Back in September, there was a segment of the Today Show where Hoda and Kathie Lee mocked a baton twirler competing in Miss America. According to them, baton twirling was a silly hobby to take on, and a laughable talent – could you even make a career of it?
Naturally, their comments infuriated the baton twirling community. And after receiving a ton of messages from twirlers across the country, they did an “apology” segment the very next day. They brought in a former competitive twirler who now coaches for a living and once toured with a musical as its twirler-in-residence. They had her do a few tricks, and conceded that perhaps it’s harder than it looks. Then they threw in a few more jabs at the sport, and moved on.
I’ll admit I’m biased on the topic of twirling, as I competed in baton myself from age 4 all the way up until I left for college. But really, the actual hobby at hand here interests me less than the overall message Kathie Lee and Hoda are sending about the activities we choose to pursue. Why do hobbies have to make you money? Can we only pursue interests that lead to a career? From the outside in, baton twirling may not seem to impact my job – it’s not like my clients request baton performances as part of our presentations on brand strategy. But from the inside out, I know the impact is there, and it’s huge. Twirling gave me confidence, and made me brave enough to get out in front of a packed stadium, all by myself, and perform. It taught me commitment – even in elementary school, I used to practice every single day. And think about it: in baton, you literally have to pick up and keep going if you drop the baton. How much more clear could that perseverance symbolism be? The only other choice is to admit defeat and run away. Who wants that?
Baton twirling may not directly lead to a lucrative career, and there may not be very many baton celebrities out there, but it can certainly build your life skills. Just like so many other hobbies, from soccer to painting. I know very few childhood friends who became professional athletes despite spending hours on the field – why isn’t anyone questioning their choice of hobby? Should they have been inside instead, practicing for the Bar exam at age 9? And it’s not like every singer competing on Miss America becomes a celebrity, either. Hobbies and pastimes and sports aren’t just about chasing fame or money. They provide the soft skills you don’t always learn in the classroom. They provide an outlet for relaxation. They help you grow into a fuller person.
So Hoda and Kathie Lee, I think you have it all wrong. Sure, I’ve rarely netted anything material from my baton skills, aside from a job teaching little kids when I was in high school. I’m certainly not famous, though many people I went to school with do know me as “the twirler.” But that doesn’t mean all that time I spent practicing and traveling to competitions and performing in parades was for naught. Being a baton twirler shaped me growing up, and shapes who I am today. I may not get to twirl much anymore, but I’ll always be “the twirler.”