Twirling has been around forever. Once upon a time, although It isn’t documented, somewhere a long time ago someone put something between their fingers and spun it around, tossed it in the air, and caught it; twirling was invented! Today, people twirl batons (some lighted and some with fire), spin knives, fire knives, rifles, flags, and maces (a type of club made of wood or metal). Some of these are not for the faint-hearted.
Originally, very few women were twirlers. WWII opened the way for females and they quickly outnumbered men in this sport. As men joined the military, women took their place and they remain the dominate gender in twirling today. In recent years, more males are discovering the physical power and skill needed to be a competitive twirler. They are returning to this demanding sport bringing their own style with them.
Twirling is a sport that is a combination of several other sports. Along with mastering twirling skills, twirlers must learn how to march and do basic gymnastic and dance moves. Just like all sport competitors, twirlers put in long hours learning and refining their skills. They have to look graceful while doing something that is physically demanding to their body. Like skaters have to keep moving on the ice, twirlers have to keep what they are twirling constantly moving. Gymnasts do cartwheels, backflips, splits, and illusions. Twirlers do these moves while keeping what they are twirling in motion. Skaters, gymnasts, and twirlers incorporate dance moves into their routines and have to be able to interpret music so the music and moves flow together. They make it look easy, but it isn’t.
When it’s time for the competition, parade, or other event, twirlers perform in glittering costumes, simple outfits consisting of shorts or long pants and a top, or something in-between. One constant is a continuous smile. Very few see the bruises, burns, cuts, blistered feet, and bleeding nails. Sore muscles are a norm and broken bones do happen. Like all athletes, the love of the sport makes enduring these things worthwhile.
The United States Twirling Association (USTA) and the National Baton Twirling Association (NBTA) sponsor twirling competitions. The World Baton Twirling Federation (WBTF) governs the sport on an International level. Competition categories include solo, pairs, and teams. Twirling is ahead of other sports as far as recognizing genders to be equal in sporting competition. Males and females compete separately in solo (one baton). In two and three baton events they compete against each other. Judges score competitors on difficulty, variety of tricks, technique, gracefulness, showmanship, and routine flow. Participating in competitions provides an opportunity to make lasting friendships with other twirlers from all over the world. An added bonus is the possibility for traveling is endless.
Colleges and universities recognize the value this sport has to their institute and offer twirling scholarships. The website TwirlMania.com provides a list of colleges and additional information on scholarships. The website also gives the names of twirling organizations in numerous countries.
Twirling is a physically demanding sport done in countries all over the world, yet it is not an Olympic sport. Many who love to watch twirling would like to see it as an Olympic event. Maybe it will be in the future.
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