At the beginning of October, Emerald announced to Jim and me that she wanted to start competing in twirling. We encouraged her to tell her coach, but prepared her for the possibility that the coach might say she wasn’t ready. She had, after all, just started twirling a year and a half ago and just started taking private lessons in January. We suggested she reply with the question of what she needed to do to get ready.
Instead of saying she wasn’t ready, her coach said that she knew Emerald was heading in that direction and she was just waiting for her to ask. She then had a rather long conversation with Emerald about what she expected from her competition girls. Of course she wants the girls to work hard and practice, but she said the most important thing to her is that they enter contests to have fun, not to win. She stressed sportsmanship and supporting and cheering for each other. She asked Emerald for a commitment to these principles (as she does any of her twirlers who want to begin to compete). Only then would she agree to let her compete. Emerald gave her that commitment and set her sights on a twirling contest in a nearby town in November.
As Emerald worked hard on her routine and got more and more excited for the competition, Sapphire began to express to me that she wanted to compete, too. I told her when she got older she certainly could. She seemed to accept that she wasn’t old enough and looked forward to the day she would be.
A couple of weeks later, one of the parents of one of their twirling teammates who does compete told me Sapphire looked so cute twirling and that I should enter her in the upcoming competition. I said I thought she was too young and she replied that there was a 0-6 year-old category. My mind quickly went to how happy it would make Sapphire if she could join her big sis at the competition. So without really thinking about it, I asked her coach. She said Sapphire would need a solo routine and she didn’t have any more private lesson slots open, but if Emerald would share one of her lessons with Sapphire, we should go for it. But she didn’t think we’d have time to get her ready for the November contest, so we’d shoot for January.
Before mentioning it to Sapphire, I asked Emerald if she would share her lesson time. She was so excited that Sapphire might be able to compete, too, that she gladly agreed. It turned out there was a cancellation the following Saturday, so Sapphire got her own lesson and her coach taught her her very own competition solo routine. The coach told her that if she could memorize it by the next Saturday, she could compete in November.
Sapphire worked super hard and by the next afternoon (with her very own coach Emerald), she had memorized the routine. She told me several times that week that she wanted to decide whether or not to compete. I told her that she had to get her coach’s permission (by knowing her routine), but once she had that, she could decide if she wanted to register or not. She told me she would decide to go, once it was her decision. She practiced the routine every day and by the next Saturday, she had it perfect. She was cleared to compete. And she decided to go.
Throughout this process, I felt a little weird about a 5-year-old competing. It felt a little “Toddlers and Tiaras” to me. But I certainly didn’t want to tell her she couldn’t if she wanted to so badly that she was practicing on her own volition Every. Single. Day. So I kept my uneasiness to myself.
The other thing that worried Jim and me a little bit was whether or not the girls could really keep it about having fun and not worry about how they did. Sapphire kept mentioning that she wanted to win. We kept reminding her that it was about having fun. We told both girls that there was a good chance they wouldn’t win anything and that that was OK.
We weren’t really concerned that Emerald would be upset if she didn’t win. We knew that her events would be large and we knew four of the other girls in her category because they are on her team. She expected to score below all four of them because most of these girls have been twirling for much longer than Emerald, they have much more difficult tricks in their routines, and all of them have entered contests before. She is also friends with all of these girls and truly wants them to do well.
No, we were more concerned about how hard she is on herself. She sometimes gets so upset when she thinks she hasn’t done as well as she thinks she is capable of doing. She had never competed before. We worried how she would take it if she dropped her baton (which happens to the most advanced twirlers) or forgot her routine due to nerves.
Well, the first competition was this past Sunday. On Saturday, Sapphire asked me if I would bake them a cake if she and “Sissy” won. I certainly didn’t want to make it about winning, so I told her I would most definitely make a cake if they had fun and did what they were asked to do cheerfully. They both loved that idea. We also told both girls repeatedly over the last month that if the competition wasn’t fun, we wouldn’t do it again and if one kid had fun and was well-behaved and the other wasn’t, the one who had fun could do another competition and the one who didn’t could not.
We left our house at 8:30 a.m. and arrived back home at just before 9:00 p.m. To say the least, it was a very long day. There was also a lot of confusion as there were four lanes of competition going on at the same time, but they were not moving along at the same speed. So you had to keep an eye on the music stands set up in front of the judges’ table at each lane (where they posted which event they were judging at that time) to see when it was time for your event. Each of our girls was registered for three events. Neither girl even started competing until close to 2 p.m. Then their events were pretty much back to back to back. Sapphire was done first. Then she had to wait for the other girls to finish up several events. She passed the time by playing with the brother of one of their teammates.
As to their composure, both girls had smiles on their faces the entire day. There was not one whine. There was not one fuss. They also both ran through their routines as perfectly as I have ever seen them. Neither girl forgot a single trick. Neither girl got flustered in the least. They are both born performers. And on the one drop Emerald had, she picked her baton back up and continued with her routine with a huge smile on her face. One of her judges even commented on what a cute smile she has.
As it turned out, Sapphire did win three metals, a 5th place, a 2nd place, and a 1st place. She is so proud. [Not to take away from her at all, but each of the girls in each of her events got a metal (although we haven’t told her that). There weren’t that many girls in her categories, but there were always at least two.]
Emerald just missed a metal two out of her three times and was two places out of the metals on her other event. And except for the very last one (in which she missed a metal by one place) she was perfectly fine with that. The last one she was hoping she had gotten 5th place, so she was a little disappointed at first. But she knows she did her routines almost flawlessly and she knows that if she continues to twirl, she will be able to add more difficult tricks, and if she does that and she does them just as flawlessly, she will one day metal. Until then, she had a lot of fun performing, hanging out with her friends, and watching some of the best twirling she has ever, ever seen.
I should also mention that I was so very proud of the entire team. All of the girls told each other “good job” after each performance and all of them congratulated the girls who did win or place in events. They truly were a team and I was proud to be there with them.
As for my Monday, well I made a cake of course and I began filling out the paperwork for the next contest (in January) . . .
What did you all do last weekend?