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Ask The Bruins - Gymnastics
Courtesy: UCLA Athletics  
Release:  02/22/2005
Throughout the 2005 gymnastics season, UCLABruins.com will be conducting "Ask the Bruins" sessions with different members of the UCLA gymnastics team.

This week's featured guests were Assistant Coach Chris Waller, junior and two-time Canadian Olympian Kate Richardson, and senior and Scholastic All-American Christie Tedmon. And, as always, head coach Valorie Kondos Field was on hand to accept questions.

The Bruins will be hosting Pac-10 rival Arizona and five-time NCAA champion Georgia on Sunday, Feb. 27 at 2:00 pm.


Cal, Bakersfield: Now that UCLA Gymnastics is back in the top 3, what would it take for UCLA to reach for another Championship
Kate: I think that we just need to keep going the way we have been for the past couple of meets to win another championship. We have the talent to win, we have a great team, we just need to pull it all together and compete to our full potential. I think that we've had a turning point within the last few weeks, where we've really focused on team unity and being more relaxed during competition. We compete a lot better when we're having fun! So I think if we maintain that focus for the rest of the season it will help us a lot in getting as confident and consistent as we need to be to win another national championship.
Teddy: That's a great question to ask. I think that consistency in practice and in competition is one of the most crucial things for us to achieve in order to contend for this year's national championship. We know that when we repeatedly nail our routines, it builds our confidence, which allows us to compete better each time, which in turn continues to increase our confidence even more. It's a cyclical process. However, consistent performances don't just come out of nowhere. They are born from a combination of attitude, belief, and hard work. These aspects are within our control, and as the season progresses, I think that we're beginning to see these things come together. We're looking forward to an exciting championship season! Thanks for your question!
Miss Val: We need to be healthy. We aren't as deep as last year - so we have to keep our athletes healthy. For this reason we won't be competing Kate Richardson this weekend at our home meet. Kate sprained her thumb pretty badly at our last meet at Stanford.

Laura (Bronx): Do you ever discuss the possibility of not making in to the Super 6?
Miss Val: Hmmmm ... interesting question. No.

Adam, Long Beach: Miss Val and Chris, Will you give us the scoop on Tasha's vault score at the last home meet. She stuck a beautiful vault. Was I seeing things or did she get a 9.75 for it??? If she that was the right score, it seemed low. What happened? Thanks! Good luck and continued success.
Chris Waller: Adam, Tasha's vault was beautiful and she had a stunning stuck landing. However, she did have a couple of deductions before she hit the ground. Last year, I think that she would have received a 10.0 for the vault. This year, collegiate coaches have encouraged the judges to take every deduction that they see in order to more fairly separate performances. Believe me, we winced at her score as you did; but, we do recognize her errors and have addressed them in practice. So, where, specifically, did the deductions come from? First, when Tasha hit the vaulting table, she had a shoulder angle. Her shoulders should be straight when she impacts the table. Second, she did not land as far away from the table as she should have. And, third, she was a little piked, instead of completely straight, on her landing. Of course, she did stick with authority and she was at home in the magical Pauley Pavilion! Perhaps those deductions could have been a bit smaller!

Leah (Los Angeles): I'm so excited to go to the Sunday meet against Arizona and Georgia...GO BRUINS! Any chance that we can hear Nikki Childs sing the national anthem? I've heard she has quite the voice. Thanks!
Miss Val: I didn't know that Nikki has a great voice. Wow! We have already secured the singer for this meet. Actually, she's back by popular demand, Gail Larson.

Cletus, Sacramento, CA: Christie - Your dad is a nut! What makes him go so crazy at these meets? Are you that way? If so, you sure do a good job of hiding it! Does he ever embarrass you? I bet he does! Take care and finish strong!
Teddy: Hi "Cletus". It's good to hear from you. Congratulations on your new marriage! As for my dad, well, he's been involved in athletics ever since he was young, so he has that competitive nature ingrained in his behavior. Back in his college days, he was a UCLA Bruin, and his Bruin Pride will never die. It's fun to see him at all the meets, getting everyone all pumped up and excited about our meets. He doesn't ever embarrass me, since I know he's putting everything he's got into supporting our team, and I love him for that. I can be pretty crazy, but I don't think I can top some of the things he does when it comes to competitive events! Thanks for the encouragement, take care!

