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Ask The Bruins - Gymnastics
By: UCLA Athletics
Throughout the 2005 gymnastics season, will be conducting "Ask the Bruins" sessions with different members of the UCLA gymnastics team.

This week's featured guests were head coach Valorie Kondos Field, senior and 2000 Olympian Kristen Maloney, freshman and 2000 Olympian Tasha Schwikert and freshman and former national team member Jordan Schwikert.

The Bruins will be competing twice in Southern California this weekend. First up is a dual meet at Cal State Fullerton on Friday, Feb. 11 at 7 pm. The Bruins return home for a dual meet against Washington on Sunday, Feb. 13 in Pauley Pavilion at 2 pm.

Sandi, Detroit: How much do you all follow the results and happenings in collegiate gymnastics and elite even though you have your own careers and teams to worry about? Do you have favorite web sites to follow?
Miss Val: I look at the Troester rankings and will pull up results of USAG competitions. Because we can't affect another team's performance as you can in sports with offense and defense, I prefer to keep my focus on our team. I'll ask Greg, Suzanne, or Sarah about marketing strategies that have worked for them, but as far as gymnastics goes ... I keep my focus on ourselves. Even at meets, I would LOVE to be able to watch other team's gymnastics to stay fresh with choreographic ideas, etc., but my mind is too focused on making sure I'm not overlooking something within our own team. With regards to web sites, there are a few coaches around the country that I'm friends with who are "gymnastics central" - I catch up on "the scoop" with them periodically.
Maloney: I follow a little bit with the results from college. But for the most part I try to focus on our team and how we are doing. We really don't have control over what's going on elsewhere, so I like to keep the energy on us!
Tasha: I don't really follow results and happenings in gymnastics. School's the main focus right now. I do go on the the website, though. I like to check up on all of our sports here to see how we're doing.

Ryan Lange (Red Deer, AB, Canada): Kristen, First of all I would like to congratulate you on all the success you have had thus far this season. Secondly, with all of the unfortunate injuries that you have suffered throughout your gymnastics career, what are some of the factors that kept you pressing on and that lead you to return this season to compete again for the Bruins? Good luck to you and the other girls, and I can't wait to come down on the 27th and watch you girls compete!
Maloney: Thanks! I always believed that I was not done with the sport. I was determined to come back from my injury, and I never had a doubt in my mind that I would be back.

Erin (Los Angeles): What is the team's typical training schedule (practice, conditioning, etc.)? And to the gymnasts, what kind of diet do you follow to maintain your stamina?
Jordan: We go in the morning from 8-12, including weights (weights are from 11-12), and after that we have school, and we usually train during the week on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. On Thursday we are usually traveling, or we have it off when we have a meet on Friday. As for diets, just getting lean protein in you and eating lots of vegetable. Sometimes I let myself have a goodie once in a while, but not too many. I try to drink lots of water and a lot less caffeine and try to limit my coffee intake.
Miss Val: We train the typical 4 hours a day, 3 hours of gymnastics and 1 hour of strength and conditioning. We also REST our athletes as much as possible. I believe that rest is active healing, so it's not like they're doing "nothing" - it is actually a vital part of their training.
Tasha: I just try to limit the amount of fat and sugar I intake and try to keep myself hydrated.

Daniel from Fullerton California: Miss Val do you or do you know of any other college coaches ever make an effort to recruit a gymnasts from China, Russia or Romania? Kristen what do you say to the younger gymnasts who struggle at times? Tasha and Jordan thank you for chooseing UCLA!
Miss Val: In the past, the athletes that I've inquired about from those countries either don't have a command of the English language to be able to make it academically at UCLA, or they simply haven't had enough schooling. Lena Degteva, who was on our team in the late 1990's, said that if she'd stayed in the Ukraine (where she was born) she probably wouldn't have gone to school past 10th grade.
Maloney: I would tell the gymnasts to keep pushing through, to look within and remember what's fun about gymnastics and why they are doing it. Once they remember why they love the sport then it should help with the hard times.
Jordan: Thank you. I'm so glad to be here. I couldn't have chosen a better place to go!

Rachel, Davis: Kristen, you're the epitome of perseverance and a terrific role model for younger girls and women. I'm wondering what your plans are for life after UCLA - and good luck with everything you do! You're an inspiration to everyone :)
Maloney: Thank you very much! I really don't have any set plans as of right now ... any suggestions?! I am going to do Miss Val's show down in Sea World for the summer. Then I'm not sure ...

