WOMEN’S GYMNASTICS, by Coach Valerie Kondos Field
at WVRC on Nov. 19th
ED JACKSON led the Pledge. ELLIOTT TURNER provided the Invocation
A Thanksgiving Day Prayer: “So often times, as any other day, when we sit down to our meal and pray. We hurry along and make fast the blessing, Thanks, Amen, Now please pass the dressing. We’re slaves to the olfactory overload, we must rush our prayer before the food gets cold. But, I’d like to take a few minutes more, to really give thanks to what I’m thankful for. For my family, my health, a nice soft bed, my friends, my freedom, a roof over my head. I’m thankful right now to be surrounded by those whose lives touch me more than they’ll ever possibly know. Thankful Lord, that You’ve blessed me beyond measure, Thankful that in my heart lives life’s greatest treasure. For the love of God, resides in that place.”
Lovely, ELLIOTT, Thank You. And, surprise, Prexy ED had ANOTHER hat for LENNY, which we were assured he would wear when cooking on that day. We did God Bless America, one of our consistently better numbers.
This wasn’t a day for Visiting Rotarians, but guests, yes. SUNNY was there with LENNY, and NICK KAHRILAS brought his mother, Letitia. There were two Special Guests, who were circularized last week. PP STEVE SCHERER introduced Jim Crane, and PP DON NELSON did the same for Dana Wood. We had three young ladies from the Gymnastics team, Brittani McCullough, Anna Li, and Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs, and they were polite enough to sit at three different tables., which of course was an advantage for all of us. They arrived with the equipment they needed to demonstrate some of their moves, including two inflated rubber balls about 2 feet in diameter! Their home schedule starts on Jan 9th, 4pm for the John Wooden Challenge with Utah. Jan 31st at 2 pm is Arizona State, Stanford is on Feb 14th at 2 pm, and Michigan State/CS Fullerton is also at 2pm on March 14th. April 10th, starting at 6pm is the NCAA Regional Championships they all should be something to see, at Pauley Pavilion, of course.
Christmas Shopping Spree yes, it’s Thursday Dec. 10th, in the evening after our Rotary meeting that day. You will recall that there will be 25 youngsters from the Salvation Army, and we will provide the same number of members and spouses to hold their $50 stakes and help them shop.
It’s a lovely evening, topped off by each child receiving his or her own gift, donated by PP JOHN SINGLETON. MIKE YOUSEM is in charge, so let him know he can count on you, Please.
And since we’re into December plans, come join the band on Saturday morning, Dec 12th. That’s when Reading To Kids comes up. THIS month we had SEVEN readers show up! YOE has the details - Like the man from the clothing chain says, You’ll like it I guarantee it!
Prexy ED had a joke, which I hasten to add was not about Actuaries. Seems a man in Phoenix calls his son in New York the day before Thanksgiving, and says, “I hate to ruin your day, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing: Forty-five years of misery is enough. “Pop, what are you talking about” the son screams. “We can’t stand the sight of each other any longer, “ the father says. “We’re sick of each other, and I’m sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Chicago and tell her.” Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone. “Like heck they’re getting divorced” she shouts. “I’ll take care of this”. She calls Phoenix immediately, and screams at her father, “You are NOT getting divorced,” she shouts. “Don’t do a single thing until I get there. I’m calling my brother back and we’ll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don’t do a thing. DO YOU HEAR ME?” and hangs up. The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife. “Okay”, he says, “They’re coming for Thanksgiving and paying their own way”.
STEVE PETTISE briefly introduced Valorie Kondos Field, Head Gymnastics Coach at UCLA. Coach Kondos began with a bit of her background. She was a professional ballet dancer with the Sacramento Ballet, Capital City Ballet and Washington, D.C. Ballet, and got her start in gymnastics at Agilites in Carmichael, CA. She was playing the piano for floor exercise music, and then became a dance coach. Under University of Minnesota co-head coach Jim Stephenson, she learned the fundamentals of gymnastics, and in 1983 she became assistant coach and choreographer of Women’s Gymnastics at UCLA. The head coach was Jerry Tomlinson, and they really put UCLA on the map, with NCAA runner-up finishes in 1984 and 1989, winning six NCAA individual titles during that time.
Valorie was appointed head coach at UCLA in 1991, and with co-head coach Scott Bull, they earned West Region Co-Coach of the Year honors in 1993 and ’94. As head coach in 1995, her team won the Pac-10 and Regional’s. The next year they were runner-up at the NCAA Championships. and in 1997 they won their first national title. Since then they won back-to-back titles in both 2000-200l and 2003-2004. Thus during her tenure, UCLA Women’s Gymnastics has won 5 national titles, 10 Pac-10 titles and 13 NCAA Regional titles.
Valorie feels very fortunate to be close to Coach John Wooden, and her coaching philosophy stresses balance and integrity, plus a team concept, all of which Coach Wooden emphasizes. As she says, she spent most of her growing-up time in the classical dance world, which was a very disciplined environment. That meant your reward was the self-satisfaction that came after months of hard work, knowing you had done your best, and the best you were capable of. Gymnastics is a subjective sport, so you need an honest internal voice that keeps score, regardless of what the official win/lose outcome may be. That inner voice, which she defines as integrity, helps you to live life to the fullest and to enjoy the journey along the way. Unlike many other sports, there is no likely monetary reward in Gymnastics, and no professional life in the future.
Along with Coach Wooden, Valorie recognizes the importance of recruiting. During her tenure as head coach, she has brought to UCLA some of the top talent in the U.S. and aboard. The list includes Olympians Mohini Bhardwaj, Kate Richardson, Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs (who was with us today), Tasha Schwikert, Kristen Maloney, Jamie Dantzscher, Yvonne Tousek, Stella Umeh and Luisa Portocarrero, plus World Championships competitors Lena Degteva, Doni Thompson, Leah Homma, Jeanette Antolin, Holly Murdock, Ashley Peckett, Marci Bernholtz and Lichelle Wong.
She stresses academics, and her teams always have members on the Pac-10 All-Academic squad, plus contending for the school’s team GPA award. This of course is another Coach Wooden emphasis. It is always most satisfying to Coach Kondos when her student-athletes go on to succeed in other facets of their lives. She continues to coach a team concept, while her students have succeeded individually, winning 22 NCAA individual titles, including 19 in the last 11 years.
You might say beam and floor choreography is her specialty. UCLA is recognized as having the most unique and artistic routines in the U.S. She has choreographed 14 NCAA championship routines on beam and floor, including three straight on floor from Kim Hamilton between 1987-89. Valorie was awarded the 2004 Choreography of the Year /Award at the Canadian National Championships for Kate Richardson’s floor exercise routine. Her peers have selected her as National Coach of the Year in 1996, 1997, 2000 and 2001, plus being selected as Pac-100 Coach of the Year in 1995, 2000 and 2003.
Coach Kondos is a true blue Bruin, having graduated from UCLA in 1987, with a history major. She is also a freelance choreographer in the entertainment and gymnastic fields, and has both created and directed Sea World’s Summer Nights shows for the past 18 years. She is married to UCLA Associate Athletic Director Bobby Field.
Valorie, I must step outside my usual perfect equality of reportage and tell you I thought your presentation was wonderful. Keep up your superlative work, and we simply cannot allow ourselves to feel too sorry for those coaches who have to oppose your teams! Thank You.
Words of Wisdom:
Things turn out best for those who make the best of the way things turn out.