Adaline “Adi” Bebo is the topped ranked baton twirler in the nation

Adaline Adi Bebo tosses a baton in the air. Bebo is one of the top junior twirlers in the world. KYLE CRAWFORD / PHOTO

Adaline “Adi” Bebo tosses a baton in the air. Bebo is one of the top junior twirlers in the world. KYLE CRAWFORD / PHOTO

15min

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Bebo performs one of her classic moves, an aerial with a spin at the end. “I love developing new tricks that have never been performed. That might be a flexibility skill or a baton element with dance,” Bebo said. KYLE CRAWFORD / PHOTOS
Bebo performs one of her classic moves, an aerial with a spin at the end. “I love developing new tricks that have never been performed. That might be a flexibility skill or a baton element with dance,” Bebo said. KYLE CRAWFORD // PHOTOS

Why did you start twirling?

I always knew that I wanted to twirl but I’m not sure how I found out about it. It took my mom two years to find a coach so I developed my tumbling and dance until then. My grandmother twirled in high school, but I didn’t find that out until later.

Why do you twirl?

It is an amazing sport that always has something new to offer. I think you could train your whole life and still not learn everything there is to know about it. Most people think that it just involves band, but the world championships are as technical and athletically challenging as any Olympic sport.

How did you get ranked top in the nation?

Practice like I would perform it, then carrying it on to the floor, challenging the ceiling of current tricks and being mentally tough in competition. Not every year has been easy… but determination and support from many, many people has been the encouragement that gets (me) over the tough times in training and competition.

Was it hard to pick up twirling since you started so late?

It was, but because I was on an incredible tumbling and cheer team, hip hop team, ballet, jazz, tap and rhythmic gymnastics in the early years, I already had all of the basics. I also had the discipline of practice because competitive cheer and dance teams practice five days a week so I increased the baton lessons and always made sure that I had mastered the material by the next time I saw the coach. This type of baton twirling requires tossing the baton and doing tumbling tricks across the gym floor as well as quick revolution of the baton, so you have to get your ten thousand hours of training to master the material, no matter when you start or what sport it is. Safely increasing the training is the way to get better.

How often do you practice each week?

I practice five to six days a week but I always take a rest day to give me recovery time every four or five days…It averages around 25 hours a week. I am also on an eight member team that trains in Nashville or Jacksonville a couple of times a month. We are training for the World Championships in Nottingham, England this summer.

How do you find time to balance twirling with school and friends?

It’s difficult but my twirling team has eight members and three alternates and we get tons of time training together and we are great friends. The tricks require throwing batons in exchanges across the gym and under tumbling tricks so we have to trust each other and communicate very well to make it work. I definitely wish I had more time with my school friends but we try to get a movie or study group together once a month and I am involved in YoungLife which helps a lot.

How many times have you broken fingers or toes from twirling?

I would say that I have injured just about all of them over the years, mostly from the impact of the baton, but some came from landing tricks in different positions or working on developing new material. Nothing too serious so far, but a few stitches and some bumps and bruises.

How do you catch the baton?

At first, it was difficult to find the timing of the rotations but as I improved, I developed a sort of internal physics calculation that allows me to receive it without actively thinking. I drill tosses to secure consistent placement and height.

What would you say to those who don’t think baton twirling is a sport?

It’s not just a sport; it’s a multi-sport. When you actually see the freestyle baton twirling that we do, it incorporates multi-element tricks while doing gymnastics, dance and performance seamlessly to a piece of music, much like figure skating or rhythmic gymnastics.

Adaline "Adi" Bebo tosses a baton in the air. Bebo is one of the top junior twirlers in the world. KYLE CRAWFORD / PHOTO
Adaline “Adi” Bebo tosses a baton in the air. Bebo is one of the top junior twirlers in the world. KYLE CRAWFORD // PHOTO

Do you like performing in front of people?

I didn’t realize how much I really loved it until I performed at the World Championships for team USA in 2012 in front of 10,000 people in France, and then just a few months later with the Carmel marching Greyhounds in 2012 in front of 25,000 people when we won the Grand National Championship. If you can make it happen in front of a crowd that size, it really boosts your confidence as a performer.