Jess (Newport Beach): In addition to this year's fabulous team, we are really enjoying the shirtless pushup performing boys & flag throwing referees over by the beam. Are these the craziest fans you've ever had?
Maloney: As are we!!! They are for sure the rowdiest fans we have ever had at our meets! We love them and hope that they continue to come and support us ... and maybe bring even more next time!
Miss Val: YEA - that is our football team! Not only that, but they are some of our star football players coming out to support our gymnastics team. I hear they are travelling to Fullerton this Friday to show their support. Some of their cheers they come up with are really funny.
Tasha: Most definitely. We're really good friends with a lot of players on the football team, and it's just so cool to me that they come out and support our meets. They definitely bring more life to the competition. Maurice Drew is my number one fan. ;)
Jordan: Actually, it is the first big group of fans I've had. For the football players to come to the meets is really awesome because who would think they would dress up all crazy and be our mascots basically? They have their referees, and it's funny. It's so kind of them to come to the meets as a group.

Tampa: Kristen, It seems like your gymnastics has become better with age. How have you managed to continue to progress and soar? Do you think you will return to elite as Mohini did?
Maloney: Well, I think that there is such a big difference in training between elite and college. My body now can't handle the training I used to do. I do a lot more basics and maintenance training than I ever did before. I think that helps with the rigorous competitive schedule we have here at college. And no, I don't plan on returning to elite when I am done here. It's time for me to move on with my life and do new things!

Becky (Newport Beach): Jordan, it's so exciting to see you back! Since you are doing so well would you consider going elite again?
Jordan: I would not consider going elite again. Elite was a bit of a challenge, even though I like the challenge. It was just too much. As of right now, I don't think my body can handle all the training that's required to do elite. Now it's my college years, and I'm enjoying what I have right now.

alina: Tasha, do you have any plans of returning to elite?
Tasha: As of now, I'm just very focused on college gymnastics and my education, and I have no plans of returning. But who knows? I might catch Olympic fever and might want to return. You never know!

Samantha (Seal Beach): Since there are two meets this weekend, who can we expect to see competing at each meet?
Miss Val: We are planning on competing our entire team that is ready between the two meets. That means everyone, except Emily Hanson, who hasn't been training much due to an injured foot, will be competing. One thing we're working on this season is "accountability", meaning being ready physically, mentally, and emotionally to come in and compete well on the events on which our athletes are prepared. We are training much better than we are competing right now. Our entire team needs to understand that every one of them is vital for our "team's" success. For this reason, I'm not having any alternates on Friday. Friday's meet should be exciting with Walker, Winn, and Tedmon in the all around, Peckett and Vanden Eykel on three events and Jordan and Selesky in on two. Kate and Auld will each compete on one. Kate (except for beam), Maloney, and Tasha will be rested for Sunday but will be coaching their teammates up big time! According to how our training has been going this week, it should be a really fun meet!

Denver: Tasha & Jordan, You guys seem like twins lol! What is it like training in college gymnastics together? Do you guys room together, have the same classes, hang out?
Tasha: Training with my sister is awesome considering that now we're at the same level competing against each other, yet we're on the same team. We're both very different so sometimes we have our different training plans, but this is something in my life I've been looking forward to - to be training for the same goal with her. We don't room together, but we have some of the same classes and we definitely hang out.
Jordan: I actually like training together with her. She pushes me, I push her. Occasionaly we fight, but that's a part of being sisters who are together all the time and who are close. We've been trainig together all our lives, so it's not really a change for me.

Rich Trignano: My question is to Kristen Maloney.. What gives you the drive and motivation do compete day in and day out.. I am so proud of you.. your cousin: Rich trignano
Maloney: Thanks Rich! It's good to hear from you!! The motivation comes from the love of the sport, the love I have for my teammates, and the love I have for competiton.

Rachel (Newport Beach): How do you like your chances for a Sixth NCAA Championship this year? With the losses, are you still confident that the team can pull it together in the post-season?
Miss Val: You know ... I really do feel that we have the talent to win. We need to get that "inner arrogance"/calm confidence that comes when you KNOW you can hit your routines. As I reminded our coaches this past weekend, we didn't feel that as a team until the week before the national championships last year. We've got a lot of work to do in these next two months, but I like the character of our team, and I believe that they can do it.

