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Adult athletes demonstrate lifelong love, commitment to twirling( Thu, Jul 25 00:07:AM)

 
 
While most competitive twirlers retire around the time they graduate from college or begin a full-time career, a growing number of athletes continue to compete, and sometimes perform professionally, well into their adult years. Being an adult athlete requires not only a deep passion for the sport, but also an extraordinary level of discipline and dedication. USTA Coach and Master Judge Ginnette Groome has worked with a number of adult athletes.
“Watching athletes progress in our sport long-term and bring the maturity of their life experience into their performances, is one of the rewards of coaching adult athletes,” Groome said. “I have watched their goals shift from gaining a title, to experiencing the satisfaction of finally mastering certain skills. Challenged by injuries and increased responsibilities in their lives, they must focus on "quality, not quantity" when it comes to practices. Training becomes a personal priority as they continue to sacrifice other areas of their lives to reach that sense of completion in their competitive baton life.
“As a coach, I support a longer competitive career, as long as an athlete has the self-discipline and desire needed to train on a regular basis,” Groome explained. “Their goal may be to improve upon a particular event or a specific skill......or simply to maintain a level of physical endurance doing something they love.”

In this story from the Summer 2019 Catch It!, we introduce you to some remarkable athletes who continued competing and performing well into their adult years. Enjoy brief profiles here and read their full profiles below.
 
If you are an adult athlete who would like to share your story, please contact us at pr@ustwirling.com.
 
 

Emily Cooper
Ridgewood, New Jersey

“Twirling has helped me in so many ways. It has taught me time management, dedication, attention to detail, focus, social skills, to be the best you can be, to continue on when you make a mistake or have a setback, how to work with others (teamwork), how to prioritize my goals, respect for my work, for myself, and others, gratitude for all that I have and have accomplished, and so much more.”

 
Emily Cooper is currently an elementary Special Education teacher who works with students in third through sixth grade. She is pursuing a graduate degree in Special Education and Applied Behavior Analysis online through Arizona State University. Cooper began twirling at age nine and retired from competition at age 27, after achieving many goals and reaching many milestones later in her competitive career.

What has enabled/allowed you to keep twirling in your adult years?

     The thing that allowed me to keep twirling in my adult life was my dedication to the sport and my own self-improvement. When I was in college, I would wake up early to train in my school’s gym. When I began working, I planned out my day so that I could fit twirling practice in with my other responsibilities. I would practice whenever possible, whether it was just flips and rolls in my living room or full run-throughs. I learned to practice smarter, not harder to make the most of my time twirling, I would often do mental run-throughs of my routines too. I practiced outside and found gym space wherever I could- workout gyms, other team’s gyms, and indoor turf football fields, anywhere. I made twirling a priority in my life and in my schedule. I have had several jobs for many years that often kept me working from 8 a.m. to 6 or 7 p.m., but I made time for what I loved and had worked so hard for over the years.
     This may sound daunting but simply put, I made twirling a priority. I scheduled it just as you would schedule a job. I worked on focused skills every time I practiced and made the most of the time I had. No matter what level you twirl at, or how much you work, twirling as an adult is achievable, and can be so much fun!
 
 

Jenny Hannah
Hixson, Tennessee

“I believe and know that age is just a number. It does not impact your ability to learn and improve. I have never stopped twirling and continue to push to reach my highest level of ability and performance, working towards current and new goals.”

As one of the most accomplished baton twirlers in the world, Jenny Hannah is an icon in our sport. A 17-time Grand National Champion and many-time WBTF medalist, Hannah is known

for her exquisite technical proficiency as well as her longevity. She began twirling when she was six years old and is still competing – and setting new standards of excellence – today.

What are the highlights of your competitive twirling career (so far)?
     I have been very fortunate to have a lot of very special moments in my twirling career. I can narrow it down to three highlights:
•     The first is when I won my very first Senior Women’s bronze medal at the World Championships in 1996 (Senior Women’s bronze medalist: 1996, 1999, 2004, 2005, 2006). The World Championships were in Genoa, Italy and the arena had a very memorable “village” backdrop instead of a curtain. I twirled to the “Blue Danube Waltz” that season. My music choice was inspired by Kristi Yamaguchi skating to the Blue Danube at the 1992 Olympics.
•    My second highlight was winning my first USTA Grand National Championships in Strut and Dance Twirl in 1996 Oakland, Calif. I still remember what the arena looked like. It is a moment I will always remember.
•    My third and one of my most treasured memories is being part of the 2005 World Champion team, Syndication. I remember our finals performance moment by moment: the catches, the energy of the screaming crowd in St. Paul, Minn.; the moment ¾ of the way through that it hit me how well we were doing; the audience giving us a standing ovation when we came in the arena to sit down; and the moment that we held hands in the hallway with our eyes shut, listening to scores and found out that we won the gold! I will always remember sharing these moments with my teammates.
 
 

Emery Harriston
Alexandria, Virginia


“Whatever your sport, hobby or craft, continue to do it until you have reached all the goals you have set!”

Emery Harriston started twirling when he was about 13 years old and is still competing today. The sport has taken him from a junior high and high school twirler, to a collegiate twirler, to a national and international competitor. It also helped prepare him for a long and successful career on stage. Even though 

he has a “real job” as an IT specialist in the Office of Enforcement and Compliance at the Environmental Protection Agency, he has performed with three east coast dance companies, a classical ballet theater and the Washington National Opera!

