Jan 25, 2018
Family Ties

Athletic trainers fill many roles. At the University of Oklahoma, Jenn Richardson is the athletic trainer for the women’s gymnastics team. But she also fills the role of an away-from-home mom for many.

As explained by Sooner Sports, Richardson has been with the program for 11 seasons and spends a lot of time with the gymnasts. But it’s a family affair, with her husband Dave also having a place as the team’s “Norman dad,” who’s around to encourage the team and keep an eye out on them.

“There is no way I would be where I was without them,” Sam Craus, a senior on the team, said. “They are always there. Like I said, they are like a second set of parents here and Dave is in the gym always asking how we are doing. Motivating us, cheering us along. Jenn, she has been my rock. I actually just tore my ACL and just had surgery and so I have gotten closer to her. I could not do it without them.”

In 2016, Dave was diagnosed with colon cancer. To outwardly show the team’s support, K.J. Kindler, one of the coaches, worked with the OU graphic designer to come up with a patch that the team wore on its warmups for the 2017 season.

“We want to honor him, and we want to do everything we can to help him with his battle and everything that he’s going through because it is hard,” Bre Showers, a sophomore on the team, said. “Being able to wear the patch, it means a lot. He’s our Norman dad. Jenn and her family are the glue that keeps our team together. It means a lot to have that patch on our sleeve.”

The patch says “Courage & Strength. Faith & Fight,” with a blue ribbon for colon cancer and Dave’s initials in the middle. The coaching staff worked to come up with words that would resonate with the Richardsons’ situation.

“When we presented them with that patch, I kind of wrapped it up in a Christmas gift that [Dave] opened,” Kindler said. “I had no idea that it would have the impact that it did on him. We were doing it from our hearts. We were wanting him to know that we were behind him 100 percent. Sometimes you underestimate what that means to other people and, so I feel like he really felt that all year long. We made sure that he was present with us at all times.”

As Richardson balanced work and caring for Dave, she would take him to chemotherapy and then head to the gym for practice. When the treatment was finished, she’d pick him up and get him settled back at home before heading back to finish at the gym.

“She is always on top of things,” Craus said. “There are days where it will get to her more but she rarely shows it. She never skips a beat. And if she misses practice to go to an appointment with him, she always has it covered and lets us know. So how she holds it together, I don’t know.”

At the end of the season, Dave was in the stands when the team won the 2017 National Championship. As he made his way to the floor afterward, a couple of the seniors told Dave that one was for him.

“I kind of stood there and was like ‘wow’ this is not for me, this is yours,” Richardson said. “I didn’t do any flips, I didn’t do any tumbles, handstands, I didn’t do any of it. But the fact that they said that during their celebration, it meant a whole lot. For me to feel like I can’t get through chemo or beat cancer, they’re examples of why I fight every day. To beat this.”

Dave began a second round of chemo this past December and the gymnasts are wearing the patches again this year. They are committed to supporting Richardson and her husband for as long as it takes.

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