Gymnastics is a unique sport that celebrates athleticism, agility, coordination and artistry. To complement the distinctive efforts of the student-athletes, programs throughout the SEC create their own leotards to wear during competition.
Inspiration for the design of the leos can come from various styles in fashion, such as prom dresses, swimsuits, ice skating costumes or even jewelry. Student-athletes are involved in the design process, sometimes even creating their own competition pieces.
"Our specific process in designing and creating our leotards begins by dividing the team into three groups, usually by class, and giving them the opportunity to come with their own designs and ideas," Tory Cohen, student manager at Florida said. "Each and every student-athlete is involved and has a say for what leotard they create."
"Creating the perfect leotard is a unique process," Ashley Johnston, Assistant Coach at Auburn added. "Our designs are typically inspired by fashion trends and student-athlete input. Recently, we challenged our team to work in four groups to submit a leotard design. We chose a winner and ended up incorporating that group's design into our post-season leotard."
Once teams have a concept design in place, they will work with their leotard manufacturers to execute their drafts. Programs will work their manufacturers to build upon a virtual visual design, including the addition of their school logo or mascot on the leos.
"They usually have something started, and we modify it to make it our own by playing with different colors, fabrics and rhinestones," Rachel Garrison, Associate Head Coach at Kentucky stated. "Then we will have a sample made, and the athletes will try it on and give their feedback."
Once the leotards are constructed, the coaches and student-athletes will decide on names for the leos and which leo to wear for each meet throughout the season.
"When we look at the season, we first decide which meets we want to debut our new leotards," Garrison noted. "For us, that is typically our Excite Night season opener and live TV meets. Then we decide which leotards we want to wear at home that year and work to not repeat leotards against an opponent from a previous year."
Missouri incorporates a fan-favorite selection once a year. In February, Tiger fans were asked to vote on two options - Slasher or Glitter Bomb - to wear in their meet against LSU (Glitter Bomb was this year's winner).
"Typically, once a season we ask our fans to vote between two leos they want to see us wear at our next home meet," Casey Jo MacPherson, Associate Head Coach at Missouri said. "This year, we posted a video on Instagram and Twitter highlighting the two options along with their nicknames."
Most programs reserve some of their favorite leos to wear each year at the SEC and NCAA Championships. Since teams did not have an opportunity to wear them for the conclusion of the 2020 season, SEC teams will plenty of options of leos that the student-athletes can wear in 2021.