Annie (Macon): Hi Miss Val- I am a big fan of UCLA and of Lindsey Vanden Eykel's. She is such a beautiful gymnast. I was wondering if she will ever compete all-around?
Miss Val: Lindsey is still rehabbing from her hamstring surgery. She is A LOT better than she was just this past fall but has a ways to go to get her full strength back. It is really frustrating for her not to be in the All-Around, especially not in our floor line-up. Next year!

Jackie(Michigan): There are some of us that live on the other side of the country and want to know why we were teased with video on your website from your meet against Utah and have recieved no such luck getting any updates of your video page since.
Miss Val: We had some technical issues that have delayed the video updates, but I have been assured that new video will be added to the website in the very near future!

Ross Zelen (Sherman Oaks): Kate, where did you grow up? As a Canadian, I wonder where you practiced when you lived there?
Kate: Hi! Go Canada! I grew up in Coquitlam, about 20 minutes out of Vancouver. I trained at Omega Gymnastics in Coquitlam until I was 15, then I trained at Twisters Gymnastics in Abbotsford after my coach switched gyms.

Cecilia (Newport Beach): Will there be a gymnastics camp this summer at UCLA? If so, where can we get the information?
Chris Waller: Heck yeah! The finest camps around will be at UCLA. The UCLA website has information about the UCLA camp, and then we'll also be hosting Gym Jam camp, and info on that can be found at gymjamcamp.com

Andi, Palmdale: Tell us about gym jam 2005--where is it? Who will be there?
Chris Waller: GymJam camp is taking place at UCLA, and it's a boys' and girls' camp. It involves coaches and athletes from around the country and the world. Mohini Bhardwaj, Canadian gold medalist Kyle Shewfelt, and Kyle's coach, as well as a variety of coaches and athletes, including some from UCLA, will be there.

David(San Mateo): I noticed Jennifer Sutton is back on the roster, but I thought she had decided not to be on the team? Did she change her mind?
Miss Val: Jennifer is finishing out the year, stretching, conditioning, doing A LOT of rehab on her neck. She's great to have around the team in the gym and competition floor.

Amy (Monterey): Teddy- what are your plans after this year? Anything solid? I miss you!
Teddy: Hey Amy! I miss you too! As far as my post-UCLA plans go, I basically have two main options. One is to attend graduate school to study Sport Psychology, in which I need at least a master's degree, and possibly a PhD. This can be anywhere from a two to seven year commitment. I'm currently studying to take the GRE in April in order to get that process started. The other route is to do Teach for America, which is a national teaching corps of recent college graduates that are recruited to teach in low-income communities throughout the country for at least two years and to increase awareness of the educational inequity that exists within our country. Both of these options will most likely take me to the East Coast. I'll be finished with my classes this December, and I'll be applying to both of these programs right around that time, so hopefully at this point next year, I'll have a little bit clearer idea as to what I'll be doing and where I'll be headed for the next few years. Ultimately, I'd like to make a difference by taking on some form of teaching role, whether it's in the classroom, in a sport setting, or elsewhere. Thanks for writing, I hope you're doing well!

Ryan Lange (Red Deer, Alberta, Canada): Kate, Being a Canadian myself, I am very proud that such a spectacular athlete such as yourself competes for such an excellent program like UCLA has. My question is, what was the adjustment like for you when you came down from British Columbia to live in a metropolis like Los Angeles? Thank you, and good luck to you and the rest of the girls!
Kate: Thank you very much! Besides the obvious transition into college life, it really wasn't too much of an adjustment moving down here from BC. Westwood is a college town, so I don't really feel like I'm in a huge metropolis because I'm never actually in downtown Los Angeles. I love the atmosphere in Westwood, and everything is really close and convenient, so it's definitely not overwhelming like I'm sure downtown LA would be.