What are your interests outside of twirling?
     My interests outside of twirling include gymnastics which I competed in in college. I was a 1983 Division II All-American on the Floor Exercise and a 1985 Division II All-American on Pommel Horse. I've maintained my gymnastics skills up by going to the gym and working out.       
     I also like dance and have danced with three different dance companies: Motion Mania in  Gaithersburg, MD; Tony Powell Modern Dance Company in Bethesda, MD and the Erika Thimey Dance & Theater Co. in Washington, D.C. In addition, I have performed with the Classical Ballet Theater Co. in Herndon, VA as an extra in “Cinderella,” “Sleeping Beauty” and “The Nutcracker.”
     Currently I enjoy performing with the Washington National Opera as a supernumerary. In April of 2010, one of my co-workers was aware of my baton twirling skills and told me that I should try out for the opera “Porgy and Bess” since they needed a twirler for the parade scene. I got the part and actually ended up doing 2-baton in the parade scene on stage. Since doing “Porgy and Bess” in 2010, I have performed in 18 operas!

 
 

Jennifer Marcus
Miami, Florida


“I was able to compete and perform into my adult years because I found the balance between training, taking care and listening to my body, and working towards my professional goals. I also continued to fall in love with our sport and would set new goals each year that were exciting to work towards and achieve.”

Known as “the winning-est athlete in the history of USTA,” Jennifer Marcus holds 42 Grand National Champion titles, 

more than any other athlete to date. She is also a many-time WBTF medalist. She started twirling at age three and competed until she was 31. Shortly after she retired from competition, (while she was on her honeymoon nonetheless!) she was offered a spot in Cirque du Soleil’s “Volta.” She spent the first two years of her marriage traveling throughout north America, sharing the sport of baton twirling with new audiences. She and her husband Jonathan are now the proud parents of infant daughter Zoe.

What did you love about twirling then? What do you love about it now?

     When I first started (from what I remember), I really loved learning new skills and working until I improved
and could achieve small goals my coach and I set. Now, while I still enjoy achieving goals, my passion is performing and promoting the sport to as many people as possible!

What other roles (coach, judge, performer) do you fill as a twirler? What is enjoyable/meaningful about each of those roles?
     I love coaching because I really enjoy finding and creating ways for the athletes to improve and succeed. Sometimes, one little tip clicks with the athlete and the look on their face when he or she accomplished something new is so rewarding!
     I also recently just finished performing with “Volta” by Cirque Du Soleil for the past two years and this experience was meaningful because it afforded me the opportunity to travel North America getting paid to do what I love and also to share our sport with thousands of people who may have never seen baton twirling!

 
 
Lou Willis
Hopkinsville, Kentucky


“I have always loved to practice.  I still would rather practice baton for fitness than do any other type of workout.”


Lou Willis started twirling when she was six years old and is still competing today. But her biggest contribution to the sport is not as a competitor, but rather as a coach. During the past 30-plus years, Willis has positively impacted the lives of hundreds of young athletes, many from families with limited resources.

As the owner and head coach of Lou’s Academy and Training Center (LATC), Willis has given many children opportunities to learn new skills, travel, have fun, and make lifelong friends and lasting memories.

What do you do for a living?
     I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education and Health K-12. I just completed six hours of master classes. I am a fulltime substitute teacher for pre-K through sixth grade. I also teach CPR, first aid and life guard training courses for the American Red Cross.
     I have enjoyed being the owner and head coach of Lou's Academy and Training Center (LATC) since 1985. I run a companion non-profit organization that helps support LATC athletes, as well as many worthwhile causes and community organizations, including Feed the Homeless, LATC 4 H Clever Clovers, housing expenses for those in need, nursing home and disaster relief packages and much more.
     I would like to thank all of people - including judges, coaches, athletes and many, many parents – who have donated costumes, equipment or helped LATC in any way. It takes a lot to support children who don’t have other support systems. At Lou’s Academy, we are helping one child at a time and I wouldn’t change a thing!

 
 
Richie Terwilliger
Fredericksburg, Virginia


“Twirling has enriched many aspects of my life. In many ways, the communities you meet and environments you practice and compete in form a sort of microcosm for the rest of the world around you. Baton has taught me the rewards and hardships of dedication, and what it means to be humble and have humility. I’ve gained a more global and culturally diverse perspective through travel and have made great friends from all over the world. On a more individual level - as a male
and adult in a female and youth majority sport - I have learned how to be comfortable as a minority; embracing differences and challenging the status-quo.”
 
Richie Terwilliger is a Mechanical Engineer for the U.S. Navy’s Chemical, Biological, and Radiological (CBR) Defense Division, developing technologies that protect our warfighters against Weapons of Mass Destruction. He’s also a pilot and an avid adventurer. He and his sister, Krissy, have begun sharing the sport of baton twirling with a broader audience, performing with fire and lighted batons at unique venues, including community and charity events and electronic dance music festivals, some of which attract 60,000+ fans!

