Susan Usher is passionate about baton twirling. Usher, a native of Findlay, Ohio, started twirling at age four and went on to twirl for Eastern Michigan University and the Detroit Lions. She started teaching twirling as a teen and has directed the Saline Twirlettes, a nationally recognized baton twirling organization, for more than 20 years.
In what ways do you help kids through teaching them twirling?
Twirling offers another family where students can connect with others from four years old through college age. It builds relationships with teammates, coaches and families. On a personal level it builds self-esteem, pride, the values of hard work, dedication, honesty, and loyalty. My students, many who have been with me since a very young age, embody these values. I want to be another support system for my twirlers because life is hard and they face many challenges. I think twirling offers a safe haven—a place to do what you love, work hard, have fun, and relieve some stress.
Tell us about your family.
I have been married to Jeff for 20 years. He is an avid golfer and huge sports fan! My son, Austin, is in 7th grade at Saline Middle School and is also a sports fan who loves football. He also plays basketball and baseball, and loves video games. We are all huge Buckeye fans being that I am from Ohio. Since I graduated from Eastern, my twirlers have always been part of my family. I have some very close friends that I consider family through my experience with Twirlettes.
How does being a parent influence your work with the Twirlettes?
I often think, “If this was my child, how would I want him talked to, handled and coached?” I consider myself not just a coach but another close family member that talks to them, tells them the good, bad, and supports them to be the best they can be in school, the community and in twirling. We are there for each other through the good, bad, and in between.
What are the best things about the sport of baton twirling?
Twirling goes year-round and provides so many opportunities that other sports do not. You can perform in recitals, parades, at college basketball halftimes, contests, the Disney Parade, and national competitions. We have had students take their skills to the college level, win large scholarships in the Distinguished Young Woman scholarship program and the Miss Michigan system, perform on the Miss America stage, be on the US World team and be appointed as an ambassador to Peru.
Is there anything else you would like families to know about baton twirling and the Twirlettes?
Some people think twirling is something that is easy or a “girly” activity. I would challenge anyone to see my twirlers train, compete or perform. They are true athletes that use all parts of their body and have mental toughness and stamina like any other athlete. It is a sport to us and we take that very seriously. The Twirlettes now have classes in Saline and Grass Lake. We have 11 girls taking the fields this fall with their respective high schools: Saline, Pioneer, Chelsea and Grass Lake. We have two young ladies twirling at college (Yale and Alabama) and our national team just earned their 14th and 15th team national championships this past July. Our national team adopted a theme this past summer: “One Team!” We talk a lot about what that means, what we need to do for each other, and how we need to reach our goals.
For more information about recreational and competitive twirling with the Saline Twirlettes, visit www.salinetwirlettes.org.