop the thing that you devoted your life to and loved? The answer to that is that it depends on the person. For me, doing nothing was a complete treat! Being able to come home from work and not have to think about anything twirling related was a complete novelty! And I so enjoyed it. After 12 months of not twirling that novelty hadn’t worn off. I’d managed to take time for myself and figure out what I wanted to do next. I booked holidays to amazing places, I did things that I wanted to do for myself, I had a completely different focus – making myself completely happy in the way that I wanted. Basically for the first time ever, life was all about me and not about others.
Do I still miss twirling now? Yes. And no. I still think the same as I did 12 months ago – I’ll always miss the sport of twirling, but I will never miss all the stuff that comes with it. So for that reason, giving up the thing I loved the most was the best thing I ever did.
Happy Sunday one and all! Much love! x