Since Sarah Patterson, former Alabama gymnastics coach, coached the first Power of Pink meeting in 2005, no former Crimson Tide gymnast has been the head coach at the annual breast cancer awareness meeting. This week, Ashley Johnston will be the first.
Alabama (2-2, 1-2 SEC) hosts Auburn (3-3, 1-1) on Friday (6:30 p.m. SEC Network) at the Coleman Coliseum.
“It’s a remarkable feeling,” Johnston said. “I can remember when I competed here. Sarah Patterson was a championship-level head coach at this point, but she was known as the Power of Pink Lady. She started this movement.”
Johnston competed for Alabama Gymnastics from 2009 to 2012, winning two SEC championships and two national championships. She cited Patterson as an inspiration not only for her coaching career but also for the Power of Pink reunion.
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“To go through that process of learning from her, she’s a legend,” Johnston said. “It’s been wonderful. Now being able to step into her position is a really surreal feeling. Knowing that while I’m trying to lead this team to a champion, I’m also trying to get us to make differences, in To step into the community and bring hope, love and courage to people who are going through difficult times. This is an amazing position for me.”
Johnston also continued the tradition of the Alabama gymnastics team visiting the DCH Regional Medical Center to support breast cancer patients, dating back to her time as a gymnast for the Crimson Tide.
“This week we’re going to the DCH to see the patients and staff and see what their perspective is,” Johnston said. “Sometimes, as athletes in this amazing city, we get caught up in the expectation of victory. And while that’s important to us, I think it’s more important for us to learn the struggle it takes to win in life. I think we can learn a lot from the people going through this struggle.”
The tradition restart was popular with current gymnasts as some team members made their first Power of Pink trips of their collegiate careers.
“She did that when she was a gymnast here,” senior Makarri Doggette said. “We’ve never had the opportunity to do that. It’s great to hear their stories. It’s a great role for her to be involved in. She was always the kind of person who got us there, helped in our community and made a difference.
“It puts your life into perspective. You may be having a rough day, but there are people out there who need support too.”
Johnston was excited to have her return to the Power of Pink gathering and commended both her team and the breast cancer survivors that each gymnast will represent on Friday night.
“There’s just no better example than what you’re going to see on Friday night,” Johnston said. “These 18 ladies who are there to fight for their university, but also for something that is so much more.”