BATON ROUGE, La. — Miami football and its “turnover chain” are old news. Anyone who’s anyone knows the cool, new trend belongs to LSU gymnastics and its “stick crown.”
In the Tigers’ season-opening win over Arkansas on Friday, the team debuted its newest symbol of success with the stick crown, a shiny piece of headgear passed from teammate to teammate any time a Tiger sticks a landing on her routine. What started as a simple reward quickly blossomed into something bigger, with fans quickly noticing and getting involved and gymnasts blowing out “coronation ceremonies,” knighting each new “stick queen.”
— Nick Suss (@nicksuss) January 6, 2018
Actually, good sir, that is in fact the “stick” crown 😌 https://t.co/r1Vbb9VhzF
— McKenna Kelley (@mckennamckelley) January 6, 2018
“The stick crown is for anyone who sticks a landing,” said junior Lexie Priessman, the first recipient of the crown. “That’s just something new we wanted to start this season just for maybe a little bit of confidence here and there. When you get the stick crown, you know what you’re capable of doing.”
The idea for the stick crown traces back to assistant coach Jay Clark. A graduate of and former coach at the University of Georgia, Clark’s time at UGA overlapped with former Georgia football coach Mark Richt, now at Miami. Through their passing kinship, Clark watched a few Miami football games this season, seeing the joy and excitement generated by defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and his turnover chain.
Clark suggested the idea to his gymnasts at Gym 101, the Tigers’ preseason showcase. From there, injured junior McKenna Kelley took over, purchasing the crown and serving the role of placing the crown on new stick queens.
To Clark, this was never an idea he intended to, for lack of a better term, stick. Clark said he thought his gymnasts would turn down the idea, but everyone seemed game and the idea blossomed.
“It’s theirs. They need to own it,” Clark said. “I just kind of spearheaded it for a moment, but it needs to be what they want it to be. It’s just something that I thought it would be fun. I don’t want it to trivialize what we’re doing in any way, but I do want them to have a good time with it.”
So will Clark and LSU gymnastics start a trend across all of college gymnastics as Richt and Miami have in college football? Clark said he’s not sure. But he does know what kind of affect a rallying symbol, even something as trivial as a plastic crown, can have on athletes.
“Look, if other programs want to do something, more power to them,” Clark said. “I don’t know. All I know is that when I watched the way the Miami Hurricane players seemed to rally around that and the good time they were having on the sidelines with it and the way that the defense seemed to play with so much passion when that thing was involved, I just thought it would be a good idea for us.
“I really didn’t give it a whole lot of thought beyond what would happen,” Clark continued. “I really didn’t think it would draw this much attention initially. I thought the kids would pass it around and people might wonder what it was. But I didn’t expect it to be some sort of promotional idea. I think our marketing people have already grabbed onto the idea of maybe getting crowns for kids at the meets and those kinds of things. But it really wasn’t intended for that in any way.”
Moral of the story? Keep your eyes out for plastic crowns littered around the PMAC this spring.