Sporting Responsibly: Baton Club Leading the Way with Online Competition
Innovation and creativity have been the topic of every Zoom meeting, dinner table discussion, and virtual playdate in the last few months. In the wake of the coronavirus, our world of sports was changed in an instant. As a result, we’ve seen professional athletes become TikTok stars, emotional odes to sport created, and tons of sweet backyard trick shots. Even so, young athletes everywhere are craving the chance to do what they love, compete! Lucky for us, there are leaders within this community who are motivated to forge the path towards a new normal and make the most out of these times. While there may not be packed gymnasiums full of routine-ready kids, there are plenty of baton-twirling athletes in Alberta, Canada, getting ready to show off their skills in a first-of-its-kind online competition.
The Alberta Baton Twirling Association had to think quickly on its feet. With months of hard work put in by athletes, competition season was barely getting started when it had to come to a screeching halt. “These kids have put in so much work. Our main goal is to keep athletes motivated during this unpredictable time, to keep them practicing, and to figure out a way that they can perform the routines they have been working on since September,” said Shari Foster Dmytruk, Executive Director of ABTA. In an attempt to allow their association members to continue twirling, Shari and her team adjusted the standard competition model and decided to host one online.
Even under normal circumstances, baton competitions are an incredibly complex event. Athletes are able to participate in multiple numbers as soloists or as part of a team and are tested on many different skills such as twirling, tossing, and gymnastic skills. Depending on their age and division, their score can represent a range that determines the difficulty of their next routine, or it can determine how they rank overall. At in-person events, judges watch the routine one time before awarding scores. Results are shared with athletes to help with development. It shows where they are in the score range for their level, and if they are close to moving up to the next level.
“The athletes were just about to peak for competition when the pandemic hit. After we decided on an online format, we knew we would have to change how things were organized.”
The ABTA and SkillShark were able to work together to shift the baton competition to a virtual event. After the event was organized in the software, all that was left was to have the athletes submit videos and for the judges to critique and provide feedback from the comfort of their own homes.
“It was important to us that heading into next season, the athletes had an idea of how their routines came together. Being able to showcase their skills, costumes and routines are important, but so is communicating their development as an athlete.” Shari explained. “We wanted to tell them how they did and what things they could work on over the summer, even if it was from their driveway at home.”
After critiques were made by the judges, online reports were made available for the athletes and their parents. The online competition was open to all the association members, even the little ones who had never competed in front of a judge. “Sport is such a part of their daily lives. All of a sudden they aren’t going to school and aren’t around their friends. Our goal was to create a comfortable place where they can just be themselves and to feel supported through this time.”
Thinking outside the box is allowing athletes all over Alberta to participate in the sport they love. There won’t be post-routine hugs and the physical handing out of medals but through technology and innovation, we can provide a group of athletes fun, a sense of normalcy, and a memory to be shared about Covid-19 times for years to come.