Welcome to Riley’s world, the beloved former US elite gymnast and current Florida Gators athlete is collaborating with us on her second leo collection—this time with a mission to spread kindness in all its forms.
We chat with Riley about her new collection, kindness in all its forms, gym-life balance, and her first year as a freshman at Florida Gators.
Tell us a bit about your new Riley × Sylvia P collection!
This new collection is incredibly special to me, not just because of the stunning leos but the powerful meanings behind each one. This collection tells a story through its bold, colorful, inclusive, and calming patterns.
What inspired your collection?
Inspired by the next generation of gymnasts themselves, my ideas were created with the intention of creating a community of inclusion. I wanted each gymnast to see a piece of themselves in the designs and draw strength from the overall meaning of this collection, which is kindness.
Your collection has a powerful message to share. What did you want your collection to say?
Through the process of designing this collection, I was able to creatively express and embody what kindness means to me. I hope to inspire the younger gymnasts to consider what kindness may look like from their perspective. Everyone may find a different meaning in the word kindness, and I wanted to collaborate collectively on what that may look like in our community.
Some examples of what kindness means to me is being understanding, patient, doing self-care, reaching out to a friend, using my voice, looking at things from a different perspective, and standing up for myself and others.
Most importantly, kindness is not only an external action meant for others but something that is crucial to practice on yourself. Be kind to you!
Why is this message so important for you to share?
This message is important for me to share because in a sport as challenging as gymnastics, there are going to be good days and bad days. What’s important to remember during those times is to be kind to yourself. Sometimes that means taking a day off, grabbing ice cream after a hard practice, doing something creative, or making fun weekend plans with friends. Being kind can also mean including a new teammate in an activity, being there to give encouragement, or lending a helping hand to those around you.
You’re a role model for many gymnasts and young people out there. Why have you made it your mission to ‘spread kindness’?
My mission to spread kindness stems from my own personal experiences. For me, one smile or kind word when I’m having a hard day makes all of the difference. Additionally, expressing kindness through gratitude, a kind gesture or encouragement not only helps the people around me but gives me perspective on what others may be going through. In the end, being kind and lifting each other up will always prevail over tearing each other down.
Your collection is also charitable! Every Acceptance Leotard receives a free matching rainbow Pride Bow in donation to the Tiny Bow Project. Tell us a little more about this charity and why it is so important to you.
This past year the Tiny Bow Project made such a positive impact on NCAA gymnastics! For every competition, all of the gymnasts wore a ribbon in their hair, supporting/raising awareness towards a specific cause. I am ecstatic to be partnering with this charity because my former teammate and new Assistant to the Head Coach, Megan Skaggs, is the founder of the Tiny Bow Project.
I saw first-hand the passion and kindness Skaggs poured into this charity, her goal was to help those who needed a little kindness, encouragement, and love in their lives. Megan Skaggs has always been one of my role models because of her compassion and drive to help others (as well as her beautiful gymnastics). I am honored to be a part of a platform where the Tiny Bow Project can continue to shine and spread kindness to others.
You’ve also pledged to donate to The Hidden Opponent, an advocacy group raising awareness for student/athlete mental health. Can you tell us why this is important to you?
I love the messages The Hidden Opponent raises awareness regarding student/athlete mental health. Being a full-time student/athlete myself, I can attest to how difficult it can be to make time for your mental health and how challenging it can be to speak up if you are struggling. Athletes are perceived to be tough and strong people who can handle it all, but that’s not true. As grateful as we are for the incredible experiences we are blessed with as student/athletes, we do find ourselves exhausted, run-down, and mentally strained at times. It’s a tough balancing act. That’s why I am honored to be partnering with The Hidden Opponent, they have been working to break the stigma around an athlete’s mental health while providing athletes with a safe community to turn to when struggling.
As a student athlete yourself, how have you found your first year at college?
I absolutely love being at the University of Florida as a student/athlete. This past year I have grown so much as a person and have taken the time to explore my passions outside of gymnastics. All of the fulfilling experiences I had outside of the gym have improved not only my mental health but my gymnastics as well. This is why I’m a huge advocate for taking time to refuel and grow as a person outside of your sport.
Some things I have taken time to do this summer outside of gymnastics are shadowing surgeons at the Shands Hospital here at UF, taken a beach trip (or two ), doing lots of art projects, adopting my beautiful puppy Sage, working on making new friends, taken an anatomy class, participated in an anatomy lab, and travelled to help younger gymnasts at gymnastics camps! The start of figuring out who I am as a person has been the best part of my first year as a collegiate student/athlete, I am SO excited to see what the future brings in and out of gymnastics!