Between The Bars

Sept. 25, 2006

UCLA Gymnastics 2006-2007.

We've only had 12 days of training, and I already feel that we are on the path to an amazing season. Since September 7th, we have had 12 incredible days of training and two successful fund-raisers. We have challenged our team's strength and conditioning program with swimming, dance classes, movement/character classes, spinning classes, Bruin Boot Camp Beach Days, and quite a few team meetings replete with honest, no-nonsense discussion.

One aspect of my job that I've always enjoyed is that no two years are alike. Even though we may do many of the same team building and gymnastics training exercises from year to year, each year I find myself excited about the challenges that the new chemistry of the team will bring. Even if we only retire one athlete or bring in one freshman, the chemistry is always different.

Sometimes the changes in chemistry are minimal, and at other times they are huge. The chemistry of our team this year is immensely different from last year, or for that matter, any other year here at UCLA. It's obvious that the pervasive enthusiasm in our gym stems from a true love for our sport. This year's training reminds me of a 'pick-up' game. In other sports like basketball, football or volleyball, a group of people will gather together solely for the sake of playing a game. That's what our practices feel like. Our athletes are extremely enthusiastic and motivated to learn how to flip and twist better. They are quick to help a fellow teammate out technically and/or emotionally, or simply to offer them another way of thinking of a skill mentally. They are all rising to meet and surpass their own personal daily challenges, and they are enjoying the banter that comes with loving to PLAY their sport. They are also embracing the ultimate competitive challenge that we always strive to achieve - playing to win versus playing not to lose.

It's obvious that one reason our team is having so much fun is that they are almost all fully healthy now. They are able to train with less pain than last year and consequently are enjoying the process more. This energy is unequivocally aided by our freshmen, who each bring an absolute pure and honest approach to their gymnastics as well as their lives. They have infused our team with renewed passion by their effusive attitude about how much they're enjoying being Bruins.

We just got back from a week at Woodward West. There have been years that when we've gone up there and we all can't wait to come home. Not with this team. It's funny how you can present the same situation to different groups of people and inevitably the group that 'buys in' the most will get the most of out of the experience and have the best time in the process.

Our team has 'bought in'. They are talented, healthy ... or getting healthy ... and extremely fun to coach. It has only been 12 days, but it's been a thrilling experience. Simply put... we're all FIRED UP!

~ miss val



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