Courtney (Greeley, CO): Chris, I was wondering how you felt coaching and watching Mohini Bhardwaj at the Olympics. I am sure it was an amazing expreience for you. I was also wondering what Mohini has been up to and what her futrue plans are. Thank you and I hope you have a wonderful day! GO BRUINS!!!
Chris Waller: Coaching at the Olympic level is surprisingly similar to coaching at Level 5. The challenges are similar because each gymnast is challenged at her own appropriate level. However, when you get outside of your coaching bubble and you recognize that the United States and the world at large is watching the event, it can freak you out. The most difficult thing about coaching Mohini at the Olympics was not being able to coach her on the floor when she actually competed. What is Mohini doing now? Well, she has moved to Colorado to train and is dating Jason Gatson, and her plans are to compete at the World Championships later this year.

Bro (Woodland Hills): So, when is Coach Wooden going to lead an 8-clap?
Miss Val: I don't think that's going to happen any time soon.

Los Angeles, CA: Hey Chris, Where did you get that funky blue & yellow stripe shirt?
Chris Waller: I get all of my shirts through a covert relationship with an Italian designer by the name of Guido Bonaducci. Just kidding. My striped shirts have become a tradition with the team, and it helps fire them up for competitions.

Maya (LA): Kate, congratulations on all your great accomplishments. I was wondering if you are frequently recognized while on campus or just out and about in Los Angeles. How do you handle that? Do you enjoy speaking with your fans, or would you rather be left alone in public?
Kate: Haha no, I'm not recognized at all! Around here you pretty much have to be a movie star for anyone to look twice! But ya, I love meeting gymnastics fans. It's cool to be recognized for your hard work, and it's great to meet people who appreciate gymnastics!

Blaine (Bangor, ME): For the coaches, I have been coaching competitive gymnastics for many years now, and have always had an interest in coaching and especially recruiting for college gymnastics. What is the best way to go about this? How did you get started?
Chris Waller: You can start out your career in recruiting by letting everyone know that college gymnastics is the ultimate destination for every gymnast! The best way to get acquainted with collegiate gymnastics is to contact the collegiate gymnastics program that is closest to you and set up a time to observe practice. Understanding the nature of college practices will help you understand the skills, knowledge, and traits that you will need to be a successful collegiate coach. A college coach needs to have a good technical understanding of both basics and elite skills. The ability to spot well is also extremely useful in collegiate gymnastics. However, the most important tools may be the ability to develop an honest relationship with every team member; motivating the team to keep paractices fun and energized; and, maintaining the health of each gymnast during the long competitive season. Understanding the tools to be a successful coach, you should now develop a network of contacts with collegiate coaches, as they are usually the first to know about openings in the collegiate job market.

Regarding my start in coaching college, I began coaching college only after I had coached every level of gymnastics, from beginner to elite at the club level. When the position at UCLA opened, my friend, Valorie Kondos Field, offered me the assistant coaching position.

So, coaching collegiate gymnastics is much like everything else: It is not just what you know, it is also who you know. Good Luck!


Tiffany (San Marino): Hi Christie! How do you manage to do well in gymnastics and school at the same time? By the way, me and Julia Bottles were good friends when she was still in high school. I hear that your families are friends!
Teddy: Hey Tiffany. That's cool that you know Julia Bottles. Her dad and my dad were college roommates at UCLA for two or three years back in the 70's. They have so many hilarious stories from that time!

As far as managing school and gym goes, I think that they complement each other, which helps in the success of both. Have you ever noticed that when you have more to do in a day, the more you get done, and in an efficient manner? That's how it goes. The little time I have outside of gym forces me to use it wisely, whether that means reading during my 30 minute pockets of time between classes, or studying while I'm doing cardio. Personally, organization is one of the most important things for me. Once I know what I need to do, I'll do it. During the first week of most quarters, I'll sit down and organize the work I have for the quarter, all the way from when my readings should be completed to when my exams and projects are due. It basically serves as a long "to-do" list for the quarter that hangs on the wall above my desk in my room. It looks pretty ridiculous, but it helps me to get everything done! Good luck with your schooling, and thanks for writing!


