Ask The Bruins Chat Wrap: Coach Valorie Kondos Field

Jan. 29, 2004

Q: Congrats on your performance at Minnesota. What is Aimee Walker not getting credit for on floor (9.8 SV)? I'm excited to see her in the future at UCLA! I was sorry to see her have such a rough night versus MN, but she never stopped smiling! (Brandon, Minneapolis)
A: 'Aimee hasn't competed in a little over two years, so it's great to see her back in the 'swing of things'. As far as her floor start value goes, we need to beef up her tumbling a bit. In fact, she added a punch front out of her double twist as of yesterday (she used to compete 2 1/2 twist punch front). She's such an anomaly because she is twice as calm in competition as she is in training.'

Q: You often quote Coach Wooden's philosophy in your articles or interviews. Is there one over-riding principle of his that has helped you achieve the coaching success you've had, and if so, what is it? (Jones, Laughlin)
A: 'Coach Wooden's definition of success is something I have felt my whole life. I will always remember the first time I read it; it made so much sense to me. Especially because I was trying to fit in with the world of athletics ... 'Win Win Win' ... and I felt like there was a lot missing from simply focusing on 'winning'. Reading his definition of success and talking with him about his philosophies, in a sense, freed me to pursue coaching through what I felt was important in my job. I have ALWAYS felt that I needed to be true to myself and my philosophies, and if I didn't succeed as a coach, then it wasn't my calling.'

Q: Hey Miss Val, I was wondering how is Jamie doing, and when will she be back in the bars line-up? I miss her so much; she was my favorite. And also how is Mo doing for her goal on trying for the Olympics? Thanks. (Brian)
A: 'For all who wrote in about Jamie Dantzscher: Jamie is doing great except for her left ankle. It's not a major issue, it's simply a bone spur, and scar tissue that is blocking the ability for her ankle to flex. Therefore, she can't punch, she can't land. The problem with her doing bars is her dismount and the fact that when she attempts to land, she lands all on one leg ... NOT GOOD.

It is extremely frustrating for all, especially Jamie. We've talked about red-shirting her, but she's planning on retiring from gymnastics after April. She's excited about the next chapter of her life, post-gymnastics. Hopefully, we'll have a breakthrough between now and April, and we'll all get to enjoy Jamie Dantzscher's amazing gymnastics again.

Mohini is doing incredibly well. If you can imagine it, she is in better physical and gymnastics shape than she's ever been in. She just got back from a U.S. training camp, where she got rave reviews. We're hoping to have Mo do some exhibitions for us in our next few home competitions.'

Q: I would like to know if the decision of Kate (Richardson) to train for the Olympics to represent her native Canada will affect the performance of the UCLA team during the regular season. (Daniel Smith)
A: 'Kate's training for the Olympics is having a tremendous impact on our team. She is stronger, leaner and faster because of the extra conditioning she does on her own time. She is much more confident this year because her college routines are not as difficult for her as the elite routines she trains. And it's exciting in our gym to see her make an elite bar and beam routine. Between Kate and Mohini (Bhardwaj), it's a great reminder that a female gymnast's international career doesn't need to stop once they go to college, or for that matter, once they've graduated.'

Q: Aside from the continuous preparation of actual elements and routines, what are the other types of preparation and activities that your student-athletes participate in? Your team members always seem to have a great mental preparation for meets. (Stephen, Tampa)
A: 'Onnie Willis put it best when she said last year that the thing she has learned the most in college gymnastics is 'mental buffness'. We do a lot of mental routines, focusing on visualizing 'successful' gymnastics (You would be surprised how difficult this can be for some athletes). We also have a unified coaching philosophy and understanding that if an athlete gives her honest best effort, regardless of the result, then she's done her job and she deserves the pat on the back. As a coaching staff and team, we TRY not to get too high over wins or too low over losses. We train hard and expect to hit our routines. If we don't, we go back to the drawing board.

Contrary to all of this 'calm confident' talk, I do get very upset in training or competition if an athlete is not giving 100% effort. If you're going to do something, then do it with 100% integrity and effort. If you're not able to do that, then someone else should take over that position.'

Q: Despite individual personalities and egos, your gymnasts always meld into a 'team' where the team comes first, rather than any individual. This is truly a sign of a great coach. Is this something you work on, or is it something that comes naturally? (Tom, North Hollywood)
A: 'Thanks for the compliment. It's not that we 'work' at having team unity, as much as it is that we don't allow different rules for different people based on talent or accomplishment. We treat all of our student-athletes as individuals and work toward helping them with their individual needs, but there is no hierarchy of importance on our team. Example: Jeanette (Antolin) needs to spend more time treating her back, resting her body and studying, so she doesn't do all of the team strength and conditioning with the team. But ... she is there for the start of our strength and conditioning, just like everyone else on our team is expected to be. She gets the exercises done that are specific to her needs then leaves and takes care of treating her back, or she leaves to study.

It's really refreshing to find with our 'higher profile' athletes, that they absolutely don't want special treatment. This is the one aspect of our team, above all others, that Coach Wooden brags about constantly. He is always quick to comment on how much he enjoys our gymnastics meets because it takes an emotionally and mentally strong individual to be able to compete individually on an event - there's no one to pass the ball to. And yet, when the athlete comes off of the apparatus, they meld right back into the team without bringing further attention to themselves.'

Q: How successful are your gymnasts in their classes? How difficult is it for them to succeed athletically and academically? (Stuart, Los Angeles)
A: 'Our gymnasts tend to be very successful in their classes. I believe that the focus it takes to do gymnastics helps gymnasts from a young age develop the ability to really focus on the task at hand. This must play a big part in their ability to focus on their studies. We also put a lot of importance on their academics. After all, they are 'student-athletes'.

Like most things associated with our program, if the majority of the team buys into something, then the rest of the team eventually buys into it as well. Fortunately, it works the same with our team's study habits, which, in my opinion, are very good. Our team not only has had the highest team GPA of all of the 22 UCLA sports for the past five years, but they have a substantially higher GPA than the average UCLA student.'

Q: Miss Val, what is your strategy in creating your line-ups, or do you have a strategy at all? Also what do you look for overall in recruiting an athlete? (Adam AhQuin, Cedar City Utah)
A: 'Adam, this seems to be the question of the season. For an explanation on my strategy for competition line-ups, please see my last two entries of Between the Bars on our web page. About recruiting, I obviously look for talent. After that it's all about integrity and tenacity. I'm interested in people who have the ability to be honest with themselves and others and who love to 'find a way' to get the job done.'

Q: What part does a walk-on play on a college team? How does one become a walk-on? (Denise, Lakewood)
A: 'Walk-ons, non-scholarship student-athletes, play a huge part on our team. We usually recruit walk-ons as aggressively as we recruit scholarship student-athletes. If we haven't contacted someone about walking-on our team, then they should contact us if they are interested.

Our first 10.0 at UCLA came from a non-scholarship student-athlete. Amy Thorne earned a 10.0 on floor in 1993.

If you've been reading any of the Between the Bars I've written lately, you've heard of the great job Jamie Williams is doing for us. She is a non-scholarship student-athlete who turned down scholarship offers at other universities to be a UCLA Bruin. We LOVE our walk-ons.'

Note from Miss Val: I've gotten a lot of questions regarding our music. Each new season I receive CD's with a variety of music artists and choices, I then pick the selections I like. The artist's name is not usually included in the demos that I get. If you would like information on a particular piece of music, please contact Eric Larsen at Wolfjump Music at

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