Jennifer Parisian has been twirling batons for quite a few spins around the sun.
The 21-year-old East Kildonan resident first got involved with the sport when she was six, bringing in mother Edie, 50, for the ride. Both have been active since — Jennifer as an athlete, coach, and board member, and Edie as an administrator. For their hard work, they were honoured at the national level earlier this summer.
At the Canadian Baton Twirling Federation’s 2014 Canadian Winner/Championship in Calgary in late June, the pair was presented with the Sharon Holliday Memorial Award for Sportsmanship. The award was named after a dedicated Saskatchewan baton mom who died in 2010.
The Parisians were thrilled to be honoured at the same time, receiving word they were receiving the award with an email from the CBTF earlier in the year.
"When I read the email, I cried," Jennifer, a University of Manitoba psychology student, said. "I was bawling my eyes out."
"It’s pretty special, actually, just because it’s something that we’ve done together," Edie said.
"It’s become our passion together. The love that Jen has for the sport has spilled over to me."
Jennifer said she first tried the sport at the Winnipeg International Children’s Festival when she was six and was hooked, and urged her parents to sign her up for fall classes all through the summer. She signed on with Aerial Fusion, and has been involved ever since.
"For three months, a six-year-old was asking ‘When are you going to call about that baton (class)?’" Edie, an MTS marketing department employee, recalled. "I guess she’s kind of serious about it."
Jennifer explained baton twirling is a sport in which athletes can always progress, saying even in her 16th year of participation, she is still challenging herself with tougher spins.
Jennifer started coaching at the recreational level at 16 and progressed to coaching competitive-level athletes.
"I realized how hard it is to be a coach, and it made me work a lot harder in my own classes," she said. "I knew how frustrating it was when a child didn’t work hard when I was coaching, and I never wanted to make my coaches feel that way."
Her persistence paid off, as her team captured the International Cup B Team competition in Amsterdam last summer.
Edie, meanwhile, began serving at the club level in 2004 in various managerial roles, and is the current provincial chair, which includes roles on the provincial and national boards.
Jennifer said the Canadian community is a supportive one.
"You’ll see a lot of the shows like Dance Moms and how competitive and how none of them have good sportsmanship because they’re all trying to beat each other," she said. "It’s a big community of everyone saying ‘Good luck’ to each other and ‘Congratulations’ to each other.
"There is competition, but you’ll never tell someone ‘I really want to beat you.’"