Between The Bars

April 12, 2006

The Facts:

  • We didn't quality as a team to the NCAA Championships this year.
  • When you look at our entire regular season, our performance at Regionals was consistent with how we competed for most of the year ... inconsistently.
  • As a result of numerous injuries, we simply didn't have enough continuity in our line-ups from meet to meet for our athletes to get into a rhythm and to feel confident as a team. Yes, we did have a 'young team' - seven freshmen - and yes, our freshmen competed a large percentage of our routines this season, but it's not their youth that was the challenge; it was the pressure they put on themselves to live up to the UCLA tradition without have a strong number of upperclassmen to follow.

    The Feelings:

  • It's hard to be a part of such a strong athletic tradition and to have such a tumultuous year.
  • All season, I felt like we kept trying to shift into a higher gear, and, oops, another bump in the road, we have to down-shift again.
  • I feel a lot of compassion and pride for our athletes. They feel remorse that they haven't carried on the tradition of excellence associated with UCLA Gymnastics, and yet, they lived through a season unlike any other I've been a part of. Week after week, to see them enthusiastically persevere through yet another bump in the road was extremely inspiring for me, our coaches and staff.
  • After experiencing this season, I realize how fortunate I've been in my coaching career. This is really the first time we've been through an entire year of devastating injuries. The good news: they've all been through or are going through their 40,000-mile check-up and hopefully will be much healthier next season.
  • I have to say, I am truly happy for the Arkansas program that finished second to a beautiful Florida team at our Regionals and qualified for Nationals. How cool is it that their current senior class was their first gymnastics freshman class ever?! THAT is a fairy-tale ending for that class.
  • We are also extremely happy for Oregon State, even though their success came at the expense of another Pac-10 team, Stanford. It's an amazing feeling to be able to participate at the National Championships that you're hosting. We're also excited that Kate will be rotating with their team.

    The Future:

  • Every time one of our freshmen hit a beautiful routine, I kept thinking, our future sure looks bright.
  • Our team experienced so many challenges this season, they ALL can be considered veterans next year; they are already acting like it.

    As I told my husband, not advancing to the next round is a very humbling experience. If I were Queen of the Gymnastics Universe, I would let every coach experience winning a National Championship in their home arena. That feeling was incredible in '04. If I were the Gymnastics Queen, I would also have every coach experience the frustration of not being able to get your team 'going' through an entire season because you really do learn a lot through the tough times. What's interesting is that as heartwrenching as this season has been, it's still been one of my most enjoyable as a coach - and that is purely due to the character and personalities of the student-athletes, coaches, and staff on our team. It's been a very tough but still a rewarding journey.

    I remember first coming to UCLA in 1982 and hearing Mako Sakamoto, who was the coach of Peter Vidmar and Tim Daggett, say, 'A coach is only as good as his/her least-talented athlete.' I've remembered that all these years as I work to get our 7th, 8th, and 9th person in our lineup ready to compete each season. I've also heard Coach Wooden say many times when asked what it takes to 'win' championships, 'You can't win without talent, hard work, and a little luck.' We have the talent. Our team definitely isn't affraid of hard work. We may have been short on luck this year, but the enthusiasm with which our athletes approached each new challenge/bump in the road, was truly impressive and inspiring. Great athletes love the challenge. The greater the challenge, the more focused our athletes became. That's what made this season one I'll always remember with pride.

    We are all looking forward to and quite sad about Kate's last meet. We're equally as excited for Kristina to compete in her first NCAA Championship. She is training the Yurchenko double twist and will hopefully be healthy enough to compete it. Tasha is a trooper. Her first comment was that she didn't want to go to NCAA's and take the place of someone who had been training two vaults. When we told her that's not how it works, that if she didn't go they wouldn't replace that spot, she got excited and said, 'Great, let's go in the gym and see if I can do a 1 1/2!'

    Our hearts are still wrenching over our missed opportunity to be competing as a team next week. Actually, I hope it lingers for a long, long time. We can be upset with our team's final standings and still feel good about the things we did accomplish this year. We can have moments of unbridled frustration and still be excited and optimistic about our future.

    I can feel the quiet thunder brewing in our athletes and coaching staff. Our future looks bright.

    ~ miss val

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