How 'Miss Congeniality' ruined it for baton twirlers

If you're a baton twirler, there's about a 99-percent chance you've been asked this at least once. You tell someone you twirl batons, and they say:

"Oh! Just like in 'Miss Congeniality!'"


You now want to vomit, since this marks the dozenth person you've come across who equates baton twirling to some beauty pageant where the woman does a few tricks in pigtails, acts like Barbie for the camera and then prances off the stage. The crowd cheers, acts like it saw her part water like Moses, and if she's really lucky, she gets a few whistles.

I'd just like to set the record straight--it's kind of more intense than that, and by a long run. (Or toss, I should say.)

My baton twirling career, as well as I'm sure many others' careers, was filled with some borderline concussions, baseball-sized bruises, pulled muscles, blisters and a lot of painful bobby pins. I risked getting electrocuted multiple times at various summer parades when it was storming. I stood on a track in front of my entire high school audience during football halftime shows in winter weather in my tiny, sparkly costume with my high school's letters plastered across my chest. During football season, I also gave up my arm air to my fire batons, which thank God, kept me warm during my performance in front of the band.

It was filled with sore muscles and bruised fingers and noises from two-baton practice leaving me with a bloody nose. During three-baton practice? It took a while for the swelling on my hands to go down. There were times I wished I could've removed my hamstrings from my body because of how sore they were from consistently doing the splits (or attempting) at practice.

The baton-twirling years in my life also came with near-death trips to University of Notre Dame for the national competition, where every year we survived our rounds of severe weather and tornado warnings down in the tunnels. We spent hours on the sidelines in the field house waiting to perform our routines competing against dozens of other girls for titles.

Oh, and the money. The costume I was wearing? It cost hundreds of dollars, not including fancying it up. Even the used ones cost an arm and a leg, not including shoes, hair accessories and competition fees. And the fake boobs? Yeah, I've tried to repress the memories of having to wear those to fill out my used costume when I was 12.

So next time you watch 'Miss Congeniality,' for the love of all baton twirlers, take it with a grain of salt. In reality, it's a little more badass than that. Sure, we're sparkly and dolled up, but inside, this sport is hardcore. How many other sports cause your arm hair to burn off?

Not many.


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