Tori (Boston): Miss Val, I want to ask how you got your start in the sport. For someone with a dance background to not only work her way into such a great position, but excel like nobody else is quite amazing. I am asking because I am interested in your story, but also because I would love to do the same thing. Thank you.
Miss Val: Hi Tori. As you know, I was never a gymnast but spent my youth in ballet and piano lessons. I started in gymnastics by playing the piano for floor exercise music for gymnasts in the days when floor music could only be one instrument. From there I became that gymnastics team's dance coach. In 1982, UCLA Gymnastics offered me a full academic scholarship to be their dance coach and to coach balance beam (which at the time I knew nothing about). In 1990, I was offered the head coaching job. During my entire career with gymnastics I've asked a lot of questions to further my knowledge about this great sport. I've never pretended to know things about this sport that I don't know; instead I've hired great people that have strengths in areas that I'm not as strong in, and I hope that I use a lot of intuition and common sense in leading this program.

My best advice to you is to be yourself. Figure out what your core philosophies and values are and don't be afraid to step out on a limb to uphold those philosophies and values.


Jill Gilders, Peterborough ON Canada: It was great being able to watch you compete in Michigan earlier this month, I LOVED your new floor routine. Anyway since Im guessing you hear things like that waaay too much on with my question. Since I haven't reached the national level in gymnastics I am looking into getting a scholarship for track and UCLA is one school I'm thinking of applying to. What is the environment like there with regards to classes(workload, course opprotunities), campus life ect.? I know this is already really long but is there any chance you'll want to compete just one more time for Canada(possibly 2005 worlds)? Thanking you muchly. (By the way I'm a friend of Gael's and can send her pics from the Michigan meet to send to you if you want!)
Kate: Thanks! I absolutely love the environment at UCLA. That was one of the main reasons I chose to come here. There is a definite sense of community within the athletic department, all of the athletes are great and are a lot of fun. Plus all of the athletic programs here are so successful; it's really a motivating place to be! Obviously UCLA has a great reputation academically, and I've loved all of my classes here so far, even though some have definitely been challenging! You really get a sense of all of the amazing, accomplished people that have come out of this school. It's exciting to get to study here. On top of all that, the campus is beautiful, and the weather is great (most of the time... except for all this rain we've gotten in the past few weeks!).

As for competing for Canada again, I think that I am pretty much done. It's kind of hard to say that I'm definitely retired from competing internationally because I love competing for Canada so much! But I'm very satisfied with my international career, and I'm happy to move on with a lot of great memories. Good luck with your track scholarship, maybe we'll see you at UCLA soon!!


Carolyn (Santa Clara): Hi Chris, I use to be employed at Morgan Hill Gymnstics Club and attended GymJam in 1999 and 2000 as a visiting coach. Congrads. with the success that you have achieved that last few years. After years of trying to find my path in life, I finally have been living life and enjoying it. I am now a wife, a mother of two, attending college, and loving my part-time job as a gymnastics coach at Gold Star Gymnastics. This summer our family is moving to Redding where I'll be coaching level 5 and 6. When you and your wife first started your family, how did you balance out work and family time? When times gor hard, did you have any help and support from your family? Good luck with the rest of the gymnastics season.
Chris Waller: Hi Carolyn! Congratulations on everything. The key is to always put your family first. To be a good parent or mother or father or coach you have to feel fulfilled in many levels as a person. Finding that balance is not easy, but it's vital to being successful in all of those arenas. Good luck to you!