Making a case for adult athletes
     It is my hope that we begin to see more athletes compete well into their adult years. I find it a little sad that the status-quo has been to stop before one reaches their peak as an athlete and performer. There are many good reasons to step away from being an athlete, but age alone is not one them. Take any other professional sport – figure skating, basketball, skiing - athletes are encouraged to compete until they peak, regardless of age.
     Energizing and encouraging young athletes lays the foundation for any sport. However, it is equally important that we increase the number of adults that compete, as this is a critical step towards improving our country’s world standings at future World Championships, as is it essential to gaining the recognition necessary from the world’s athletic organizations to shepherd the sport into professional, international venues, such as the Olympics.

     Labeling baton as solely a “youth” sport is a fallacy that limits our ability to grow as a community. Performing, I have had the opportunity to meet so many wonder people of different ages and cultures who are drawn to the art of baton. Sadly, I have seen many teens and adults feel discouraged from competing because of their age or gender. Strip away archaic stereotypes and preconceived ideologies, and what you are left with is an activity that anyone and everyone can enjoy.
     Passion and personal goals are part of what has driven me to compete into my adult years. But I have also stuck around because I believe we need pioneers willing to break the status-quo. I hope that by competing as an adult male, I can do a small part in encouraging others – regardless of age or gender – to feel comfortable to enjoy the sport and art that has given me so much.
 
 
 
 
 
Emily M. Cooper
Ridgewood, New Jersey

1. How did you get involved in twirling? How old were you when you started twirling?

   I first discovered baton twirling when I was nine years old. My mother signed me up for a YMCA summer baton twirling camp in my town run by my first coach, Patti Wojtowicz.

2. What did you love about twirling then? What do you love about it now?
   When I began twirling, I was lucky enough to join a team of hardworking girls with a wonderful supportive coach who pushed me to be my best and always made sure to highlight the positive over the negative.
   Now there are many reasons I love twirling. First, it meant so much to me to be able to twirl into my late 20s. There were so many things I wanted to be able to do with my twirling and extending my career allowed me to do that, as well as, making it possible for me to compete at the Elite level internationally. Currently, I also really enjoy being a coach and a judge, still part of twirling as it continues to progress technically and becomes more popular throughout the world. I encourage everyone to continue the sport that we love well past college – it is something that will fill your life with pleasure as you improve your skills and continue the friendships of the twirling family. This sport has given me so much over the years and I am so proud to say I a
m a part of this community.

3. What are the top two highlights of your competitive twirling career?
•   2008 – Winning my first International Cup Medal in Level B 3-Baton. (Of course, all my International Cup wins were special – but this was the first time that I fell in love with 3-Baton!)
•   2013 - Winning Senior AAA PreTrials at Nationals after five years in the category working hard on my compulsories and technique.


4. Did you twirl in college? If so, where and when? What were the highlights of your college twirling career?
   I twirled at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania from 2008-2012. While I did perform at many events during my college twirling career, the top two highlights were not events. The first highlight was being part of the band family which provided me with a group of lifelong friends. (I recently had the honor of becoming a godparent to my college color guard friend’s beautiful son Jackson.). The second is that it allowed me to connect with people all over campus, in the community, and with other college twirlers. It gave me an identity at college and the opportunity to share and promote the sport I love with others.

5. What other roles (coach, judge, performer) do you fill as a twirler? What is enjoyable/meaningful about each of those roles?
•   Coach – Seeing athletes progress, being creative in routine development, being able to have a positive
impact on others by sharing my experiences and knowledge, working with other professionals, seeing the joy on an athlete and parent’s face when they catch a new trick or do well in a performance.
•   Judge- Understanding the sport and the scoring system more completely, learning from and working with experienced professionals, traveling, being part of the judging community, and most of all, finally being able to talk to and get to know  judges from around the world after twirling in front of them for so many years! They are amazing and supportive people!
•   Performer – I love sharing and promoting our sport and have had the opportunity to perform in some interesting places: luaus, parades, with the Harlem Globe Trotters, on a Celebrity Cruise Lines ship, in Alaska, live performance and television, local TV, and in Time Square on the jumbotron.

6. What do you think has enabled/allowed you to keep twirling in your adult years?
   As an adult, I was very focused not only on improving my own twirling but on improving the sport and moving it forward. My amazing coach, Ginnette Groome was always pushing the envelope with her combinations in 2- and 3-Baton (and in other events too!) This inspired me to work very hard to show her creations to the best of my ability. Even though initially I often thought they were impossible, they always worked!
  The thing that allowed me to keep twirling in my adult life was my dedication to the sport and my own self improvement. When I was in college, I would wake up early to train in my school’s gym. When I began working, I planned out my day so that I could fit twirling practice in with my other responsibilities. I would practice whenever possible, whether it was just flips and rolls in my living room or full run-throughs. I learned to practice smarter, not harder to make the most of my time twirling, I would often do mental run-throughs of my routines too. I practiced outside and found gym space wherever I could- workout gyms, other team’s gyms, and indoor turf football fields, anywhere. I made twirling a priority in my life and in my schedule. I have had several jobs for many years that often kept me working from 8 a.m. to 6 or 7 p.m. but I made time for what I loved and had worked so hard for over the years.
   This may sound daunting but simply put, I made twirling a priority. I scheduled it just as you would schedule a job. I worked on focused skills every time I practiced and made the most of the time I had. No matter what level you twirl at, or how much you work, twirling as an adult is achievable, and can be so much fun!

