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Creative Challenge grant recipients announced( Wed, Nov 4 00:11:AM)

A grassroots twirling organization that has been enriching the lives of youth in the mid-Michigan area for more than twenty years and two researchers investigating diversity and inclusion in the sport of baton twirling are the 2020 recipients of USTA’s Creative Challenge Grants. The grants, funded through USTA’s Kickstart Funding program and awarded by USTA’s Board of Directors, are designed to promote participation in the sport of baton twirling.

“The Board of Directors was very impressed with the large response to our 2020 Creative Challenge initiative,” said Board member John Chamberlain. “The Board carefully reviewed all of the applications and selected two recipients that represent some of the current needs and direction in our sport.”

The first 2020 Creative Challenge Grant recipient is Great Lakes Twirling Academy (GLTA), based in Otisville, Michigan. GLTA has been offering enriching classes for children of all ages for more than two decades. Those classes include Preschool Music and Motion and Tumbling Tots, as well as recreational and competitive baton twirling.

“Our goal is to provide each participant with a positive, growing experience,” said GLTA Coach Jodi Wright. “Through experience in our academy, children will learn more than just a talent, they’ll learn confidence, self-discipline and team work, with top certified instructors teaching the skills that will help them grow and succeed through life.”

GLTA twirlers perform regularly at local parades, school assemblies and community events throughout mid-Michigan and as far away as the Miss America Parade, Disney World and Universal Studios. Many GLTA athletes are feature twirlers at local high schools and have gone on to become collegiate twirlers at Saginaw Valley State University, Bowling Green State University and Western Michigan University. GLTA athletes also compete at state, regional, national and international competitions and hold many championship titles.

GLTA also hosts a “Reading Rocks Campaign” where they do twirling performances at local elementary schools in conjunction with March Reading Month activities. In addition, the group has developed a plan to offer an inner city twirling program, once COVID-19 restrictions allow.

“The Reading Rocks Campaign is a unique project that supports the importance of reading in our schools while sharing the sport of baton twirling,” Chamberlain said. “The inner city twirling program will promote the sport of baton twirling to a very important demographic.”

The second 2020 Creative Challenge Grant recipients are Trenton M. Haltom and David Lopes, who will use their grant to fund the Twirling World Inclusivity, Representation and Lifestyles or “TWIRL” survey. This international study will try to answer questions including: Who are twirling athletes in terms of their racial/ethnic, gender, sexual identities, and nationalities? What are twirling athletes’ experiences with stigma and discrimination within or because of baton twirling? The web-based survey will be distributed to twirlers in the USA, France and Japan. 

“The goal of the TWIRL Survey is to expand knowledge of baton twirlers in hopes of improving programming, inspiring inclusive policies and promoting the sport,” said Haltom who is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he studies social inequalities in gender, sexuality, health, the workplace and in sports. “Our innovative project uniquely connects the experiences of our sport’s athletes and organizational leaders from around the world who may mutually benefit from shared cultural knowledge about baton twirling.”

Lopes is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Sport at the University of Lyon (France) where he is studying the effects of gender stereotypes in the socialization of men across cultures.

“This year one of the key values across the world was the importance of diversity and inclusion,” Chamberlain said. “The project these researchers have presented is both timely and one that is truly important in our sport worldwide. We were impressed with the focus of their project and look forward to the results of the extensive research project.”