Category Archives: NCAA News

The Miss Val Show

Miss Val hates gymnastics.

At least, that’s what people will tell you. Including Miss Val herself sometimes. She loves coaching. She loves heaping piles of life lessons and perspective upon unsuspecting 18-year-old elites who have never seen outside their own grips before. But watch gymnastics recreationally? She’d rather take a calculus test at a gum-chewing convention.

Perhaps that’s why it didn’t come as an inordinate shock today when Valorie Kondos Field announced that she will retire at the end of the 2019 season, after 29 years as the head coach of UCLA gymnastics. She has seemed to be moving in that direction for a while now, and…I mean…she hates gymnastics anyway, right?

Well…we’ll get to that.

If there can be just one defining characteristic of Miss Val’s UCLA, it’s THE SHOW. It has always been about THE SHOW. For better and for worse.

For better, UCLA is exceptionally conscious of how it presents itself to the world as a team, both gymnastically and non-gymnastically. If you go to UCLA, you’re going to be made into a performer, and you’re going to do a floor routine where you engage in battle with a heroin-addicted cocktail waitress only to learn that the cocktail waitress was you the whole time, whether you like it or not. You’re going to be mandatorily entertaining and kind of weird. It’s intrinsic in UCLA’s identity.

It’s no coincidence, then, that UCLA is typically the favorite team of international gymnerds who don’t even like NCAA (or claim not to), and the favorite team of olde-tyme purists who believe that nothing useful has happened in the world post-Mostepanova.

There’s something quite throwback about UCLA when it walks onto the floor. It’s very put together. You certainly won’t see an insane rat’s nest of a bun or a sloppy temp tattoo slapped on the cheek. A grizzled old 1970s Soviet coach would find the fewest things to murder about the UCLA team. That put-together, pristinely presented identity is pure Miss Val, and it extends to the routine performances themselves. There’s a refined sureness. Dare I even say…the calm confidence to do big beautiful gymnastics?

(It’s the Miss Val retirement post. I couldn’t possibly resist.) Continue reading The Miss Val Show


NLI Week 2018-2019

Wednesday marks the beginning of NLI week, the annual period during which schools finally reveal to us which gymnasts have signed on to join their programs for the 2019 competition season. The large majority will not be surprises since most of these gymnasts have been verbally committed since the late 1860s, but there are always a few little pieces of interest (usually regarding who doesn’t sign rather than who does).

To review:
NLI = National Letter of Intent

When a gymnast signs an NLI, it signals the end of the recruiting process and confirms a gymnast’s intent to attend the school in question. At this point, all other schools must cease recruiting that gymnast.

The NLI is accompanied by the athletic aid (scholarship) agreement. Gymnasts can’t sign NLIs if they are not receiving athletic aid, though they can receive athletic aid without signing an NLI.

So, let’s see what we see. Continue reading NLI Week 2018-2019

And None for Kristen Smyth, Bye

Well, we can’t say it hasn’t been coming…

Last night, at the most inconvenient possible time, Stanford announced that Kristen Smyth has “stepped down” as head coach. You know, like coaches totally normally do for perfectly normal reasons right before the school year is about to start. Nothing to see here…

She just happened to decide to step down.

I also love that they tried to bury the story on a Friday night like they think they’re in an episode of The West Wing. You’re college gymnastics, and the gymternet is seven days a week. Continue reading And None for Kristen Smyth, Bye