7. What are the three most memorable moments of your twirling career to date?

•   Winning the Northeast Regional 3-Baton Championship in 2016 after recovering (working back) from an extensive shoulder surgery in December of 2015. Mind over matter!
•   Completing my competitive twirling career at the 2017 International Cup Competition knowing that I had done everything I wanted to do as an athlete and was ready to take the next steps in my twirling career.
•   Judging my first competition in New York last year.

8. What do you do for a living? What are your interests outside of twirling? How has twirling helped you in other aspects of your life?
   I am an elementary Special Education teacher in Midland Park, NJ and teach grades 3-6. I am also currently pursuing a graduate degree in Special Education and Applied Behavior Analysis online through Arizona State University. Working full time and pursuing my graduate degree makes sleeping my most preferred activity at the moment - haha. I do enjoy spending time with friends and my brand new godson Jack, coaching and becoming a more proficient judge. 
   Twirling has helped me in so many ways. It has taught me time management, dedication, attention to detail, focus, social skills, to be the best you can be, to continue on when you make a mistake or have a setback, how to work with others (teamwork), how to prioritize my goals, respect for my work, for myself, and others, gratitude for all that I have and have accomplished, and so much more.
 
9. What else would you like to add?

   Throughout my twirling career, I have had many injuries. I now know that these injuries were caused by a genetic condition that puts me at a high risk of joint dislocations and instability. I believe the injuries I sustained have made me a stronger person and a better athlete, coach, and judge. They were part of the driving force that kept me pushing for more, kept me focused and dedicated to my training. My injuries have also allowed me to see the generosity and compassion of the baton twirling community and have shown me that with hard work, dedication, and a supportive community, anything is possible.
   My twirling career has shaped my life. It has provided me with mentors such as my first coach, the wonderful Patti Wojtowitcz and my coach, mentor, and second mom, Ginnette Groome. My career as an athlete, coach, and judge has been remarkable, but, the family and friends I have found in this sport have made me the woman I am today.  So, thank you twirling community for your endless support! Of course, the most important and special thank you goes to my mother who has supported me every step of the way. Thanks, Mom!!

 
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Jenny Hannah
Hixson, Tennessee


1. How did you get involved in twirling? How old were you when you started twirling?

   When I was in kindergarten (age 6), I started taking a gymnastics class at the YMCA. One day I saw a girl having a private twirling lesson across the gym. I watched the girl working on a high toss side aerial while my class had its turn on the bars. I thought twirling was another event in gymnastics and wondered why my class never got to rotate to that event. I came home and told my mom that I really wanted to do that too. I started twirling soon afterward. I competed in both twirling and competitive gymnastics until I was in the ninth grade. I stopped competitive gymnastics the year that I began competing in the U.S. Trials.

2. What did you love about twirling then? What do you love about twirling now?

   As a little girl my favorite thing was learning toss tricks.  I loved to leap, walkover and fly across the floor.
   I love everything about twirling! Flying across the floor full court with a bodywork toss trick is still one of my very favorite things to do! (I love a good corner to corner full court run in freestyle, strut and artistic twirl.) I feel like I am flying!
   I also enjoy the constant challenge twirling provides. There is always something to learn, work on and make
more effortless. For me one of the greatest feelings of satisfaction is completing a clean roll section in freestyle.
   I love that twirling is an artistic sport and combines technical expertise with artistic performance.

3. What are the top two highlights of your competitive twirling career (so far)?

•   I have been very fortunate to have a lot of very special moments in my twirling career. I can narrow it down to three highlights. The first is when I won my very first Senior Women’s bronze medal at the World Championships in 1996 (Senior Women’s bronze medalist: 1996, 1999, 2004, 2005, 2006). The World Championships was in Genoa, Italy and the arena had a very memorable “village” backdrop (instead of a curtain-see picture). I twirled to the “Blue Danube Waltz” that season. My music choice was inspired by Kristi Yamaguchi skating to the Blue Danube at the 1992 Olympics.
•   My second highlight was winning my first USTA Grand National Championships in Strut and Dancetwirl in Oakland, CA in 1996. I still remember what the arena looked like. It is a moment I will always remember.
•   My third and one of my most treasured memories is being part of the 2005 World Champion team, Syndication. I remember our finals performance moment by moment: the catches, the energy of the screaming crowd in St Paul, MN; the moment ¾ of the way through that it hit me how well we were doing; the audience giving us a standing ovation when we came in the arena to sit down; and the moment that we held hands in the hallway with out eyes shut, listening to scores and found out that we won the gold! I will always remember sharing these moments with my teammates.

4. Did you twirl in college? If so, where and when? What were the highlights of your college twirling career?

   As an undergraduate at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, I performed my freestyle at 6-8 basketball games a season. When I started graduate school, the UTC band director at the time asked me if I would help him restart the twirling program at UTC. I twirled myself for a couple of seasons in graduate school and officially started the process of rebuilding the twirling program when I graduated in 2005. My goal for the twirlers was to show a high level of twirling skill on the field with enjoyable performances. I am very proud of my girls and the part they are today of the Marching Mocs!

5. What other roles (coach, judge, performer) do you fill as a twirler? What is enjoyable/meaningful about each of those roles?

   I enjoy coaching twirlers of all ages and abilities. I coach the twirlers at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, teach private lessons and teach locally with United Twirling in Chattanooga. I enjoy helping twirlers work towards their goals. I particularly enjoy helping athletes improve their self confidence and develop skills in goal setting and perseverance that will help them reach goals in life as well as in our sport.

