After leading the UCLA gymnastics program to all seven of their national championships, Head Coach Valerie Kondos Field will be retiring at the conclusion of the 2019 season.
Simply known as “Miss Val”, there is an elegant swagger about this woman—I really don’t know how else to put it. Nothing rattles her, she has the utmost respect for other teams and brings a level of professionalism to coaching that coaches in any sport should aspire to. While she has pride in her team and the confidence of a winner, she is never boastful or demeaning in her attitude.
You don’t mess with UCLA or the women on her team. Miss Val is definitely Mama Bear. She takes care of each team member, past or present, as one of her own. They revere her as a mother figure, mentor, and life coach, and aspire to conduct themselves in the same manner she models.
According to UCLA, Miss Val had this to say about her retirement:
I have had the immense privilege and pleasure of serving this university and athletic department for the past 36 years. UCLA has offered me opportunities that I could never have dreamed of, from a world-class education, to being part of an athletic team despite never having played organized sports in my life, to being able to mentor and teach life lessons to incredible young women. I have enjoyed every moment of this journey, and I will deeply miss all of the wonderful people that make up UCLA Athletics, and, most importantly, the daily interaction with our student-athletes, coaches and staff. However, I will forever be our most ardent supporter and look forward to continuing the dance in a different role but always as a proud UCLA Bruin.
Miss Val also recorded a video for the Pac-12 Networks announcing her retirement.
Additionally, she recorded an interview with Samantha Peszek for UCLA Athletics.
It seems that above the seven championships and all of her honors and awards, the most important thing to her over the years has been helping young women develop and the relationships she has formed with them over the years.
Speaking of accolades, Miss Val has had several in her career, including being only the second active coach to be inducted into the UCLA Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010. She was named a Pac-12 Coach of the Century and was also named the Pac-12 Coach of the Year in 1995, 2000, 2003 and 2012 and the West Region Coach of the Year in 2018.
In addition to her coaching success, Miss Val conquered breast cancer in 2012 and has become a public speaker and author. Her new book, “Life is Short, Don’t Wait to Dance”, will be released on October 2 and sports a fitting title for the former dancer. Miss Val actually had no gymnastics experience, save playing the piano for the floor exercise before she began coaching.
Her final season begins in January, and I know it will be something you won’t want to miss.