Forty young girls descended on Conway this past week to participate in a baton twirling camp hosted by Janice Jackson Seamands at Hendrix College.

“Honestly, this is the best gym you can get in many states to do a camp,” Seamands said, adding how wonderful the campus staff is. “They’re just good to work with.”

The group of beginner to elite competitors, in addition to the six instructors, traveled from all over – including Nebraska, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas – to prepare for the 2019 national competition, America’s Youth in Parade from July 23-27 at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.

The camp started on Monday.

Seamands said they have been working to perfect competition routines and performance skills as well as prepare for upcoming football seasons, creating new routines and bringing freshness to others.

“We are critiquing and pushing them, getting the most out of them that we can,” she said.

The Log Cabin Democrat had the opportunity to stop in and watch the groups practice, some nailing it and others not, all working hard, everyone eager to keep going and add a flawlessness to their routines.

That’s the aspect that Seamands said she has loved the most in the 55 years she’s been a part of this world.

“It’s an art and a sport mixed together,” the coach said. “You’ve got to have both the performance ability and the technical ability and the timing, rhythm and control. Lots goes into it. I’ve just always loved it.”

The LCD asked Seamands what originally got her into baton twirling.

She said it was actually her dad. As a sound and audio engineer Seamands told the LCD that he would often do music for dance recitals and musicals. One night, he happened to help with a baton twirling artist’s routine.

“He came home, I was about nine, and said, ‘I found something you might want to do,’” she said. “I said, ‘OK, I’ll give it a try,’ and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

As a young girl, Seamands went to camp just like the group at Hendrix, and took lessons, attended competitions, twirled on the football field and performed for various community activities or events. Through the years though, the gymnastic sport has changed a bit.

Besides the trophies, medals and wins, there’s another side to baton twirling; who it makes you.

“I just think baton twirlers, as a whole, are the cream of the crop,” Seamands said. “If you’ve got a good baton twirler you’ve got a good student, you’ve got a good leader, you’ve got someone you can trust and who’s responsible. I want that to continue and spread throughout their adult life because our future is in their hands.”

Her group has a motto they live by: Fully Rely on God (FROG).

“We constantly say, back and forth, and it’s almost a joke, never never never give up,” Seamands said. “I remind them over and over and over, there’s going to come a day when you put the baton down, but you’re going to be a stronger person, you’re going to have self-confidence, discipline, time management skills, leadership skills ... that will go with you for the rest of your life.”

She said that’s what she encourages them with when they’re not winning or their routine isn’t as smooth as they’d want, that what everything they’re learning, growing and developing now will go with them into the future making them the kind of adult Seamands would like to see out in the world.

The time to put the baton down for Seamands came around 20-years-old when the desire to switch from student to teacher came, dropping out of college to open her own studio.

“I knew that’s what I wanted to do after I twirled several years,” she told the LCD.

Her dad, who had been a constant support, told her that if she could raise $1,000 for the first month’s rent, they’d open her company and that’s exactly what she did, hustling around, determined to have a go at it.

“The first year, it was fun,” Seamands said. “It came easy to me and I had grown up with it. My first year at the studio, it was kind of scary and yet, I just knew it was going to work. I just knew it was what I was supposed to be doing.”

The LCD asked the coach how many girls she’s interacted with in the time since.

“I couldn’t even tell you that,” she said, trying to count up the numbers. “It’s thousands of young people.”

But, for Seamands, it’s not about the numbers. Her desire it to influence and have an impact.

“People talk about leaving a legacy, I’m not interested in leaving anything,” she said. “The legacy I leave is through the students that I’ve taught and worked with that will carry on and do great things in their lives.”

Several of her students over the years have included ladies that have entered and won scholarship pageants including three that went on to become Miss Texas, one that took the crown of Miss Washington D.C. and third runner-up for Miss America and had two students who were able to put themselves through college and onto law school with the scholarship money they won – twirling was their talent.

“It feels good,” Seamands said. “It makes me feel like what I’ve done is worthwhile and has been positive for a lot of people and honestly has even changed some lives.”

Seamand’s accomplishments, to name a few:

Is a charter member of the Baton Twirling Hall of Fame. Judged across the U.S. and Europe. Produced state, regional, national and world champions in every significant twirling organization. Has had twirlers enrolled in more than 40 colleges and universities across the nation. Instructed grand national and world champions, several Miss Majorettes of America, students on the Goodwill Team to Peru and on the USA World Twirling Team, which competed in Holland and France. Received 2009 USA World Baton Twirling Team Nation Coach. Has worked in England, France, Italy, Belgium and Holland.