With new restrictions in place, the Airdrie Sky High Twirlers (ASHT) baton twirling club is offering try-it sessions this spring for local youth interested in giving the sport a shot.
According to ASHT’s head coach, Taelyr Patton, the sessions will run every Wednesday from April 14 to June 2, held from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the Daybreak Community Church. The eight-week program, which is catered to youth aged five and older, costs $120 per participant and the batons are supplied. Each session will have a limit of 10 athletes, as per provincial guidelines for youth sport.
Patton said the sessions will provide participants an introduction to baton twirling, and an opportunity to see if they'd like to continue with the sport.
“We do a little bit of dance, as well as baton, so it's not strictly baton,” she said. “It's just a starter program to see what it's all about, because not a lot of people know exactly what baton twirling is.”
While the Alberta government announced it would move back to Step 1 of its economic recovery plan on April 6 due to an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations, Patton said the club is still allowed to host the try-it sessions.
Like virtually every other sport, baton twirling has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Patton said Airdrie's local twirlers haven’t been able to compete in competitions since the club's members attended the World Baton Twirling Federation’s (WBTF) Pan Pacific Cup, hosted in Red Deer in January 2020.
However, the individual nature of baton twirling means ASHT has still been able to offer programming throughout the pandemic, according to Patton. During the first wave last spring, she said the club hosted virtual sessions over Zoom, though she admitted that presented the coaches and athletes unanticipated challenges.
“Baton is very hands-on, so a lot of our athletes found it too challenging to juggle Zoom and those changes in our training,” she said. “So, we've lost quite a few athletes because of that, which is difficult for our club but we're still trying to stay positive. We're back in person now in the gyms and the church, so that improved morale quite a bit.”
In a typical year, ASHT athletes compete at a variety of baton twirling competitions, with the season culminating every summer with the national championships.
Despite Airdrie’s relatively small population, the city tends to punch above its weight in the sport of baton twirling – both nationally and internationally. Local athletes consistently medal at national championships and the club frequently sends athletes to international competitions, whether it’s the biannual International Cup or the WBTF’s world championships.
With many travel, social and competitive opportunities available through baton down the road, Patton encourages Airdrie families to see if their kids are interested in trying out the sport.
“There are always those kids who are struggling to find their niche and what type of sport or after-school activity they want to get into,” she said. “It's just very unique, active and an overall positive sport. It's unique and also just a great way to get moving, but in a different way.”
In tandem with the upcoming try-it sessions, Patton said ASHT is trying to convince Alberta Health Services to allow the club to host an inter-club competition on April 25. The competition, titled the Tulip Twirl, would only feature athletes from ASHT.
“We've been working on that for a couple of months, trying to make sure we can do something safe and that the athletes can work toward, because a lot of their competitions and performances have been cancelled in the past year,” she said.
“We're trying to explain it's going to be very safe, very socially distanced, with only 10 athletes at a time. I'm really hoping we can hold that because they haven’t had the opportunity to compete or perform in quite a while.”
For more information on the upcoming try-it sessions, the Tulip Twirl or more on the club, visit skyhightwirlers.com