Saturday, April 17, 2021

The More You Know - How does AAU work?

 Hello Texas Twirl Fans!

We are excited to bring you a new edition of our series “The More You Know…”. In this series we will be posting about different baton twirling associations or rules/guidelines that currently exist, but that not everyone may be familiar with or fully understand. Our first edition of this series, which was re-shared earlier this week, was about using proper NBTA Title Terminology, and we also did a blog last spring to learn more about How USTA Works. Make sure to check out these posts to stay informed!

As many of you have seen us share on the @twirlingiscatchingtx social media pages, in just three weeks there will be an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) contest in Cedar Park, Texas, and that this August, Texas will be hosting the AAU Junior Olympic Games! There has been a lot of interest in #teamtexas participating in these events, but everyone has the same set of questions in regards to participation...

"What is AAU? How does it work? And how is it different from my normal twirling association?"

We are here today to help answer these questions for you! Hopefully at the end of this post you will be able to identify that AAU is not much different than NBTA or USTA, and that you could easily attend the Lonestar Super Regional or Junior Olympic Games without changing most of your routines. If you have any questions about anything included in this post, please feel free to reach out to,, or

Online Resources & Contest Registration Info:

AAU Baton Twirling National Website - AAU - Baton Twirling

AAU Baton Twirling Online Rule Book - AAU - Baton Twirling Rule Book

Follow AAU Baton Twirling on Facebook - AAU Baton Twirling | Facebook

AAU Lonestar Baton Twirling Super Regional is on May 8th in Cedar Park, TX. 
Registration deadline is April 20th at midnight. Visit AAU Lonestar (

AAU Baton Twirling Junior Olympic Games are on August 1st to 4th in Houston, TX. 
Registration deadline is July 5th at midnight. Visit AAU Junior Olympic Games

What is AAU? 

"The Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) has been raising champions for more than a century. Since its inception in 1888, the AAU has set the standard for amateur sports in the United States with one goal in mind: “Sports For All, Forever.” As one of the largest, non-profit, volunteer, multi-sport event organizations in the world, the AAU is dedicated exclusively to the promotion and development of amateur sports and physical fitness programs. The AAU philosophy of “Sports For All, Forever” is now shared by nearly 700,000 members and 150,000 volunteers across 41 sports programs and 55 U.S. districts. The AAU was founded in 1888 to establish standards and uniformity in amateur sport. During its early years the AAU served as a leader in international sport representing the U.S. in the international sports federations. The AAU worked closely with the Olympic movement to prepare athletes for the Olympic games. In the late 1970's, the AAU re-shifted its focus and efforts to providing sports programs for all participants of all ages beginning at the grassroots level." - Amateur Athletic Union (AAU)

While the AAU and the Junior Olympic Games are not directly associated with the Olympics, they are a great stepping stone for many athletes to go that route someday. AAU is not a direct line to get Baton Twirling in the Olympics (there are many factors involved in that including number of countries competing, exposure, revenue generated, etc.). However, if we continue to support AAU Baton Twirling it will help example that Baton Twirling should be considered as a sport and has a dedicated following.

How does AAU Work? 

AAU Baton Twirling works the same way as any other organization! Twirlers enter their events, show up to their lanes, are adjudicated by qualified/certified judges, and receive scores with placements and awards. Twirlers wear a twirling costume and do contest hair and make-up, just like they would at their regular events. Any twirler that has competed in NBTA, USTA, MA, TU, or other organization, will feel right at home at an AAU event. Same processes, equivalent events, similar rules. 

The big difference with AAU that confuses many people is the Qualification process. In a normal (non-COVID) year, in order to compete in the AAU Baton Twirling Junior Olympic Games, a twirler would have had to attend a Regional or District event and qualify to move on to the National event. District events are only available to twirlers that reside in that District. A Super Regional (such as the Lonestar Super Regional) is open to anyone, regardless of where they reside. In order to qualify, they would have had to place Top 10 in their individual events (Solo, 2-Baton, 3-Baton, Multi-Baton, Basic Strut, Military, X-Strut, Parade Strut, All Around, etc) or Top 6 in Duet, Trio, or Team. 

However, since nothing is normal in 2021, the Qualification requirements have been removed! This means anyone can enter the Junior Olympic Games regardless of if they attended a District or Regional competition this year. Since not every District was able to hold their normal events due to COVID restrictions, the 2021 has been opened up for anyone to attend. 

Does this mean you have to attend the Lonestar Super Regional to participate in the Junior Olympic Games? Any other year, the answer would be yes, but for 2021, the answer is NO. For 2021 you do not have to attend the Lonestar Super Regional to participate in the Junior Olympics. Even though there is no qualification requirement tied to the event, the Lonestar Super Regional is still being offered to introduce AAU to the Texas area and give twirlers a chance to participate in an AAU event before they go to the National contest. We would love to see a huge #TeamTexas presence this August in Houston!