6. What do you think has enabled/allowed you to keep twirling in your adult years?

   First, I believe and know that age is just a number. It does not impact your ability to learn and improve. I have never stopped twirling and continue to push to reach my highest level of ability and performance, working towards current and new goals.
   Secondly, I am very fortunate to work in close proximity to the Recreation Center at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. As an adjunct instructor, I am able to train before and after teaching classes. I am thankful that my teaching in the UTC Recreation Department (Pilates and ballet instructor) gives me a membership to the UTC Aquatic and Recreation Center and the use of the beautiful gym.

7. What are the three most memorable moments of your twirling career to date?

   Another memorable moment for me is overcoming challenges to win the 2017 Grand National Strut Championship in Madison, Wisconsin.
   My advice to twirlers is to keep focusing on the positive and believe in yourself.

8. What do you do for a living? What are your interests outside of twirling? How has twirling helped you in other aspects of your life?
   I have a B.S. degree in Biology and a M.Ed. in Health and Physical Education from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. I teach as an adjunct instructor in the Health and Human Performance department at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga where I teach courses in Personal Health, Concepts in Wellness and Fitness walking. I also work in the UTC Campus Recreation department where I teach group fitness classes in Pilates and ballet. In addition, I coach the UTC Majorettes, teach private twirling lessons and teach with United Twirling in Chattanooga. I am a ballet instructor at the Chattanooga Dance Theatre and teach preschool ballet classes. I also work part time as an office assistant in the optometrist office of Dr. Erin McCallen.
   Outside of twirling I enjoy ballet and fitness training.
   Twirling has helped me to learn to set goals, stay organized and persevere in working towards my goals.

9. How do you manage to fit training into your busy work life?

   I work to stay very organized with my schedule. I am fortunate that my work at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is often in the Recreation Center, and I am able to train before or after teaching.

10. Anything you would like to add?
   Thank you for including me in this article. I hope that hearing from adult athletes encourages others to continue to work for their competitive goals at any age!
 
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Emery Harriston
Alexandria, Virginia

1. How did you get involved in twirling? How old were you when you started twirling?

    I was about 13 when I got started in twirling.  I was in the seventh grade and when the majorettes practiced I would play around with their batons and they would say that I seemed to be a natural at twirling.  When I was going into the eighth grade in junior high school, I wanted to try out for drum major, but by band vote I was picked to be the boy twirler.  I started taking baton lessons from a high school majorette and then when I went to high school I took from an NBTA coach from Ohio named Judy Riggs.  In junior high school, I placed second in the band festival competition.  In high school I placed first.

2. What did you love about twirling then? What do you love about it now?

   When I started twirling I loved being able to do novelty tricks and experience the thrill of catching them. Now, I love the challenge of multiple baton, trying to coordinate baton and body with the selected music and telling a story with freestyle.

3. What are the top two highlights of your competitive twirling career?

• 1991 - My first World Championships and first time out of the country!
• 1994  - when I almost did a no-drop freestyle at Worlds and caught my trick at the end of my routine which was a cartwheel into a front flip.

4. Did you twirl in college? Yes If so, where and when? What were the highlights of your college twirling career? 

   I was the feature twirler at the University of Maryland from 1988 to 1991, and a guest twirler there from 1992 to 2005. Highlights included performing at the Orange Bowl in 2001 when Maryland won the ACC, and performing at the Peach Bowl in 2002 and the Gator Bowl in 2003.

5. What other roles (coach, judge, performer) do you fill as a twirler? What is enjoyable/meaningful about each of those roles?
    I haven't really judged yet.  I have coached and performed. As a coach, I've helped both male and female twirlers build some foundational skills and sparked their interest in continuing on with the sport. As a performer, I have used twirling in parades, community performances, in several dance groups, and in several operas at the Kennedy Center. I enjoy sharing my baton skills with the public!

6. What do you think has enabled/allowed you to keep twirling in your adult years? 

    My love for the sport and keeping in shape.

7. What are the three most memorable moments of your twirling career to date? 

• My first World Championships in 1991 in Padova, Italy. 
• Being called a legend by the Japanese twirlers Seishi and Chiharu at the International Cup in 2015 in Abbotsford, Canada. 
• Placing second out of four in Adult Men's Artistic Twirl at the 2017 International Cup in Porec, Croatia.

8. What do you do for a living?
   I am an IT specialist in the Office of Enforcement and Compliance at the Environmental Protection Agency. 

9. What are your interests outside of twirling?

   My interests outside of twirling include gymnastics which I competed in in college. I was a 1983 Division II All-American on the Floor Exercise and a 1985 Division II All-American on Pommel Horse. I've maintained my gymnastics skills up by going to the gym and working out.       
   I also like dance and have danced with three different dance companies: Motion Mania in  Gaithersburg, MD; Tony Powell Modern Dance Company in Bethesda, MD and the Erika Thimey Dance & Theater Co. in Washington, D.C.
In addition, I have performed with the Classical Ballet Theater Co. in Herndon, VA as an extra in:
“Cinderella,” “Sleeping Beauty” and “The Nutcracker.”
   Currently I enjoy performing with the Washington National Opera as a supernumerary. In the past nine years I have performed in 18 operas. In April of 2010, one of my co-workers was aware of my baton twirling skills and told me that I should try out for the opera “Porgy and Bess” since they needed a twirler for the parade scene. I got the part and actually ended up doing 2-baton in the parade scene on stage. Since doing “Porgy and Bess” in 2010, I have performed in the following operas:

