Erinn Dooley coaches Maryland's beam rotation.

Maryland Promotes Unity with DEI Leotards

Maryland gymnastics has been known for its meaningful, message-driven leotards for several seasons now. Assistant coach Erinn Dooley designs the looks, including the iconic flag designs for the Terps’ Maryland Pride meets.

The team has also debuted tank designs, like a pride warmup that was a surprise for the team in the preseason. Coach JJ Ferreira is active on the Big Ten Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee and in similar capacities with the WCGA, and the team was excited to wear the warmups in support of him and his efforts.

The Terps are hosting their second Diversity, Equity and Inclusion meet Sunday, March 12, featuring George Washington, Temple, Towson and Yale. Dooley and Ferreira had the idea to create a leo design that each team could wear, featuring their school logo but otherwise identical.

All five teams, in matching leos, present a united front and illustrate the message behind the meet. While DEI meets have become increasingly popular over the last several years, with some teams having debuted Black Lives Matter and Pride leos, no meet has featured teams in matching DEI designs.

Head coach Brett Nelligan called the four visiting coaches and asked if they would be comfortable participating by wearing the leos, as well as about their apparel budget. The idea didn’t come together until the season had started when budgets are often settled.

“We worked with Sylvia P to get the price down, because it’s a cause leo, and make it accessible and affordable to all the teams,” Nelligan said. Maryland is also helping one of the visiting teams cover the cost. Once Nelligan finished the financial planning, Dooley took the reigns, designing the leo and coordinating with each team to be sure the correct sizes were ordered.

This leo isn’t being kept secret from the Maryland gymnasts, who are traditionally surprised with their new apparel. Early in the process, Dooley asked them if they would be comfortable competing in a tank leo and matching other teams since it’s such a unique situation.

Long sleeve leos can be very expensive, so Dooley opted for tanks for financial reasons. “The point is to send a message, a strong message out there. And if you make it financially unattainable, then I just don’t think that’s moving in the right direction,” she said.

To Dooley, leos are more than just sparkly fabric. They’re armor for her athletes and a confidence boost when they step onto the floor to compete.

While the leos are intentionally a big, visible part of the meet, Maryland is focusing on education as well. The meet is important to the staff, who view it as a project that is evolving and growing each year.

“The messaging on the video boards was all about education about inclusivity and diversity and equity inclusion,” said Dooley of the 2022 DEI meet. “I think year after year, we’ll really try to build upon it.”

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Article by Emily Minehart

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