How is AAU different from my normal twirling organization? 

Membership Requirement:
A big difference with how AAU works vs. NBTA, is that you MUST HAVE AN AAU MEMBERSHIP TO COMPETE! This is similar to how a USTA membership works. Memberships run from September 1st through August 31st of the next year.  A membership is $14/$16 per athlete. If you purchase a membership now, it would be good for both the AAU Lonestar Super Regional and the Junior Olympic Games. Visit AAU Membership to sign up for your membership and learn about the benefits.

Competition Age:
- In NBTA your competition age is based on your age on September 1, 2020. 
- For USTA your competition age is based on your age on September 1, 2021. 
- For AAU your competition age is based on your age on DECEMBER 31, 2021. 

This means in NBTA you compete the age you were at the beginning of the season, in USTA you compete the age you will be at the end of the season, and in AAU, you compete the age you will be at the end of the year. For some twirlers this can move you up or down one year, but for Twirlers with a Fall birthday, they could compete as a different age in all three groups! Say you have an October birthday and compete as a 12 year old in NBTA. You would be 13 in USTA, and 14 in AAU. This can seem scary, but just remember, EVERYONE is affected by the ages and will be adjusted as well. This means you will compete with basically the same group of kids give or take one year. 

For AAU there is NO Modeling, thus NO pageant. Instead of Pageant they offer an "All-Around" event. See below for more details. Since there is no modeling, this means you arrive with your hair up ready for the day with once hair style. Nice and simple! 

As AAU is modeled after the Olympics, the awards are medals. Typically only the Gold (1st place), Silver (2nd place), and Bronze (3rd place) are handed out in each division, however, sometimes 4th & 5th place may be recognized with a Copper medal. There are no trophies! In some instances, the All Around divisions may award an additional item to the Gold Medalists such as an embroidered bag, a jacket, a t-shirt, or as is the case for the Lonestar Super Regional, banners.  

In NBTA, gymnastics is an automatic Disqualification. In USTA, it is allowed with guidelines.
In AAU, Gymnastics is allowed with restrictions. Twirlers are allowed to do cartwheels/round offs, front/back walkovers, forward/backward rolls, shoulder rolls, handstands, backbends, and backhand springs. No other skills can be included such as front hand springs, front or side aerials, front or back tucks, etc. In AAU, the use of gymnastics will be judged as specialties under the content and technical categories and not as difficulty skills to keep the playing field level between organizations. In addition to a limit of what skills can be used, there are several events that do not allow gymnastics at all, as well as a limit of how many gymnastics moves can be used in certain routines based on what division the twirler competes in. 
*There are NO Gymnastics Allowed in Basic Strut, Parade Strut, Military Strut, & X-Strut 
*One Baton, Two Baton, Three Baton, Multiple Baton, Novelty Solo, Dance Twirl, Collegiate Events
        - Novice Division = No Gymnastics Moves Allowed
        - Beginner Division = Maximum One Gymnastics Move Allowed
        - Intermediate Division = Maximum Two Gymnastics Moves Allowed
        - Advanced/Elite/College/Adult Divisions = Maximum Three Gymnastics Moves Allowed

Allowable Skills:
This will be the section that will affect the most NBTA twirlers as some Novices & Beginners will have to lower some tricks. Unlike in NBTA, AAU has a limit of what skills can be completed in each difficulty division. They do this to level the playing field in each division, as well as encourage variety releases and receptions/optional catches vs higher skills. (Max = Maximum allowed)
  • Novice - Max Two Spins, No Toss Illusions, Max four continuous rolls 
  • Beginner - Max Three Spins, Only a Toss Single Illusion, Max six continuous rolls
  • Intermediate - Max Four Spins, Max Toss Double Illusion, Max eight continuous rolls
  • Advanced/Elite/College/Adult - No limits on spins, illusions, or rolls

Event Time Limits:
This will be the section that will affect the most USTA twirlers, as the Time Limits are very different for the Intermediate & Advanced levels. NBTA Twirlers will find that the time limits are in the same ranges except Advanced Two/Multiple baton and Men's Solo. Below you will find a chart comparing the times for some AAU, NBTA, & USTA events. As you can see, they mostly line up for AAU & NBTA, but some USTA students will need to add additional time to their routines. 

Included here is the full AAU Baton Twirling Solo Time Limits Chart where the above info was found.

Set Music:
For NBTA & AAU, the events are performed to whatever music is playing overhead except in individual music events and teams, vs for USTA, events are performed to set music. 

