At a very young age, Brandie Holland, the University of South Dakota’s only performing baton twirler, was introduced to her sport after a little inspiration from her mother.
“When I was almost three, my mom took me to a parade and was like, ‘Hey, do you want to do that?’ She used to twirl when she was younger so of course at three years old I wanted to try it too,” Holland said.
Holland is a senior undergraduate student double majoring in elementary and special education and is currently student teaching in Yankton.
Before arriving at USD, a university that hadn’t had a baton twirler since 2006, Holland looked at multiple schools, such as Penn State University, California State University-San Bernardino and University of Tennessee, where she could continue her twirling.
“I’m from California and I was looking for an out-of-state experience so I came here because I was also looking for a school that wanted a baton twirler,” Holland said. “So I emailed a bunch of schools and this is one of the ones that said yeah, we’d love to have you. So I came and thought it (USD) was a neat little school.”
Holland admits that before each routine she still gets just as nervous as she was during her first twirling performance at USD, but once the music starts, the adrenaline takes over.
“I would have to say my favorite part is just twirling for the crowds. Competition is fun, but when I’m twirling for a crowd, whether it’s at a game or a parade or any kind of performance, I just love that,” Holland said. “Because for me, I feed off energy. So the more the crowd gets into it, I get even more into it and more excited to show off my biggest tricks. And it’s not as much pressure as competing, so it’s a lot more fun.”
Outside the DakotaDome, Holland has also competed in the United States Twirling Association National Championships where she has worked her way up to the Advanced division, winning the short flag competition twice and placing as high as sixth in twirl.
However, national competitions in Indiana are not the furthest distance twirling has taken Holland.
“This past year at Nationals, I was selected to be a U.S. Ambassador for baton twirling in Peru. So this past September I went there for two weeks. It was awesome,” Holland said. “And I recently just got asked to go back in July for four days for their Independence Day parade. Then I went with the university band to the New Year’s Day Parade in London this past year and participated in that too. I have definitely gotten to travel.”
Over her many years of practicing, traveling, and competing, Holland has had a strong support group through her parents and two younger brothers to get her through the tough road to excellence.
“There were always times when my coach would give me a trick and I’d be like, ‘Oh my gosh, I am never going to get this.’ Where it was just too hard and you want to give up,” Holland said. “But then I’d see people who were more advanced than me and I’d look at them and want to win like them. So it’s pretty much been my passion. My mom would always ask me – well, you’ve seen shows like ‘Toddlers & Tiaras’ where their moms make them do it – and something my mom never wanted for me was to feel forced to do it.”
But baton twirling is not Holland’s only hobby. Along with exercising her perfectionist attitude with scrapbooking and attending concerts, she also has a few interests that allow her to let loose.
“I like to ride, well out here they call them four-wheelers, but at home we call them quads. I like to ride quads with my family and I also rode a dirt bike before too so that was pretty cool.”
Along for Holland’s future plans of becoming a special education teacher, she does not plan on completely giving up the sport that she spent so many years of her life perfecting. She also wants to coach twirling and someday become a competition judge.
“I’ve been teaching since I was 15, and I have this little group called Totally Twirling. I had about 13 girls in the fall but right now I just have a few little ones just because of my student teaching load,” Holland said. “I took them to a competition and they did their routine to ‘Rock Around the Clock’ so my mom made them little poodle skirts. I just love teaching.”
Founded and coached by Holland, Totally Twirling is a baton-twirling group for young girls based at the Vermillion Area Arts Center. Holland encourages anyone to attend their next performance at the Lion’s Club Pancake Feed on April 18 and 19 at 6:00 p.m.