Claire, Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada: My question is for Jordan: I watched you at Nationals a few years ago when you had to pull out due to your back injury. What made you decide to come back to the sport after such a bad injury? I think it's pheonominal that you were able to come back to such a high level. And how are you enjoying being at UCLA with your sister?
Jordan: I came back because I love gymnastics so much, and i wanted to show people it's still possible to come back after a bad injury. I've always wanted to go to UCLA - that was my dream school, and I knew I could come back and get a scholarship, so that's what really pushed me to come back in the gym. I am definitely loving it at UCLA with Tasha. Schooling is hard; it's the busy life here at ucla, but altogether I know it's definitely going to be worth it in the end.

Danene (Rialto): I wanted to know if it is weird for you all to walk around campus and attend classes since many people who keep up with the national/international gymnastics circuit know who you are? Do you guys get a lot of inquisitive stares or is it pretty low key?
Tasha: No, it's not weird at all to work around campus because there are so many amazing athletes who attend UCLA. It's kind of nice to be in the mix with people at your level in all different sports.

Danene (Rialto): Did there used to be a men's gymnastics team here at UCLA? If so, what happened?
Miss Val: We used to have a GREAT men's gymnastics team. When I first got here in the 1980's, Peter Vidmar, Tim Daggett, and Mitch Gaylord were all on the team and helped the U.S. win Gold in the 1984 Olympics that were held right here in Pauley Pavilion. The UCLA men's program also won 2 NCAA championships in 1984 and 1987. Unfortunately, the program was discontinued in the mid- 1990's due to budget cuts. My biggest concern about men's gymnastics not being offered in many colleges is that it doesn't leave many sport and scholarship options for shorter male athletes. I think of Tony Pineda, Mexico's top male gymnast who is about 5'2" who came to UCLA in the mid-1980's - would he have ever been able to go to college if there weren't men's gymnastics scholarships available to him?

Brittany (West LA): Hi Jordan. You're so solid on all four events. What do you consider to be your best event, and which one is your favorite event to compete and why?
Jordan: I can't really consider any of them being my best event. I feel I go up and down between all of them. One meet my high score will be on beam, the next meet it will be on bars. I think I'm pretty much an all-arounder and even my scoring stays pretty much at the same levels. I like bars - I've just always had an easy time swinging bars, and so that's why I enjoy it - it's not so much of a big problem for me.

Sarah (LA): Kristen, Congrats on a great start this season! I keep seeing it mentioned that you have to push yourself to like bars, yet you are #1 in the country. Why has this event been such a mental challenge for you when you have clearly mastered it physically? Keep up the great work. Go Bruins!
Maloney: Oh yeah, see I think it's pretty funny that I am ranked number one on bars!! The reason I think it has been so hard for me is because bars has never been a strong event for me. In the past I had gotten such negative feedback about bars and always had to work extra hard and extra long on that event that I never really believed that I was good on bars. But now all that hard work has paid off!

Jessica (Huntington Beach): Tasha, it's so amazing to see you compete without taped up ankles! Who's idea was the belly flop 1/2 turn on floor? I love it!
Tasha: Life without tape is amazing! The belly flop half on floor was something that I did while performing at the Rock and Roll Gymnastics Tour. It was a cute little crowd-pleasing skill, and I showed Miss Val, and she loved it and decided to incoprate it into my floor routine.

Jessie (Palmdale): Will there be a UCLA gymnastics camp this year?
Miss Val: Absolutely there will be a gymnastics camp this year. And watch out ... the KING of gymnastics camps is running the show. Chris Waller is in charge - I'll be there doing a little dance, and almost all of our team members will be there as coaches and counselors.

Tiffany (Pasadena): Hi Jordan and Tasha! Do you like the lifestyle in Vegas or LA better?
Tasha: The two lifstyles are different and unique in their own ways. I love them both for what they have to offer. LA is so Hollywood and trendy, and Vegas is very flashy. They're both places that appeal to me.
Jordan: I like it in Vegas because everything is all spread out. And there's free parking in Vegas - I like that! There are a lot of areas that are more peaceful back home. I know I'll be loving LA for the 4-5 years I'm here for college. It's a fun and exciting place, with lots of people around. But I would not consider living here permanently. Parking drives me crazy, all the masses of people drive me crazy, but for the four years it's fun. If there wasn't as much going on here, it wouldn't be as much fun.