What are all the major competitions you’ve been to?

I compete nationally and internationally for WBTF, USTA, NBTA, AAU, and do invitationals for the Congressional Cup in Maryland and Twirlmania at Disney World. Tomorrow morning I will be performing my Freestyle at the Wide World of Sports. Some of the competitions have been in Australia, Canada, France, Holland and all over the United States.

What was your most memorable performance or competition? Why was it so memorable?

My first time on the world team in 2012 when I performed in France and had a chance to meet all of the athletes who were my absolute idols in twirling. I was speechless and so excited.

What was it like being at the Junior Olympics? How did you feel?

It is always exciting to do the performance that you train for and there is nothing like being able to deliver and connect with the audience and judges.

What competitions did you do at the Junior Olympics?

The Junior Olympics is more of a scholarship organization than the elite classic Olympics. It is an amazing organization that teaches positive coaching and athlete morals and conduct. I won the gold medal in rhythmic twirl, all around, dance twirl, two baton and solo, but during the course of competing with this organization I really learned a lot about being a role model for my sport and communication and coaching skills with positive reinforcement. It is just one of the organizations that I twirl for and I think it is a wonderful program for athletes who want to move to the next elite level.

What’s your favorite trick that you do?

I have several tricks that I developed over several years and one is being entered in the scoring books this year. It is a monster roll variation that involves rolling the baton in and around your neck and shoulders a variety of ways. Also my first four element trick which requires throwing the baton and then doing a triple leap which switches legs, so left, right, left, and then ends with a walkover or a front aerial then catching the baton. The toss requirement pretty much starts at one side of the gym and goes to the opposite. It is about a 40 foot toss, so the placement has to be correct every time to make it work and that is a real challenge.

What have you learned from twirling?

That if you want to be an elite athlete, it takes more than just training your hours in the sport. You also have to train your body, provide the right nutrition and fuel, rest and have a staff of trainers to turn to when things need to be balanced. I have a team that includes a nutritionist, physical therapist, sports massage therapist, sport psychologist, MAT therapist and sports physician through St. Vincent’s that keeps me performing at my best, along with choreographers and some of the best coaches in the world. I have to travel a lot, so balancing my homework is just as important as my sport. It takes a lot of discipline but it will really be beneficial for me later when I have a career.

What aspect of twirling do you like the best? The gymnastics, dance or actual twirling part?

I love developing new tricks that have never been performed, that might be a flexibility skill or a baton element with dance. They all work together and that’s what makes freestyle baton twirling so different from any other sport.

Bebo does a leap while holding her baton. According to Bebo, dance is just one portion of baton twirling. KYLE CRAWFORD / PHOTO
Bebo does a leap while holding her baton. According to Bebo, dance is just one portion of baton twirling. KYLE CRAWFORD //  PHOTO

Can you describe your relationship with your baton?

When you do any sport, there is a margin for error and that is what the basic Olympic point system is based on. I have a rough relationship with my baton that is maturing every day as I get more tools to improve and understand how important it is to focus on small gains when I really want to improve at high speed. Baton twirling is like any other sport and taking risks can lead to big rewards. Many people might see a baton drop in a routine and don’t understand how dangerous and technical the skills are for the elite level of the sport. I want to put my hardest tricks on the floor so they can be appreciated but because the margin for error is so tight, sometimes I have to decrease the risk to get the best performance. Just like a fall in a skating program or a bobble on a gymnast landing, the audience can be the biggest critic on error when it might just be a point deduction in the judging based on the overall technical difficulty of the entire program. So if you see an error in one of my programs, then you will know that I went for it anyway.

What is the difference between rhythmic gymnastics and baton twirling?

They are very similar and when rhythmic was initially being considered they came to the USTA Baton organization and asked them to join the effort to raise the country participation. USTA was not ready at the time but it actually would have been a perfect fit. The freestyle baton is exactly aligned with dance and apparatus. They both have many of the same qualities. Baton or multi-baton is comparable to the ribbon, robe, ball and clubs where a dance routine is performed with an apparatus and the scoring is based on fluidity and technical excellence.

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