Between The Bars

Jan. 23, 2006

It was a fun weekend for the Bruins. We're FINALLY calming down in competition and competing how we train. This back-to-back weekend was a great test for our team.

Friday night at Washington was the first time we got a glimpse of just how great of a gymnastics team we can be this year. We decided to compete Ariana Berlin in the all-around at the last minute. She's an amazing competitor. That was the first full floor routine she's done on the floor (not landing in a pit) in five years. Ari finishing second in the all-around thrilled all of us. She had bought a bracelet for herself over the holidays that says 'Make the Impossible Possible' - it rang loud and true watching her compete and hit event after event.

Kristina Comforte was a trooper. She was horribly sick and congested to the point where I had to weigh risking her getting hurt and allowing her to push through it. It's always a fine line when you're asking someone to flip and twist in the air when their head is congested. I can imagine there are quite a few teams going through the same thing this time of year. It's hard.

The best part of the meet was that we finally calmed down enough for our athletes to start feeling their rhythm in competition.

The feeling they all had Sunday was an extension of what they had experienced two days before. An interesting little anecdote that happened at our meet ... At the beginning of warm-ups our athletes were feeling that the floor was a bit hard, not bouncy, etc. Chris and I talked with them about everything you'd expect, 'Equipment is going to feel different from arena to arena, etc.'... Finally I gave them the speech about life is full of adversity, you can either make adjustments or make excuses. How you compete today on this floor will tell us what type of a team we're going to be.

Shortly after that, I saw that Coach Wooden had arrived alone, and I couldn't figure it out. So I called my husband over and asked him where Coach's daughter, Nan, and Kenny Washington were, the two who always accompany Coach to our meets. Bobby told me that Nan's flight was late coming in, Coach didn't have a ride, so he got into his car and drove himself to UCLA.

Before we started on our first event, I got our team together again and reminded them of the '... make excuses or adjustments' talk we just had. I then told them the story of our most famous Bruin of all-time, and how he could have left me a message apologizing for not being at the meet, explaining how his ride didn't get there in time, and tell me how sorry he was. Instead, he found a way to get it done! He drove himself. After they heard that, I knew then that we wouldn't have any problems on floor!

It was fun to watch the potential of our team continue to blossom. Congratulations to Melissa Chan, whose floor routine was the highlight of an afternoon filled with great gymnastics. And in looking for the silver lining of not having Jordan and Tasha back yet, our freshmen are getting loads of competitive experience that they wouldn't have had if Jordan and Tasha were competing right now. The whole meet I kept thinking, 'Wow - our future sure looks bright.'

Enjoying the journey
~ miss val



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