Diamondettes are ready to shine at recent competition

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UNION/CRANFORD, NJ — It’s still February, but the batons are already twirling for Diamondettes Baton & Dance LLC, in preparation for the upcoming season.

Roselle Park resident Giuliana Concetta Schultz, 5, represented the Diamondettes in Boston during President’s Day Weekend at the Freedom Cup Championships at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., about 11 miles from downtown Boston. Giuliana began twirling at age 3, when she entered her first competition season in the category of Basic Strut.

At the Freedom Cup competition, she competed in Novice One Baton Solo, Basic Strut and Show Twirl to the song “Frozen” to which she performed components of one baton, two batons at once and streamer. Giuliana was the youngest solo competitor at this contest.

“This was the first competition,” said Nicole Marie Placca, owner and director of Diamondettes Baton & Dance LLC, in an interview with LocalSource on Friday, Feb. 23. “Giuliana was the only one to represent our studio. It was the entire Presidents Day weekend, Saturday and Sunday, at Brandeis University in Boston.”

“I wish more girls went but only she could go.”

Placca said it was an absolute honor to attend competitions of this stature, as some of the most talented, well-known athletes travel from all states to participate. She said it was certainly a big deal to be there, not only in presence, but to experience the sport of baton twirling at its truest level.

Diamondettes Baton & Dance LLC is the first baton twirling program to come to Union since the decade-run Patti’s Dolls. The program is offered in a variety of Union County locations and the competition teams are run out of Cranford and Union.

“I’ve been twirling since I was 10,” said Placca. “I officially became a business last year, but I’ve been giving private lessons for three years. I’ve been doing this for at least 20 years.”

“I teach Spanish at Union High School,” she added.

“There used to be a studio in Union, Patti’s Dolls, and she was a teacher in Roselle Park and she must have had 50, 60 kids, even more, and she ran the studio for decades,” said Placca, explaining how she got into baton twirling. “She was the reason there was so much baton twirling. It kept the program going here at the high school. When she retired, I worked on continuing to build her teaching and her legacy. I keep in touch with her often. I always remember to thank her for all the gifts she’s given me. The impact she had is certainly seen now.”

Placca said she knows the value of this sport and takes pride in designing a program with delivery of instruction that greatly differs from the common youth sports. She said she uses her experience as a teacher to design classes that caters to the needs of the individual — not only physically, but socially and emotionally.

Right now, she’s looking forward to upcoming competitions.

“Our season starts in April and we’ll be attending all the ones we did last year, including the one in Wildwood, local New Jersey events and those in the USTA, the United States Twirling Association,” Placca said.

“We’ll also attend local state championships and all East Regional Championships. They’ll be in a combination of Rahway, Bloomfield and Wildwood for the regionals.”

“We stay mostly in Union County,” she added. “Wildwood is our furthest one.”

The program is based on the ideology that every child can be an athlete and experience success as reflective of their own needs and abilities. More importantly than learning the sport itself is to instill the mindset that everyone has the ability to shine bright, like a “Diamond-ette” in anything they want to achieve. The program also focuses on normalizing mistakes and accepting them as a natural, important part of the learning process.

“The facilities have been wonderful for having a consistent full competition program,” Placca said. “Diamond Gymnastics of Cranford, they were the first place, going a couple of years back, that allowed me to start this program. They were the main catalyst. And recently, Sunburst Gymnastics of Union has given me a consistent time slot.”

Right now, she explained, she’s the primary force running the company.

“It’s really me,” Placca said. “I have different locations where I run mini-sessions, but the competition part of the program is run out of Union and Cranford.

“I went from one competition team to three, on top of girls who take individual lessons. I have almost 30 students right now who take general classes but 19 are in competition. Kids who want to can take four-week sessions.”

“I have a total of three teams and seven soloists,” she continued. “I have 19 competition students. They’re from Newark, Short Hills, Union, Cranford, Roselle Park, Hillside; mainly from Union County, but I do have a handful from South River.”

Placca stressed that baton twirling is unlike common youth sports because of the social/emotional instruction and creation involved in making up the programs her girls perform.

“It’s definitely a different kind of sport,” she said. “You have to make the most of what you’re given because time goes so fast.”
Placca said everyone who gets involved in baton twirling gives their all, even the parents.

“I have really amazing parents, this year particularly, who ensure that their kids come to every practice, and that makes a big difference when you’re trying to perfect a routine and choreograph it,” she said. “It’s that personal connection that makes a difference in how they learn.”

In the meantime, Placca said she is going to keep giving her all to the sport she loves so much.

“I’m really proud of it and I hope it continues. It’s such a special sport. It really gives these kids so much.”

Photos Courtesy of Nicole Marie Placca