Miss Valorie Kondos Field podcast

029: Miss Val on coaching a positive culture in gymnastics

The Podcast Special featuring Miss Valerie Kondos-Field, commonly known as Miss Val, offers a rich and insightful look into gymnastics, coaching ethics, and the journey of life itself. Miss Val, the Head Coach of UCLA Gymnastics, goes beyond conventional coaching methods to serve as a mentor and life skills coach to her athletes.

Miss Val’s philosophy in coaching is about motivating change rather than dictating it. She believes that coaching from the ego deprives the learning experience of its joy. This ethos is something she’s carried from her childhood, where she was taught not to fear failure. She incorporates these teachings into her coaching style and attributes her success to them.

One of the major themes of the podcast is the rotten culture that has permeated the gymnastics community in the U.S. Miss Val discusses the urgency of educating coaches and parents, as well as the systemic issues that have led to abuse and dehumanization of athletes. She argues that once these athletes are unable to win medals or bring in money, they are often forgotten, not valued as individuals, and left to deal with a host of mental and emotional issues.

But it’s not all grim. Miss Val has an incredible perspective on life and challenges, including her own battle with an aggressive form of breast cancer. She used her time undergoing chemotherapy to plan her next ventures, including writing her book “Life is Short, Don’t Wait to Dance.” Gratitude and a positive mindset, she believes, are critical components for high performance and are part of the daily practice at UCLA Gymnastics.

The conversation naturally veers toward Katelyn Ohashi’s stunning routine, which recently captured hearts and went viral. According to Miss Val, the routine was special because it was joyful and spontaneous, echoing the childlike qualities she aims to bring out in all her athletes. The routine, she believes, serves as a tribute to significant influences in Katelyn’s life and embodies her journey in the sport.

As the podcast winds down, Miss Val looks to the future. She talks about her impending retirement and the need for adaptation and learning as life presents new challenges and adventures.

Overall, the episode provides not just a window into the world of elite gymnastics, but also life lessons on the power of positive outlook, the need for a cultural shift in sports, and the critical role of values in achieving success.

5:20 – Miss Val had a long and successful career in ballet. She studied classical ballet and piano for 17 years. Her first transition into gymnastics came by first becoming hired to play piano for floor routines before moving into coaching.
7:50 – Miss Val sees her job much more as a life skills coach, a mentor than a coach.
9:50 – Coaching is all about motivating change, not dictating change. Coaching from the ego takes the joy out of learning.
13:00 – Miss Val explains her philosophy, her faith and values and how she believes gymnastics teaches discipline like no other sport.
17:08 – Using success in sport as a platform to spread a message with impact. Example of the voice that Michael Phelps has now in spreading message about depression.
21:30 – Miss Val discusses the role of her parents and in particular being brought up without a fear of failure, how this now influences her coaching style and successes.
24:30 – Initially Miss Val quickly made some lessons in coaching after some mistakes and losses.
31:15 – The importance of a shared philosophical base with her athletes and fellow staff.
34:20 – One of Miss Val’s lessons in leadership is to surround yourself with people that you trust, rid your ego and when the time is right, allow your team to act and take charge with freedom.
41:45 – Gymnastics is in recovery and Miss Val states the need to educate coaches and parents
43:45 – Miss Val speaks of the abuse cases in US gymnastics and offers some of the issues within the US culture and systems.
49:00 – Miss Val’s reports that UCLA alumni all reported that they are stripped of a voice, made into robots and verbally and physically abused.
52:20 – “The after” – athletes report that after you are no longer able to win medals and money, you are forgotten about and no longer valued as people or as athletes.
57:50 – Miss Val discusses the conversations she has had with senior figures in changing American culture, not just sport and gymnastics.
59:50 – Active listening, high performance habits and getting out of the desert so that you can better serve other people.
1:08:25 – Gratitude is a critical component to UCLA’s gymnastic success and is engrained into their daily practice.
1:10:40 – Life is an adventure that requires you to learn, adapt and move fast
1:12:05 – Miss Val shares with us the moment she was told she had an aggressive form of breast cancer.
1:15:20 – Miss Val shares her insanely positive and infectious outlook on being diagnosed with cancer and of her trips to the chemo spa!
1:22:20 – Val describes how she used time at chemo spa to plan for her next ventures including her book “Life is Short Don’t Wait To Dance”.
1:27:30 – Miss Val tries to bring out childlike qualities in her athletes and their routines, first, by helping them find their unique voice. The best performers are joyful, spontaneous and loving in what they do.
1:31:56 – Steve and Miss Val discuss Katelyn Ohashi’s phenomenal routine that recently went viral
1:32:25 – Katelyn’s evolution into the woman embodies her journey and pays tribute to significant influences.
1:35:50 – Miss Val shares why she believes Katelyn’s routine has gone viral.
1:41:50 – What is next for Miss Val? Retirement, the transition of her identity, learning and experiencing new things.


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