Sept. 20, 2011
The Bruins have been back for a little over a week, and I wanted to share a little about what's been Bruin (I know ... corny, but that's OK). The one thing Chris and I have always enjoyed and felt we do well is "fly by the seat of our pants". We had a ball doing just that this past week.
Sunday, Sept. 11 was our first day of team training. We met in the morning and took our team through our UCLA Hall of Fame, ending with the trophy room of 107 NCAA Team Championship trophies. I started our team meeting talking about 9/11/2001 and how that day and the days that followed brought true courage and greatness out of so many Americans. That day 10 years ago was also our first team meeting of the season, and I vividly remember being relieved when I heard that Kristen Maloney, who had flown out of Pennsylvania the night before, was OK and with us in Westwood.
On this Sept. 11, 2011 I went on to explain that each day offers us opportunities to hone our courage and ability to react to adversity in heroic ways. Meaning, as a coaching staff and a team, being able to calmly formulate and execute whatever plan we decide to put into action. At the time I had no idea what I was saying would turn out to be a bit prophetic.
Right after that meeting we took the team to Woodward West in Tehachapi for a week of camp. After our afternoon training as we were waiting for dinner and preparing for our first team meeting of camp, we were told that there was a mandatory evacuation due to the 7 fires that were in the area. OK ... one problem, we were out in the middle of "nowhere", we had released the bus, and only had two cars and Chris's van to transport 35 people, along with their luggage and all of our rehab equipment we had brought with us, including 18 stability balls.
Time for our staff to play "Fly by the Seat of our Pants". In just a few minutes we decided to have the staff eat first so they could head to the lodge and load all of the luggage (on WHAT, we weren't sure yet) then the student-athletes would eat and go to the gym to bring all of the rehab equipment (minus the balls) to the parking lot. I told Chris, "We're in the middle of farm and horse country, just go ask a farmer if we can borrow their horse trailer to put all of the luggage in, and unless we could find other transportation, we would shuttle the team to a hotel 45 minutes away." In about five minutes, Chris found a 16-foot, slightly broken down flatbed trailer that was missing its back, had no brake lights, and a slightly flat tire. Our staff did a very creative job in tying down all of our bags, including the big Gatorade jugs.
We started to shuttle our student-athletes to the hotel when Richie, a quiet and humble BMX athlete, drove up in his SUV and, in true 9/11 fashion, said, "My wife and I would like for you to use our car for as long as you need it." It ended up being the perfect number of seats we needed to transport all of our party. Richie and his wife's humble and gracious generosity was not lost on our team and staff; it's something I hope they continue to remember throughout this season and beyond.
Then it was on to the Days Inn, where we would spend the night and decide what to do the next day if we could get back to camp. When we got to the hotel they had half of the number of rooms that I had called to reserve so we decided to drive back to LA.
Randy drove my 4-Runner that (little did I know) actually had a trailer hitch for the flatbed, and I drove Richie's car behind the flatbed. The girls in my car and I laughed the whole two and a half hours home, seeing this beat-up flatbed trailer with all of these UCLA Gymnastics bags bouncing along the freeway. As soon as we got close to LA, I said, "I feel like we are the Clampetts, the real Beverly Hillbillies", to which Elyse replied, "So what if Georgia and Alabama have their private planes ... WE'VE got a 16 foot flatbed trailer!" It was hysterical. Oh by the way - the girls tied the extra chains to the flatbed down with athletic tape so they wouldn't spark along the freeway. Very impressive.
The rest of the week was filled with further improvisation. We were committed to making sure we accomplished our goals of what we feel "camp" should be - Team Bonding, and Establishing the Culture of Bruin Training. Since we were back in LA we wanted to use the opportunity to also show our team parts of our surrounding area. So every day after training we had a different adventure. One day we bussed to Redondo Beach and did beach training and Blue vs Gold Challenges. That night we went to our nutritionist's house in Redondo, and the girls cooked dinner and we played Nutrition Family Feud. The next night we took the team up to the Griffith Observatory, where they got a birds-eye view of Los Angeles at sunset and toured the Planetarium.
The next day we took them to one of our UCLA pools and had a pool workout. After that, we took them on a walk right off campus into Beverly Hills. I've always felt it's important that they know that UCLA is surrounded by some of the most beautiful real estate in the world and that it's safe for them to walk places besides Westwood Village. We ended up at our Sunset Pool and Recreation area, where we ate and had a bonfire and one of the most amazing team meetings I've ever been a part of.
Our week was filled with many team meetings and heartfelt memories, including a short documentary on Coach Wooden that brought tears to all.
Our final day of camp was filled with just as much energy and intention as our first day, finishing with a KILLER conditioning circuit which has become a tradition of camp, followed by a few more "Blue vs. Gold" Challenges, and ending in the Hall of Fame where our week started.
The camp ended with the team receiving more of their UCLA Gear, being told they had definitely earned it and to wear it proudly, and Elyse spoke up on behalf of all of her teammates to say "Thank you to the Coaches and Staff for making this week incredible and the best pre-season camp the seniors had experienced in their four years as Bruins."
If this first week is an indication of what the next eight months will bring, we're going to have the time of our lives.
~ miss val