All timing for events in AAU start with the first move after the salute/pose, and ends with a final pose or salute. Salutes are not required (like they are in NBTA). A pose works the same as a salute in AAU.

Challenger Division:
AAU offers a Challenger Division. This division is for athletes with Special Needs. This can include medical, behavior, developmental, learning, or physical issues. Athletes in this status may also enter in the Novice or Beginner events for scoresheets only (no placements). If you enter the Challenger division, all events entered for competition must be in the Challenger division. 

AAU Specific Events & Rules:

"All Around" Events for AAU

As AAU does not do modeling, they do not offer a traditional NBTA style pageant. Instead they offer an "All Around" event. This factors together the scores from different events to award the most "well rounded" twirler with the "All Around" title. An athlete's Solo Level determines their All Around level. Placements in all events will be added together and the person with the least amount of placement points wins (i.e. 1st, 2nd, and 4th = 7 points). If there is a tie, the solo score will break the tie. 

For AAU Lonestar, there are two "All Around Events"
      - Lonestar Majorette factors together Basic Strut & Military Strut only
      - Lonestar All Around Twirler factors together Solo & Two Baton only

For Junior Olympics, the All Around Event combines the following: 
      - Novice Division: One Baton Solo, Basic Strut & Parade Strut
      - Beginner Division: One Baton Solo, Multiple Baton Solo, & Parade Strut
      - Intermediate Division: One Baton Solo, Multiple Baton Solo, & X-Strut
      - Advanced & Elite Divisions: One Baton Solo, X-Strut, Multiple Baton Solo, & Dance Twirl Solo
      - Collegiate Division: One Baton, College Half Time, Collegiate Dance Twirl, and Downfield Strut 

Events Offered at AAU Lonestar Super Regional

One Baton, Two Baton, Three Baton, & X-Strut - For AAU, the judging criteria and guidelines for these events will follow all the same rules and structure as with NBTA. 

Multiple Baton Solo - This event is similar to the NBTA College Pageant Solo, but is open to all ages and levels. Status level determined by athlete's Two Baton status level. Athletes must perform One Baton only for 0:30-0:45 seconds, but the rest of the time can include two baton, three baton (Nov/Beg/Int can use three, but it is only required for Adv/Adult), and even four baton skills (only allowed in Adv/Adult). The time limit for this event is 1:30-3:00 for all levels. 

Novice/Beginner/Intermediate Basic & Military Strut - For AAU, Basic Strut has a little different twist than in NBTA. For the Nov/Beg/Int divisions, the athlete will march the box TWICE around (instead of just once). The athlete will begin at Parade rest for four counts, comes to attention for four counts, then start with the left foot to complete two consecutive 32 count 8x8x8x8 boxes with pivoting to the right or left allowed.

Basic & Military Strut Differences: During Basic Strut, the twirler will carry the baton in a traditional or cradled position while exampling eye contact and showmanship. During Military Strut, the twirler will carry the baton positioned at their nose and will use the baton to indicate the beat of the music by moving the baton forward and back or up and down in the facial area. Athletes should example a serious expression without eye contact, using all focus on crisp movements. 

Advanced Basic & Military Strut - Advanced Athletes will compete with what is called a "Super 8 Pattern". To do this, the Athlete begins at Parade rest for four counts, comes to attention for four counts, then starts with the left foot to complete one 32 count box with pivots to the LEFT, followed by a second 32 count box with pivots to the RIGHT. Please see the image below for an example of a Super 8 Pattern. 

Events Not Offered at the AAU Lonestar Super Regional, but Available at Junior Olympics:

Dance Twirl Solo - Performed to Music of Choice using one baton. Similar to USTA Freestyle or NBTA Rhythmic. Only one division offered and only open to Int/Adv/Elite twirlers. Time limit 1:30-3:00.

Novelty Solo - Performed to Music of Choice using at least one and two baton segments, but can also include three or four baton, and use of props or twirling apparatuses (ribbons, hoops, flags, etc). This event is similar to an NBTA Show Twirl, however, any props or equipment used in the routine must be "twirled/manipulated" or a 2.0 penalty will be included (i.e. if you use a stool, it must be lifted, flipped, or manipulated. Just picking it up and moving it is not sufficient). No scenery or prop holders are allowed. Time limit is 1:30-3:00 for all levels (Beginner, Advanced, & Collegiate).

Parade Strut - Parade Strut is a marching routine that is combined with twirling skills suitable for a parade. The Athlete will complete a 16x16x16x16 count Square (for Nov/Beg Divisions) or a Super 8 Pattern (for Adv Divisions) while exampling twirling skills while marching in step with the music. All forward motion must begin with the left foot. No Gymnastics, leg holds, floor lunges.

Penalties Given During AAU Events:

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