The Competitive World of Baton Twirling

May 15, 2013 Updated May 15, 2013 at 8:02 AM EDT

By Hilary Lane

...
May 15, 2013 Updated May 15, 2013 at 8:02 AM EDT

BUFFALO, N.Y (WKBW) - You have seen dancing, juggling, and gymnastics. Now roll all three into one and you'll have baton twirling.

Baton twirling first began as a mostly a majorette-based activity over a hundred years ago. It has now emerged as a super competitive sport: showcasing agility, gracefulness, and hand eye coordination.

"They need to be in shape. They can't just practice, they need to train," said Kelli Russell, baton twirling coach located in Williamsville.

Russell is one of the most sought after baton coaches in the country. She was once a national champion and talent winner at the Miss America Competition in 1979 .

In the Russell family, baton twirling runs in the blood.

Kelli's oldest daughter, Chelsea, won her first international championship at the age of 9. She was also the University of Iowa's Golden Girl. The position is highly competitive and comes with a full 4 year scholarship to college.

Younger daughter, Bailee, is a regional winner.

"It's so much fun" said Bailee. "I really enjoy myself when I am performing."

However, both girls say the sport isn't always fun.

After all, it's not easy to spin around and catch a 20 inch metal stick under your leg or behind your back.

"There are some days when I feel like I can't do this anymore," said Bailee.

It takes long hours in the gym, some train as much as 7 days a week.

Another challenge for the Russell girls, having a mother who also doubles as a coach.

"When we are in the gym I am not there to compliment you, I am there to make you better," said Kelli.

In order to prepare for local, regional, and national competitions, Kelli holds practices for her students at the University of Buffalo gym several times a week.

One of the biggest reasons to practice, to prevent drops.

"Of course it is great not to drop but that is utopian and there are drops that happen," said Kelli.

The ultimate pay-off for all the hard work is pulling off the routine of your life in front of the judges, and then seeing your name on the championship wall right beside the number one spot.

To submit a comment on this article, your email address is required. We respect your privacy and your email will not be visible to others nor will it be added to any email lists.