 
•  “Iphigenie” (on stage with Placido Domingo), 2011
•  “Tosca,” 2011
•  “Lucia di Lammermoor,” 2011
•  ”Werther,” 2012
•  “Force of Destiny,” 2013
•  “Magic Flute,” 2014
•  “La Boheme,” 2014
•  “Dialogue of the Carmelites,” 2015
•  “The Flying Dutchman,” 2015
•  “Carmen,” 2015

•  “Appomattox,” 2015
•  “The Marriage of Figaro,” 2016
•  ”The Daughter of the Regiment,” 2016
•  ”Don Carlos,” 2018
•  “La Traviata,” 2018
•  “Eugene Onegin,” 2019
•  “Faust,” 2019
 
I have also performed and sung with the Latino opera company Teatro Lirico and was in the opera "La Rosa" in September 2015.

10. How has twirling helped you in other aspects of your life? 
   Twirling has helped me to focus in times of stress (like in competition). It keeps me in shape physically
and helps me to understand how to perform on stage at the operas. 
    With twirling, you can set different goals such as mastering certain aerial tricks, rolls or contact material. I think the way you set your goal can be applied to other aspects of your life.

9. What else would you like to add?
   I usually train after work outside or at a local recreation / community center for one to two hours. I have to focus on shorter sessions as my time is limited.
   I would like to Thank USTA for being so flexible in allowing older athletes the chance to still compete. The inspiration they give to twirlers to stay in competition until they feel complete in their goals. Whatever your sport, hobby or craft, continue to do it until you have reached all the goals you have set!
 
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Jennifer Marcus
Miami, Florida

1. How did you get involved in twirling? How old were you when you started twirling?

   I began twirling when I was 3 years old at a recreational baton class offered at my school. My sister was part of the class already and I wanted to twirl just like her.

2. What did you love about twirling then? What do you love about it now?

   When I first started (from what I remember), I really loved learning new skills and working until I improved and could achieve small goals my coach and I set. Now, while I still enjoy achieving goals, my passion is performing and promoting the sport to as many people as possible!

3. What are the top two highlights of your competitive twirling career?

   Winning the 2002 World Baton Twirling Championships with my team, Encore, and becoming the first USA team to win gold in 10 years! We then won back to back years in 2003 as well! My other highlight was achieving straight 10s in 3-Baton at the 2014 U.S. National Championships!

 
4. Did you twirl in college? If so, where and when? What were the highlights of your college twirling career?
   Yes, I was the feature twirler at Florida State University. I loved performing in front of 80,000 fans each weekend.

5. What other roles (coach, judge, performer) do you fill as a twirler? What is enjoyable/meaningful about each of those roles?

   I love coaching because I really enjoy finding and creating ways for the athletes to improve and succeed. Sometimes, one little tip clicks with the athlete and the look on their face when he or she accomplished something new is so rewarding!
   I also recently just finished performing with Volta by Cirque Du Soleil for the past two years and this experience was meaningful because it afforded me the opportunity to travel North America getting paid to do what I love and also to share our sport with thousands of people who may have never seen baton twirling!

6. What do you think has enabled/allowed you to keep twirling in your adult years?

   I was able to compete and perform into my adult years because I found the balance between training, taking care and listening to my body, and working towards my professional goals. I also continued to fall in love with our sport and would set new goals each year that were exciting to work towards and achieve.

7. What do you do for a living? What are your interests outside of twirling? How has twirling helped you in other aspects of your life?
   I just recently gave birth to our beautiful baby girl and am focusing on creating a balanced and happy life for my husband, daughter and me! I would love to continue teaching twirling and get back in shape so that I can perform again one day soon!
 
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Lou Willis
Hopkinsville, Kentucky

1. How did you get involved in twirling? How old were you when you started twirling?

   I started dance at age six, baton at age seven and acrobatics at age eight. My mother, Patsy Willis, started me with Jane Wall School of Dance, where Mrs. Wall also taught baton and coached a group called the Wall-ettes. I twirled with the Wall-ettes until I left for college. In 1983, I started taking lessons from Dale White and enjoyed about 12 years of training with Dale. Once a month, for all those years, I drove five hours, had a two-hour lesson then drove back home. Most normal people thought I was crazy.

2. What did you love about twirling then? What do you love about it now?

   I have always loved to practice. I still would rather practice baton for fitness than do any other type of workout.

3. Did you twirl in college? If so, where and when? What were the highlights of your college twirling career?
   I twirled with the Wall-ettes until I went to college at Austin Peay State University on a football manager full-ride scholarship. I performed at one football game and several basketball games every year.

4. What other roles (coach, judge, performer) do you fill as a twirler? What is enjoyable/meaningful about each of those roles?

   I still love to perform, compete and coach baton the most.

5. What has enabled/allowed you to keep twirling in your adult years?
   My parents have always supported my baton twirling career and I’ve continued to set and achieve new goals. For example, I always wanted to have another coach choreograph my senior team. Lori Perkins did a wonderful job with a Christian piece "I'll Fly Away." I also always wanted to twirl with another group to push me. Not too long ago, Liane Aramaki invited me to join the Legends team and I enjoyed every sweaty, aching minute! I thank those who have pushed me to become better no matter what my age. 

