For this week’s installment of our summer series, we spoke with Presley Strickland, a senior at Washington High School.
Presley has been twirling a baton since she was three years old and now twirls during parades and on the sidelines of Friday night football games.
Our conversation with Presley is below. For those interested in featuring your student in the spotlight, please send a picture of the student with a short description stating why they should be featured to email@example.com.
Q: What’s one of your favorite memories from twirling in high school?
A: “Some of my favorite memories are being on the sidelines and being able to interact with the students, especially while I’m on the sidelines, but also being able to talk to some of the football players. I like being down there and being able to be really close to the game. And I just think it’s fun when people get hyped up whenever I do some cool tricks.”
Q: What’s something a coach has told you that you’ve remembered or that has stuck with you?
A: “If I don’t get it the first time, the more I practice it, the better I’m going to get at it, and then I’ll get it eventually.”
Q: Do you have any strange superstitions you believe in?
A: “I always do the same warm-ups… I just stretch before and do a couple of the same tricks before going out there.”
Q: A lot of people are inspired by another athlete and may kind of structure their game around how that person plays. Do you model your game around any twirler past or present? If not, who would you say your style of performance is most comparable to?
A: “I would say all of the Alabama twirlers. They’re beautiful, they’re precise, and everybody loves to see them whenever they come out.”
Q: How do you set yourself apart from other student-athletes? What makes you special or different?
A: “I think it’s because I’m the feature twirler at Washington. A lot of people will come up to me and say they don’t even know anybody who does this. And there are not very many of us nowadays. If I go to competitions, there are only maybe 50 girls and a lot of them travel. I only have like two or three friends from across the state that I know that do it. So I think it’s just because I’m the only one and I’m one of the older ones now. I don’t know if little girls are doing it in Washington, but I’m the oldest one doing it. And I’m the only one who shows up on Fridays and twirls or does parades or anything like that.”
Q: When you have a bad performance or competition, what do you do to take your mind off things or reset from that? Do you have any hobbies that you lean on away from the field?
A: “I usually go and hang out with my friends up to the game and ask them if they saw that I did bad, and they always say no because I don’t know what is good and what is bad, and you looked great.”
Q: Obviously, a lot of students look forward to the summer to get away from school. Do you have any plans or are you doing anything this summer? If so, what are they?
A: “I attend a lot of camps. Whether they’re FFA camps, church camps, or mainly just leadership ones, I go to a lot of camps during the summer.”
Q: On the other hand, you still have to be ready when the season comes around. Are you doing any training or going to any competitions over the summer?
A: “No, but I do have [twirling] lessons that I go to during the summer with my coach Juliann Gustina.”
Q: Do you see yourself pursuing twirling at the next level? If not, what are your plans for the future?
A: “I don’t see myself twirling at college because my interest in going to college is to get an Agricultural degree. What I would really love to do is livestock judging, so I think I’m going to go to a junior college down in Tishomingo. It’s called Murray State and I’m going to do livestock judging there, but they don’t offer up a twirler position. So I’ll go down there and judge, and then, eventually, after that, I’ll go to Oklahoma State. There, I’ll probably study Agricultural Communications with a business degree.”
Q: What advice would you give to your younger self?
A: “To not care about what others think.”
Q: What’s one of the biggest challenges you run into as a student athlete?
A: “Not letting myself be the best I can be because I’m worried about what others will have to say.”
Q: When you step onto the field and get ready to perform on the sideline, what’s your biggest motivating factor? What’s your why?
A: “Because I’m the only one, I want to be an inspiration to other people who may be interested in twirling… I think it’s just about showing people how fun it can be and how interesting it is.”
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