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LSU Gym's Rivers finds leadership in course of personal struggles

3 months 1 week 2 days ago Wednesday, February 16 2022 Feb 16, 2022 February 16, 2022 6:45 PM February 16, 2022 in Sports
Source: WBRZ-TV

Kai Rivers hasn't had the easiest start to her college gymnastics career, but through the adversity she feels like she's found her role on the LSU Tiger gymnastics team.

"I feel like I was like a broken horse when I first came here," Rivers said regarding the numerous injuries she's faced as a Tiger. 

"I wasn't like healthy in any way mentally or physically. After my freshman year I got my shoulder labrum repaired, I got my foot repaired, and then I tore my Achilles. And then I had to start from scratch again."

During that time away from competition, it was her head coach Jay Clark who challenged her to stay engaged and adopt a different role for her team.

"He was like, 'You're a leader team. Like you can't just abandon your team just because you can't you know, just because you can't compete like you're competing next year. Like he's like you're going to compete when you're a junior. So do what you got to do this year, but like you're still a part of this team. So I'm going to need you to like hop on board.'" Rivers said of Clarks motivational push.

Rivers is now as healthy as a gymnast can be during the middle of the season and she feels like being back in the mix has helped her leadership expand, "the foundation of last year really helped like with this year, and now it's like I'm actually alongside them tumbling and flipping and helping them like alleviate some of the pressure they probably feel."

Clark was more adamant about the importance of Rivers role on the team, "Kai Rivers is our alpha. She's the most vocal, she has a way of leading in a very gentle, almost loving way she could correct her teammates in a manner that's not barking. That's not chastising them, but you know, coming alongside them and getting them to understand why something needs to change."

As for Rivers she says that understanding where organic leadership grows from was critical to hearing and talking with her teammates.  "I've realized in the last couple of years that Leadership isn't really about like who's the loudest or even who does the best. That helps for sure. But it's also about like trust and kindness. And I love them so much that like I feel like they trust me like I feel like a lot of leadership is trust, like trusting that like I'm not saying this because I'm being mean I'm saying it because I love you so much like I want to see be the best version of you that I see."

LSU gymnastics will compete this weekend in a sold-out home meet against Alabama on Friday and then face Missouri and Arkansas in tri-meet in Columbia, Missouri on Sunday.

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