6. What are the most memorable moments of your twirling career to date?
•    Every time I get to perform at an international event and the announcer says " Lou Willis for USA"
•    2009 International Cup 3-Baton bronze medal
•    1987 National Strut award

7. What do you do for a living?
   I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education and Health K-12. I just completed six hours of master classes. I am a fulltime substitute teacher for pre-K through sixth grade. I also teach CPR, first aid and life guard training courses for the American Red Cross.
   I have enjoyed being the owner and head coach of Lou's Academy and Training Center (LATC) since 1985. I run a companion non-profit organization that helps support LATC athletes, as well as many worthwhile causes and community organizations, including Feed the Homeless, LATC 4 H Clever Clovers, housing expenses for those in need, nursing home and disaster relief packages and much more.
   I would like to thank all of people - including judges, coaches, athletes and many, many parents – who have donated costumes, equipment or helped LATC in any way. It takes a lot to support children who don’t have other support systems. At Lou’s Academy, we are helping one child at a time and I wouldn’t change a thing!

8. What else would you like to add?

   I enjoy being a USTA Coach and Level III Judge, and participating in USTA in many other ways, including helping with Southeast Regionals, serving as president of the Kentucky council, helping reorganize the Tennessee council, serving as national awards chairman and more.
   Baton twirling has allowed me to travel and make lifelong friends, including Jenny and Sadie Hannah, Liane Aramaki and Brad and many more. They have helped my mom and I through some difficult times this past year. I will always be grateful to them. 

 
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Richie Terwilliger
Fredericksburg, Virginia

1. How did you get involved in twirling? How old were you when you started twirling?

   There was never a definitive time I can point to as my ‘start’, rather my involvement with baton grew slowly throughout my mid-teens.
   Martial Arts had always played a steady role in our childhood growing up. During weapons training, I was always fascinated by my sister’s ability to weave neat little flips and tricks into our sequences. I instantaneously likened Krissy’s skills from baton to the flashy weapon-manipulation
stunts one would see in an action thriller – superhero fight scenes, lightsaber duels, etc. It was just cool. 
   This sparked my inspiration to fool around with the little metal stick on the sidelines of Krissy’s practices and competitions, until one year, her beginner community team - the New Horizons - needed another member in order to be eligible to compete at the AAU Junior Olympics. It wasn’t long until the kid playing around over in the corner got drafted. For the next few years, I was what we termed a “seasonal twirler”, practicing and competing only in the summers when it did not conflict with cross-country, swimming, and martial arts. It was not until part way through high school that I became serious about the sport, and began training on a regular basis.

2. What did you love about twirling then? What do you love about it now?
   Baton offers something unique and wholesome that I had not found in other sports and activities. It is a beautiful conglomeration of athletic drive, technical skillset, and creativity – allowing the athlete to push themselves physically, mentally, and artistically all at the same time.
   It is also very dynamic and ever-evolving.  There are an infinite number of possible tricks and combinations – which lends itself to innovation and personal style.


3. What are the top two highlights of your competitive twirling career?

• At the 2017 International Cup Championships in Porec, Croatia, my sister and I placed fifth in Adult Elite Artistic Twirl Pairs. This was an especially stand-out moment since we were the only non-Japanese pair to place in the top seven.
• At the 2016 World Championships held in Helsingborg, Sweden, I performed my freestyle to Queen’s legendary song “Don’t Stop Me Now.” My prelims performance went very well – qualifying me for the Senior Men’s Semifinals. But what really made this routine special, was the lasting ripples it would create. After competing, teammates shared that my song was perhaps one of the only performances that got all the countries to cheer united, together as one. It also became the pump-up song for the U.S. Team before entering the floor for competition, and the music was used in a few clinics following the World Championships. Even years later, friends still reach out to tell me how they heard it on TV or playing on the radio. The message of the song was simple – have a good time. And regardless of the awards or accolades I achieve; I think perhaps the greatest reward is to have performed a routine that has a lasting impact and brought joy to so many people. Afterall, that is the root of why we do baton, right? To have fun. 

4. Did you twirl for your college? If so, where and when? What were the highlights of your college twirling career?
   No, I did not twirl for my college. I am a proud Lehigh University alumnus, graduating in 2014 with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and a Minor in Aerospace Engineering.

5. What other roles (e.g. coach, judge, performer) do you fill as a twirler? What is enjoyable/meaningful about each of those roles?
   Recently, my sister and I have begun to branch out and perform fire and light baton at several unique venues, including charity events, electronic dance music festivals, and local community events. Performing at these events provides an amazing opportunity to share tricks and tips with other performers, which also creates an atmosphere that cultivates creative out-of-the-box thinking. Not to mention it is a scene where you can bond over your passions and form some great friendships. Performing at any one of these venues also gives you the opportunity to share baton and object manipulation with large groups of people, and in many cases excites and inspires others to come and give it a try. Whether it be fire spinning, light spinning, or baton twirling, I have found spinning things creates awe and joy for people of all cultures and all ages. Performing outside the competitive realm is a chance to gift some awe and joy whether it be performing for an individual, or a stadium of 60,000.
   In recent years, I have also had some opportunities to work as a baton clinician and instructor. Instructing is a great medium for sharing ideas and spreading what gave you enjoyment with the next generation of competitors or enthusiasts. 