Maggie (Torrance): First I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy watching all of you. Kristin had mentioned that she did a lot more basics now, then she did at the elite level, and I was wondering what a typical day in the gym is like? For example how long you stretch? Condition? How many full routines on each apparatus you do? Thank you for taking the time to answer questions.
Kate: A typical day starts in the training room, where we treat anything that is giving us problems for about half an hour. Then we warm up, stretch and condition for about and hour, train events for two hours, then we have weights in the weight room for about 45 minutes afterwards. We usually do three events a day, and a few routines on each event. Our programs are pretty individualized most of the time, especially during season, because we all have different needs in order to be ready to compete every weekend. We do a lot of basics and timers during the week, and we also focus a lot on mental training, so that we can minimize pounding and give our bodies a chance to rest.
Teddy: Hi Maggie. Thanks for your question. We do focus a lot on basics, efficiency, and safety much more than I was used to in club gymnastics. In the first 45 minutes to an hour of practice, we usually run, stretch, do injury-prevention exercises and some conditioning, and do a basic tumbling warm-up. At this point in the season, we don't do as many numbers on each event as we did in the Fall, nor do we do full routines every day that we practice. Since we compete every weekend, sometimes twice in a weekend, we normally only have two to four days of practice per week. We do quite a bit of "team routines" and games to simulate competition and build camaraderie within our group. It's actually a lot of fun! Just as an estimate, I'd say that we don't do more than about 5 vaults, 2 bar routines, 4 beam routines, and 1 or 2 floor routines in a day. We also condition with our weights coach about twice a week at this point in the season in order to maintain the strength we built in the Fall and to prevent injuries as best we can. We do cardio and endurance training on our own time outside of practice in order to maintain our quickness and stamina, and a lot of times it's fun to do it with other teammates. That's the basic outline of how we train. Thanks for asking!

Lindsay (LA): Miss. Val, First of all, congratualtions on a great season so far, you guys are awesome! Second, I am interested in the show you choreograph, Cirque De La Mer, in Sea World. I was wondering where I could get more information about auditions etc. Thanks!
Miss Val: Please contact Amy Gale at Imagination Entertainment in San Diego (619-640-6500). By the way - I've choreographed the SeaWorld Summer Nights shows in San Diego for 14 years now, and the CDLM day show for three years. I LOVE IT!

Kristy: Are any of the girls on the team roomates?
Kate: Yeah! Maloney and I live together, and some of the sophomores live together too ... Ashley Peckett and Courtney Walker are roommates, and Michelle Selesky and Ashley Martin are roommates as well.
Teddy: Hi Kristy, Thanks for writing in. Yes. Pretty much every year, there are at least a few girls who decide to live together, whether in the dorms or in an apartment. As Kate said, we have six girls on the team who have paired off as roommates, in three different places. It makes the team a lot of fun, since it allows the girls to get to know one another so well, both in and out of the gym.

Rachel (Dana Point): This question is for Chris since I believe you have daughters in gymnastics. Do you truly recommend putting your kids in the sport...and if the talent and drive is there, to even go as far as elite? I love gymnastics and if my child wanted to do the sport, I don't think I could refuse. However, after hearing of so many injuries in the sport, I think I would be scared to death watching them! Thanks!!
Chris Waller: I could never coach something or be involved in something that I didn't believe in. I think the sport is great, and so my wife and I have given our kids the opporutnity to be involved, and they both are. The most important thing in having your kids involved in any activity is that they have a love for it first, and that they become stronger and more fulfilled people through the involvement in the activity.

Christina (Los Angeles): This question is for Christie. I'm sure there have been many, considering how many championships you've all won, but what would you say has been your most memorable moment at UCLA?
Teddy: Hi Christina, thanks for writing. Wow, that's a tough question. I have experienced many memorable moments at UCLA, but if I were to choose one, I think I would have to say that having the 2004 NCAA Championships in here in Pauley Pavilion last Spring was the best one so far.

I have so many memories from that week, but there is one in particular that I just love to recall. It took place at the end of the second night of competition, after we captured the team title. Once we had finished the team interview in the press room, I walked around Pauley in search of my family, so that I could share the joy with them. I spotted my dad, and at the sight of him, I began crying. I dropped my bag, ran over to him, and hugged him like I've never hugged anyone before. I was crying. He was crying. We stood there embracing for what seemed like forever. He knew that there was a lot I had worked through that year, and I knew that he was the reason I had gotten through it all. I don't think I had ever seen my dad cry, so the sound and sight of him crying made me cry more, and I think it did the same for him. It was like a physiological letdown after such an intensely emotional and psychological week. I'll never forget the sight, sound, and feel of that moment after the meet, as it was one of the most intense feelings of accomplishment and love that I have ever experienced.



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