by Katy Stuart (@Katy_Lane), BRSocMe Events Chair
At the Baton Rouge Social Media Association’s first meeting of the year Jake Terry, Associate Director of Communications for LSU Athletics, spoke to us about social media tactics and strategies for LSU gymnastics. I was particularly excited about this meeting because I have been an avid LSU gymnastics fan since I was seven years old. I remember when the Georgia gym dawgs were our biggest rivalry, when there were handstand competitions between rotations by fans and you could get players’ autographs in the entrance halls of the PMAC after meets. When you live in the south, especially in Louisiana, sports are a way of life. Jake and I discussed our love of the sports he covers and even exchanged stories of where we were during historic LSU moments, both the good and the bad. It is always a pleasure meeting someone whose fandom mirrors your own.
2.18.16 Baton Rouge Social Media Association Meeting
Jake has been covering LSU gymnastics and football for the past seven years. The first thing he noted was how much the gymnastics program has evolved during his tenure, and how changing social media trends affected that growth. The first social media platform the gymnastics program utilized was Facebook to really focus on their target audience of families. Back then messages focused on driving people to meets. Through marketing campaigns, social media and the general success of the team over the past few years, LSU gymnastics’ average attendance has grown from 3,000 to 5,500 to a program high of 13,179 during last year’s meet vs. Minnesota on March 6.
Today LSU gymnastics uses multiple social media platforms including traditional outlets like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. This season they are also experimenting with Periscope and Snapchat. “The most important thing is to make sure posts are quick and accurate,” Terry said about live updates during meets.
Terry shared one of the greatest aspects of social media coverage for gymnastics, and it is their ability to explore new trends in communications. Coach DD Breaux contributes immensely in this expansion, mainly because Terry said she is constantly pushing her staff and athletes to think bigger and be greater.
Snapchat plays an important role in recruitment for the program, but is Terry’s least favorite social media platform. He recognizes its value, and opts to give Sophomore Erin Macadaeg primary access to their Snapchat account. Having the posts come from one of the gymnasts gives recruits behind the scenes insight into what it’s like to be on the team.
Periscope is the latest platform Terry and his team have used. “Periscope has been great exposure for us, at home or away,” Terry said. Throughout the 2016 season they have really used Periscope during meet warm ups, to give fans a taste of what’s to come during the actual meet.
An interesting question was raised by one of our members: How do they deal with negative comments on social media after a loss? Terry said over the years he has formed the habit of taking a step back for a few hours. It is so easy to react when negative comments are made, but taking that time really clears his head and lets him plan instead for the next game or meet.
The ability to put filters on certain phrases doesn’t hurt either. Terry joked, “There’s a certain phrase, that I believe starts with a T and second word starts with an R, that the crimson and white fans use. We filter those out to prevent ‘online fires’ before they happen.”
Our final question came from a member who was curious about any coaching Terry and his staff provides the athletes about posting to social media. Most training happens before the season starts, but every once and a while Terry receives a text from star running back Leonard Fournette after a game looking for advice on the best way to word a tweet. Look out Buga Nation, because Fournette’s next tweet might just have a hint of Jake Terry in there somewhere.
Tour of the LSU Gymnastics Practice Facility
Not only did Baton Rouge Social Media Association members learn more about LSU gymnastics communication, but after the meeting, we also received a tour of the new practice facilities. The new facility is THE GYM of college gymnastics. I mean, look at this place.
First of all, let me point out that the gymnastics practice gym is located directly behind the PMAC and Tiger Stadium. It’s like the holy trinity of college athletic buildings, at least in my opinion. One of the things Katie Copeland, programs director for gymnastics and superb tour guide, mentioned about this new facility, is that it ups the ante for all other programs.
From the start of the tour our group was in awe. The facility is fully branded LSU with a state of the art welcoming lobby. The gym itself consists of four uneven bars, four beams, three vault tracks, and a huge purple practice floor with the eye of the tiger in the middle. Also in the facility the team has access to its own rehabilitation stations, cardio equipment, a choreography practice room and the “squad room.”
The “squad room” is particularly special because it gives the girls a place to convene together but not have the focus be primarily on gymnastics. The hashtag #geauxtogether has been used quite frequently by this program. Speaking with Copeland during the tour, we learned that this years team really does #geauxtogether during and after meets.
Walking through the facilities, you can almost feel how much passion, dedication and hard work is put into practices by the athletes who are working toward that perfect 10. One design aspect showcases team members who have received a perfect 10 for an event.
The latest athlete to receive a plaque will be Ashleigh Gnat, for her perfect 10 on vault at this years meet vs. Kentucky on January 22, as well as her perfect 10 on floor vs. Auburn on February 19.
At the very end of our tour, as Copeland was showing us the outside terrace, we ran into the coaching staff setting up the meet line up against Auburn. For the gymnastics enthusiasts in the group, it was the cherry on top being able to chat with the coaching staff about the program, Friday’s meet and the new facility that this team greatly deserves.
If you have never been to an LSU gymnastics meet, I am here to tell you, you are missing out on something special. This team is young, but they are determined. It is athletics like you have never seen before, and I promise they will not disappoint. Their next meet is an SEC showdown, as number six LSU takes on number four Alabama for the last home meet of the season on March 4, 2016 at 7:30 p.m. in the PMAC.