6. What do you think has enabled/allowed you to keep twirling in your adult years?
   Simple. It’s the love for what you do, and the drive to achieve the goals you set. All competitive athletes can remember the feeling when they first were inspired to dedicated themselves to their sport, their new-found passion. It was exciting, energizing, and fun. For me, it’s all about keeping that excitement alive. Stay inspired. You need to want to go to practice, want to wake up at some ridiculous hour and train before a full day at work.
   Often, I may practice to specific music, watch other athletes for inspiration, or play around with new tricks to keep things fresh and exciting.

7. How do you manage to fit training into your busy work life? 
   Like with all things, it’s a trade-off. Efficient time management and efficient use of practice time is a must work-life-training balance. But just like going to the gym, it becomes easier if you hold yourself to a routine. You also need to be flexible to practice where time allows. Pro-tip: always keep some batons in your trunk; (1) for self-defense (just kidding … kinda), and (2) so you can practice whenever the opportunity presents itself.
   Along with time management, you need to be resolved with the fact that sometimes life will get in the way. Whether it be work-related, family-related, or trying to figure out what to do with a stray dog you found in the middle of an intersection on the outskirts of Richmond, VA-related, sometimes life happens and you won’t get to practice.
   I have found that the hardest part of dedicating yourself to a sport as an adult is that it’s a choice that often means missing out on other opportunities. Finding the right balance between training, work, time with friends, and other activities is something that is different for each athlete.

8. What are the three most memorable moments of your twirling career to date?
• In 2017, I had the incredible experience of performing fire baton with my sister in front of an estimated 60,000 people on mainstage at the Paradiso electronic dance music festival. On stage was just the two of us and the music artist. It was an exhilarating experience where pure adrenaline takes over and you just go for the ride.
• Drops can be humiliating. However, some drops are worse than others. At the 2013 International Cup held in Almere, Netherlands I was performing artistic twirl pairs with my sister Krissy. There is an exchange in the middle of the routine where I throw an oblique toss to my sister on the opposite corner of the floor. Upon leaving my hand, the baton bumped my thumb, launching it directly towards the center of the judge’s table. It was in that moment, that I knew I done messed up. The baton ended up hitting three to four judges before being caught firmly by the end judge from Japan. The fallout and crowd reaction was both intense and humiliating – although ironically, the rest of our routine went very well. I think it’s important to know that athletes can move on from bad moments, and after apologies are had and embarrassment dissolves, we can look back on those moments as learning experiences.
• In 2014, I was preparing to represent the Senior Men in the 2014 Baton Twirling World Championships held in Nottingham, England. At Team USA official warm-ups just two days before the onset of the championship, I had slipped and dislocated my right knee, resulting in a lateral subluxation of the right patella. With incredible support from my coach(s), teammates, and family, I managed to rehabilitate myself enough to compete, and placed 13th overall. Through this incident I learned a lot about my own determination, and the importance of preparing yourself as much mentally as physically.

9. What do you do for a living? What are your interests outside of twirling?

   I am currently working as a Mechanical Engineer for the U.S. Navy’s Chemical, Biological, and Radiological (CBR) Defense Division, developing technologies that protect our warfighters against Weapons of Mass Destruction.
    Outside of baton, I am an avid adventurer - exploring, kayaking, flying airplanes, scuba diving, and traveling whenever I have the opportunity. I also enjoy swing dancing, ultimate frisbee, discussing theoretical astrophysics, and spending time with friends and family.

10. How has twirling helped you in other aspects of your life?

   Twirling has enriched many aspects of my life. In many ways, the communities you meet and environments you practice and compete in form a sort of microcosm for the rest of the world around you. Baton has taught me the rewards and hardships of dedication, and what it means to be humble and have humility. I’ve gained a more global and culturally diverse perspective through travel and have made great friends from all over the world. On a more individual level - as a male and adult in a female and youth majority sport - I have learned how to be comfortable as a minority; embracing differences and challenging the status-quo.

11. What else would you like to add?
   It is my hope that we begin to see more athletes compete well into their adult years. I find it a little sad that the status-quo has been to stop before one reaches their peak as an athlete and performer. There are many good reasons to step away from being an athlete, but age alone is not one them. Take any other professional sport – figure skating, basketball, skiing - athletes are encouraged to compete until they peak, regardless of age.
   Energizing and encouraging young athletes lays the foundation for any sport. However, it is equally important that we increase the number of adults that compete, as this is a critical step towards improving our country’s world standings at future World Championships, as is it essential to gaining the recognition necessary from the world’s athletic organizations to shepherd the sport into professional, international venues, such as the Olympics.
    Labeling baton as solely a “youth” sport is a fallacy that limits our ability to grow as a community. Performing, I have had the opportunity to meet so many wonder people of different ages and cultures who are drawn to the art of baton. Sadly, I have seen many teens and adults feel discouraged from competing because of their age or gender. Strip away archaic stereotypes and preconceived ideologies, and what you are left with is an activity that anyone and everyone can enjoy.
   Passion and personal goals are part of what has driven me to compete into my adult years. But I have also stuck around because I believe we need pioneers willing to break the status-quo. I hope that by competing as an adult male, I can do a small part in encouraging others – regardless of age or gender – to feel comfortable to enjoy the sport and art that has given me so much.
 
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