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