Sometimes rebellion is a good thing. For Ali Mays, feature baton twirler, being told she couldn't twirl batons only made it more of a challenge.
"Challenge drives me," the Thomson High School senior said. "When somebody tells me I can't do something, that just makes me want to try harder."
Thomson High School Senior Ali Mays performs during halftime of the Thomson-Washington County game.
Ali said one of her earlier baton teachers suggested she quit twirling.
Ali said this made her upset, until her mother gave her a little piece of advice.
"My mom said 'You can get bitter, or you can get better,'" Ali said.
"Better" was Ali's choice. This year, Ali brought home two trophies - excellent in majorette and best in class - for her performance of the Phantom routine in the East Georgia Marching Band Festival. Last year, she received superior majorette at the same competition.
Ali was first introduced to baton twirling in kindergarten at Briarwood Academy. Since then, she has taken lessons from Grace Rowlins, who taught at Evans High School, from Katy Tracy, a twirler at the University of Georgia, and attended UGA summer band camps.
To get accustomed to dancing on a large field, Ali said she first joined the dance line with the THS band when she was a sophomore. When entering her junior year, she tried out with her baton routine.
"Even though I was the only one to try out, it was hard because I had to try out against myself," Ali explains. "Mr. Morlan is really strict, and if I wasn't good enough, then they just wouldn't have a twirler at all."
Ali describes a feature twirler differing from a solo twirler because the tricks are more difficult.
To make a routine, Ali said she and her auxiliary instructor, Becky Morlan, first pick the main tricks and tosses, then work them in with the other movements. Ali practices every day at home, and enjoys twirling one to three batons, double flags, streamers, hoops, and fire batons.
Ali enjoys twirling at the high school because "nobody else does it; it's unique." She plans to try out as a twirler for UGA in the spring.
Ali said many little girls, especially at Briarwood Academy, are introduced to baton twirling, but then stop when they become old enough to join cheerleading in middle school.
"It's always hard when you first begin, but don't give up, because it becomes fun," Ali advises. "And it's rewarding. Right now, there are two trophies in that band room, and I won them all by myself."