Jan. 5, 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.
John (Los Angeles):
I know that it's your coaching philosophy to start slow and peak at the right time, but it doesn't help build your fanbase by losing meets at home early in the year. Are we expected to see more of that this year?
Valorie Kondos Field: GREAT QUESTION! Believe it or not, it's never our intent to lose ANY meets, especially at home. Every time we put up a line-up, we expect them to hit their routines, and if they do hit, then more often than not, we should win the meet.
I believe in rotating our line-up to give everyone an opportunity to compete and to prepare them to compete at NCAA's if we need them to step in. I've been accused of purposefully "playing possum" during regular season so we can save it all for Championship season, and that certainly is not the case. I'd like to say that it is my "Master Plan", because it would make me look really good at calling the shots, but the "playing possum" part is simply not true.
It is true that I won't change our line-up in the middle of a regular season meet to ensure that we WIN because I feel it sends a really strong message to the athlete I'm pulling from the line-up that I don't believe in her ability to hit. So then what happens if we need to rely on her down the road?
Getting back to your question ... Our "master plan" is to start off the season hitting our routines and scoring in the 9.8 and above range and building from there. We believe that if we do that, we should win every meet and be prepared to challenge for another National Championship title. I'm hopeful that we're going to be able to rotate our line-up a lot this year and still come out with great team scores. If we can do that, you're going to see A LOT of big, fun, gymnastics from a lot of different Bruins.
Jesse (Philadelphia): Sam, I love that you are still doing your back with a full on beam! It's so impressive! Is it a permanent part of your routine?
Samantha Peszek: Thank you so much! I love adding a little bit of difficulty to keep the sport interesting to watch! As of right now, it is a permanent part of my routine. However, I get bored quickly, so I always train an upgraded beam routine with extra skills. When I compete, it is for my team, which means I usually do a simplified routine for the least amount of deductions. Beam is my favorite event, so I will never stop learning new combinations. It is challenging, which is what keeps it fun for me.
Ashley (Lake Forest): I love coming up for meets. What's it going to be like for the team to compete in the Wooden Center? Will it be harder for fans to get tickets?
Valorie Kondos Field: It's going to be a lot of fun to compete in the Wooden Center! The venue is really small, it only seats 1,800, so we're anticipating sell-outs. Women's volleyball and women's basketball have been playing their games there, and the atmosphere has been electric. The athletic department has improved the venue with new bright lights and a new videoboard, so it will be a lot better than when we competed in there many moons ago.
The best way to secure a seat is to buy season tickets. There are about a hundred of those left. Season ticket holders will have their seats saved for them up until 30 minutes after the event starts. We are hoping that we'll be able to mix up our line-up for the first half of the season to give our whole team an opportunity to compete and to give our fans a look at the amazing talent we have this year. That's just more incentive to purchase the season ticket.
If you are buying single-meet tickets the day of competition, I suggest you get there at least an hour and a half early.
It's going to be a FUN SEASON!
Zoe (New York): Mattie, will we get to see your beautiful double layout in college?
Mattie Larson: "That's so nice of you to say! I'm still practicing it and plan on putting it in my routine by mid-season."
GGMBer (Mountain View): How do you unite such a diverse team each season (gymnasts come from varying ethnic/racial, class, regional, national backgrounds for instance)?
Valorie Kondos Field: Uniting our team's diversity has never been an issue. I can't imagine that a student would be interested in UCLA if they had issues with people who were different from them. Maintaining a team unity with such accomplished athletes can be challenging because they often need different training schedules to ensure that they are the best that they can be as individuals so that they can best help the team.