Legendary Gymnastics Coach Valorie Kondos Field Shares How We Can Reinvent Success on NPR
During her 29-year tenure as UCLA’s Head Gymnastics Coach, Valorie Kondos Field led her team to an astounding seven championship victories. Now, the Pac-12 Coach of the Century shares why creating a supportive environment, rather than a cutthroat one, was essential to her success.
When Valorie Kondos Field, affectionately known as Miss Val, first started as UCLA’s assistant gymnastics coach, she had no idea what she was doing. Having never played the sport, she decided to “act out” what she thought a gymnastics coach might be. “I thought, I grew up on stage, acting. I can act. Let’s just act like a coach.” In her mind, the quintessential coach was sharp, unrelenting, and unempathetic. “I knew nothing about how to develop a culture,” Kondos Field admits. And it showed in her team’s results. They performed terribly.
Eventually confronted by her team, Kondos Field had a life-changing realization: winning does not always equal success. Especially when it comes with the cost of human damage. “Athletics is such a great metaphor for life because you’re going to fall down more times than you succeed. And it's not how many times you fall down, it’s how are you gonna get yourself back up,” Kondos Field explains. Faced with a choice—keep doing what she was doing, despite the poor performance and her team’s unhappiness—or change. She chose to change. “I remember thinking we can train athletes at the highest level without compromising the human spirit, and I knew at that moment I was going to develop champions in life, through the sport of gymnastics.”
Listen to her full interview here.
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