Union High School stick twirl coach stands out in the community – Union News Daily


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UNION, NJ – Union High School coach Nicole Marie Placca brings something unique to students at school: the art of twirling sticks. Teens and even the youngest can now benefit from Placca’s teachings on a sport that can seem almost extinct.

Placca, from Kenilworth, is also a UHS Grades 9-12 Spanish teacher. She first learned about twirling in her youth and has been the coach of the school’s twirling team since 2011.

“Turning the stick is a very complex skill. It involves a lot of fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination and it’s a very complex process of moving your wrists and being able to handle a stick, which is a skill in itself, ”Placca said on Thursday October 10th. 7. “Just the process of learning how to throw correctly takes months, then you combine that skill with teaching the students how to dance, how to incorporate gymnastics and then there are also stuff that involves multiple batons – handling. two sticks at a time and juggling three sticks, so it’s really a very unique and complex craft.

According to Placca, Kenilworth had a very small school system without a lot of extracurricular activities. As she took twirling classes when she was a student there, her school allowed her to join the group and be the school’s star twirler.

“A long time ago, there was a woman who was a teacher in Roselle Park. We know her as Mrs. Pat, and she ran a baton program in the basement of a church on Tucker Avenue in Union, ”Placca said. “This woman ran this for decades… because the girls would take lessons from her, living in Union, and then they would pretty much make up the high school team. They have learned to twirl from it. This is where I took lessons. I heard about her and took lessons in this private studio in Union, which no longer works.

Placca said the UHS stick whirling is one of the few teams left in the sport.

“This program is really different from the common sports that exist,” she said. “I’ve seen another stick twirler at a sporting event in my entire coaching and performing career… We’re the only school in Union County, and we’re one of the few in all of this. ‘State of New Jersey to have a stick – twirling presence, not to mention an entire team. … There aren’t many schools left that still have teachers out there who can even train it.

“We’re considered a club, and I took my daughters to well-known competitive organizations, and they compete with other private studios, where the girls are trained dancers and they tour a lot longer than a high school l ‘team did it, “she continued.” Our team won against some of the biggest, well-known teams, which is amazing. They won six state championships in three years …. It was a really very special accomplishment for a public school club to go up against these well-known teams that were more experienced and to have private training.

COVID-19 has made things difficult for the team. Placca said it slowed their momentum, especially because they couldn’t train on a daily basis.

“I couldn’t have my normal tries and start teaching girls before the football season, so we’re a month behind, on top of having to practice more to make up for any time we weren’t practicing.” she said. “So that definitely set us back. But I’m pleasantly surprised we’re getting there. The girls are very determined. They are hard workers, so we get back to work quickly, and we are working hard on our competitive choreography, which is really good.

In addition to the UHS Stick Twirling Team, Placca has a district-wide stick twirling clinic this year at Jefferson Elementary School in the Vauxhall section of Union, open to students. ages 5 and over from all over town. She even taught her first group of boys.

“I still run a free clinic for all students in Union public schools, and this serves as a small fundraiser, where parents can donate to our competition programs and our senior fund,” he said. declared Placca. “But the main reason I run these clinics is to promote the sport and to show the students in the district that we still have a program like this.

“Over the past five years I have tried vigorously to create a club twirling program, much like the one I came from when I was a little girl, and teach at Diamond Gymnastics (Academy) in Cranford.” , she continued. . “I do it two days a week, and there are a lot of different classes that are geared toward teaching real twirling that happens outside of high school football games. I have a competitive team that will compete privately which is great, and then I have a handful of 5-15 year old girls taking regular classes hoping to compete in the future as well. This is my side activity, but I am proud of it as I am the only private trainer in this region to offer these classes, other than whether it is a small leisure program or a small summer camp that would take place. This is a complete program, which I am proud of and it is unique even for the gym to offer it.

Placca said that when she looks back on her childhood, she doesn’t really fit in. really felt that she was special and that she fit in.

“My hope is to continue to share this passion and this incredible sport with so many children, because as a teacher I see with my own eyes how there are so many children who want to participate in a sport. but who do not have the prior skills or they do not have the capacity, ”she said. “This sport really gives me the chance to show our students that you don’t have to fit into a perfect box or be a traditional athlete. You can start a sport later in life and still be successful. It gives these children the opportunity to feel special by what they personally need and by their strengths. “

UHS Athletic Director Linda Ionta said Placca is a dedicated teacher as well as an accomplished twirler, and she has a knack for sharing that talent.

“She really pushed and tried to get more interest in twirling, and she did a terrific job,” Ionta said on Saturday, October 9. “She reaches out to the younger ones, she runs clinics, and when the older kids they become fliers for her. But she spends a lot of time with them and she’s dedicated. She does a really great job, and we do. are really proud of her and the way she behaves.

Suzette Cavadas, former mayor of Union and current member of the municipal committee, said on Friday October 9: “One thing I can say about Nicole is that she really cares about children and that she encourages children. children to believe in themselves and be their best, because she believes in them too.

Photos courtesy of Nicole Marie Placca

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