Lindsay(westwood): I was wondering how you guys like practicing in the morning vs. the afternoon. Is it hard to get up and practice that early? Also, do you guys have more than one practice a day? You guys are doing awesome this year, keep it up!
Maloney: I never thought I would say this... EVER.. but I don't mind training in the morning. Its kinda nice to get the workout over with and being done with everything once classes are over. But it's going great!

Jonathan (Pasadena): It saddens me that we consistently have some of the best gymnastics in the country, yet we can't get people in the seats to see these fine student athletes. As a long time fan (15 years) I'm frustrated. I feel that your team is a hidden gem in the community that even with all the world class talent and national titles has yet to be discovered. Do you see this as a problem? Would you like to have more fans in the seats? Miss Val, what can you do as the coach to broaden your fan base and to reach out to your school and community to let sports fans know that you are here!?!
Miss Val: Jonathan, this is our biggest challenge at UCLA Gymnastics. I absolutely see no reason that we can't have a steady fan base of 6,000 to 8,000 on average at every home meet. With regard to broadening our base as you suggest, we market to the local schools, all of the local gyms, and the private schools in the area hard. We market to the elderly retirement homes (I even sent a bus out by you to Bradbury to bus in the elderly that have enjoyed our meets but didn't have transportation to Pauley). We schmooze, barrage, and plead with the radio stations for any plugs they can give us. Our student-athletes do exhibitions at local gyms, schools, and retirement homes, and they canvas the Westwood area with ticket applications and schedule cards at the local businesses. We give free tickets to groups. We set up booths at the USA Gymnastics post Olympic tour this past fall with our student-athletes and had hundreds of people stop by the booth, get information, and fill out season ticket apps. We post signs and sign boards on campus the week before our home competitions.

I hear from many people that come to our meets that they love the pre-meet entertainment and the way we run our meets. I hear people say that if it's good enough for Coach Wooden to be a consistent fan then it's certainly good enough for them. We have our meets on Sunday afternoons thinking it's a good family day and it's the best time of the week to miss traffic. I speak at a good number of events each month and encourage them to bring their children, grandchildren, and neighbors' children ... they will not be disappointed. The Chancellor of the university speaks about our program every time he speaks.

I don't need to reiterate the challenges we face with marketing in a city such as L.A. - but I must say, our fan base may not be large but they are an enthusiastic and appreciative crowd. Our athletes comment all the time about how great the fans are. So... thank you! We'll continue working to figure this out.

Melissa (Anoka, MN): Tasha: How different is life for you now that you are in college? Do you miss the elite scene?
Tasha: School is a huge priority now, as opposed to when I was in elite gymnastics. I love the team atmosphere and the camaraderie of being a student-athlete at UCLA. There will be times when I miss the intense cut-throat competition of elite, but that was my life then, and I've moved on, and I'm happy with what I have now.

Ross Zelen: Who else will challenge you guys in the confrence?
Miss Val: Everyone should be a challenge! Stanford is supposedly getting healthier and healthier. Washington should have Carly Dockendorf back soon (if she isn't already back). So much depends on whether teams are healthy or not. That's one reason why I'm not having alternates in at our meet this Friday. We have to be a solid "TEAM" and not rely on a few to save the day.

Elizabeth (Villa Hills, KY): Miss Val, Would you ever consider having a grad assistant or volunteer assistant coach? Thanks for all you do, Elizabeth
Miss Val: Yes, I would consider having a volunteer assistant. Feel free to e-mail me if you're interested. Thanks for your kind words.

Emma (St. Louis): Kristen, congratulations on such a wonderful senior season, you deserve it! Do you plan to stay on the West coast after you graduate, or head back East?
Maloney: Thanks! Well, I don't know if I am moving back East yet. I have to decide what I want to do first and that is, for some reason, really hard to do right now! I like it here and I like it back East too, so it all depends on where I get a job.

Ed (Boston): Do you ever allow young coaches with a desire to learn to come in an observe a practice session and maybe work with them a little?
Miss Val: We basically have an open gym policy and we have people come by our gym all the time and watch training. Working our camp is a good time to learn coaching techniques as well.

Tiffany (San Marino): Hi Kristen, I've enjoyed watching you do gymnastics for the past few years! Do you still keep in touch with your Parkette teammates and coaches and your olympic teammates too? Good luck this season!
Maloney: Thanks! Yes, I do still keep in touch with my old teammates and coaches. I visit the gym when I go home and I talk to my coaches every once and awhile on the phone. I was there so long and have made very close friends.

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