Jan. 19, 2012
UCLA Gymnastics coaches and team members will be answering your questions every Thursday over the course of the season. To submit questions for future Q&As, CLICK HERE.
To the student athletes: Is there something you look for in choosing coaches at the NCAA level? You've always talked about school, academics, team, etc., but what do you look for in a coach at this point in your career?
Samantha Peszek: Yes! This was also very important when choosing a school. Obviously, the most important thing for any student-athlete is to make sure they gel with the coach and the program. Each coach has a different philosophy and style of coaching. As a recruited athlete, no matter how good you may be, if they don't buy in to the program's beliefs, you will not be successful. I wanted to go to a school with coaches that could help improve my gymnastics and also help me achieve success outside of gymnastics.
I really clicked with Chris Waller from the beginning. His coaching style is what I am used to and how I like to be coached. He has a fiery passion for the program, the gymnasts, and winning. I felt the same way and couldn't wait to be a part of this "family" I heard so much about before coming. Miss Val's philosophy in coaching related to John Wooden's philosophy, which had already been proven successful, to say the least. She has strong beliefs of what her program should look like and how to achieve success not only in gymnastics but every other aspect of your life as well. That is really what college is about anyway, learning life lessons and how to balance academics while remaining a top athlete. Also, Miss Val constantly reminds us about life after college and how to be successful in whatever you choose to do. I was very attracted to the fact that most of UCLA gymnastics graduates went on to achieve something great after college. So, after being on the UCLA gymnastics team for only one year, I can honestly say Miss Val has been a mentor when I needed advice, a coach when I needed a kick in the butt, and a friend when I needed a hug.
Megan (Los Angeles): What are your thoughts on blogs that include personal attacks on college athletes? How do gymnasts deal with such personal criticism?
Valorie Kondos Field: I abhor mean comments and behavior. I have no place in my life for mean-spirited people. I caution our student-athletes to not read comments about themselves. Whether it is wonderfully complimentary or hurtful, the truth is usually somewhere in between, so there's no need to read it in the first place.
Linda (Yorba Linda, CA): Apparently in the SEC individual awards are not allowed to be given this year. This makes the awards shorter. Have you considered this?
Valorie Kondos Field: Actually, we have decided to only announce the winner of each event, the all-around winner and team awards from here on out. Previously, we announced the top 3 on each event to give more athletes more of an opportunity to be recognized, but we've received a lot of feedback asking that the awards portion go quicker. So we'll be doing that starting this weekend.
Sadi (Jeddah, Saudi): Since you are superhero-themed this season, do any of the gymnasts have superhero-themed FX routines? Do they also have characters for beam routines?
Valorie Kondos Field: We do not have Super Action Hero themed floor routines, although we should have (It might have pushed the corny SAH envelope a bit and gotten really obnoxious). I hope you get to see Dana McDonald's FX routine. Her character is the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It's very DARK, and she does a great job with it. They do not have characters on beam, although when I was choreographing Mattie Larson's beam routine I told her to think Black Swan.
Whitney (Camberly, England): A lot of people said that Zam didn't fully stick her landing at the Cal meet for the 10.0 on vault. Do you think it was a gift?
Valorie Kondos Field: In our sport, judging is so subjective. The best we can hope for is that the "gifts" even out the "harsh". It's also hard to judge the intangibles fairly. For example, when Vanessa does a beautiful vault and ALMOST sticks the landing, it is so much more beautiful than any other vault that night that a 9.975 doesn't allow for enough separation between hers and the 9.95s.