Usta News

Black History Month Spotlight: Kristen George( Thu, Feb 18 00:02:AM)

Kristen George is a former competitor, a Certified USTA Coach and director of Elevations Baton and Dance in Brentwood, New York.

My name is Kristen George, formally Kristen Canada. I have been a baton twirler since I was seven years old. I brought home a flyer from school and signed up to be part of the amazing Sparklers Baton Twirling. I was a twirler for about 20 years. I was taught by so many amazing coaches – Linda Peters, Kyle Keiser and Dale White – to name a few. I won a multitude of state, regional and national titles, as well as placing second in the World Championship in Hawaii and fourth in Switzerland. The best was winning at Nationals and as they said, once you win a national cup, you have to eat ice cream out of it!  

Being an African-American baton twirler has taught me so much. I didn’t see many African-American twirlers throughout the years. I was one of few to make it so far while being the minority. However USTA, The Sparklers and other groups always showed love and respect, despite that. If you were good, you earned it no matter your skin color. I knew I had to be great! I practiced and was inspired by one of the greatest performers ever, Michael Jackson. I studied how fast he would spin, applied it to my twirling skills and could toss the baton spinning as fast as I could for about 6-7 times before catching the baton. I competed in Solo, Dance Twirl and my favorite event, 2-Baton, in which I earned my first national cup.  

I had and continue to have an amazing support system, I will be forever thankful for my mother, especially for all of the years she drove me to practice, paid for my stylish costumes and was my biggest fan. My husband gave me four beautiful children; three girls who participate in my organization and a son who cheers them on from the stands. My husband gave me the courage to start my own company.

I was twirler throughout my youth and young adult years. I performed for Stony Brook University’s football stadium grand opening, Suffolk Community College Talent Show, Brentwood’s Got Talent along with Trina Catterson and the College at Old Westbury’s Pep Rally. In my spare time, I would go outside and toss some tricks, teach my girls and make up routines for fun. I could never put the baton down.

After completing my associate’s degree in business, my bachelor’s degree in education and on the road to my master’s, my heart just never felt compete. There were many conversations and I contemplated the idea that I could have a baton twirling company. I envisioned reaching for the top and taking children beyond their highest potential, while elevating and showing them how to reach for their dreams. I woke up one day and decided it was time. In 2014 I opened up Elevations Baton and Dance.  

I was terrified to take the next step but I had to follow my dreams. Michael Jordan once said, “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something, but I can’t accept not trying.” We were in our seventh year of existence when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.  

The virus has taken so many lives. It placed a halt on many programs and forced many to close, including us. Local school districts have shut the doors to many outside groups and children now have no place to grow, learn and twirl. Elevations Baton Twirling is looking forward to bringing smiles to faces and happy tears to parents’ eyes as they watch their children perform. We hope to do so when it is safe.  

2021 would have been our first year competing in national competition in Daytona Beach, Florida. It was my goal to bring our students to nationals, so they could experience one of the greatest competitions and some of the most memorable moments of their lives. I am saddened that COVID-19 has prevented that.  

Looking back, baton twirling has been my safe haven. I will always pick up the baton, toss an illusion and go about my day. The experiences and memories will always hold a special place in my heart. Now I enjoy watching three parts of my heart twirl - Kaleah, Karae and Kenadie - alongside their Elevations teammates. I think it’s an honor to be a role model to one person or maybe more than that.

“If you are given a chance to be a role model, I think you should always take it because you can influence a person’s life in a positive light, and that’s what I want to do. That’s what it’s all about.” - Tiger Woods