Head coach Sarah Patterson and her gymnastics teams have visited Baton Rouge, La., many times to battle the LSU Tigers, but the six-time national championship-winning coach recalls one meeting where things got a little out of hand.
After fans heckled her team endlessly during some of their routines, Patterson took it upon herself to address the situation. She went into the stand to confront the fans in a positive way, she said.
“I just said, ‘If this was your sister or this was your daughter, would you want someone putting them in a situation where it would jeopardize their health?’” Patterson said. “It was right over the balance beam. I just kind of approached it not from a bad standpoint. It’s nothing that the coaches do or anything like that. It’s just the fans. It’s just the nature at LSU. I just kind of approached it, ‘If this was your sister, would you want her to be put in a precarious position?’”
LSU’s Death Valley is notorious for being one of the loudest and toughest places to play in college football, but the chants of “Tiger Bait” can be heard at every sporting event hosted by the Bayou Bengals.
In Coleman Coliseum, if a gymnast from the opposing team falls or struggles during a routine, the Alabama fans cheer her on as she regains her footing.
Not at LSU.
“It’s typical of LSU. It’s much more of a fanatic, regular sports fans than gymnastics fans,” Patterson said. “If you notice when someone from the other team falls on an event at Alabama, the people start clapping, cheering get back on the bar. They’re polite. They’re still intense and they cheer hard for us, but I think they’re polite. There’s none of that in Baton Rouge.”
Alabama traveled to LSU last season and every gymnast, besides freshmen Lauren Beers and Carley Sims, have experienced the raucous crowd. Still, the team prepares as if it were everyone’s first trip to the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
“We’ll get the music going in here. We’ll play it really loud,” Kayla Williams said. “We’ll have some loud clapping. We’ll get in here; scream at each other, ‘Tiger Bait, Tiger Bait,’ that kind of stuff. We’re right beside the beam yelling at each other. It creates that environment, but at the same time, we know we’re still going to cheer each other on when we get there.”
Alabama posted its third 197-plus score in a row and has continued to improve from week to week. With only one meet remaining (against Okahoma) after facing No. 4 LSU, No. 5 Alabama is preparing for the postseason and no longer tinkering with routines.
“Yeah, this is definitely the time where we take out the skills that are getting the most deductions and fine-tune our routines and really just work on those handstands and stuck landings,” Kaitlyn Clark said.
Friday will be the Crimson Tide’s third “pink” meet of the season, and the Tide holds a 19-0 all-time record when wearing its pink leotards.
Leading in today’s Crimson White: