When Miss Val announced her retirement back in the fall, many UCLA gymnastics fans were at a loss for words as she is a Bruin to the core and seemingly irreplaceable. Now, associate head coach Chris Waller will attempt to fill the massive shoes left by the retirement of head coach Valorie Kondos Field. That’s because UCLA announced yesterday that he will be the new head coach of the UCLA gymnastics team.
In UCLA’s official release announcing Waller’s promotion, UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero said:
Chris Waller has been an integral member of the UCLA Gymnastics coaching staff for the past 17 seasons, helping to build the culture of the program to where it is today, and playing a major role in the team’s success. As a Bruin All-American, NCAA Champion, U.S. Olympian and Olympic coach, Chris has a strong pedigree and is recognized as one of the top technical coaches in America. He is incredibly deserving of the opportunity to lead UCLA Gymnastics into the future as our head coach.
The release also quotes Miss Val:
Having known Chris since he was an 18-year-old student-athlete here, it has been so exciting to see him grow into the man and the phenomenal coach that he is today. Chris was born to coach, and I can honestly say that so much of our program’s success since he’s been on this staff has been due to his contributions. He is a true student of the sport of gymnastics and has embraced the psychological side of coaching as much as he has the technical side. I am confident that Chris will sustain the culture and excellence of the program, and I am excited to see the next chapter of UCLA Gymnastics under his guidance.
In the announcement, Waller said:
It was my great honor to have worked alongside Miss Val for 17 years, and to take the helm of this storied program is a dream come true. The lessons that she has taught our student-athletes over her tenure I have also learned. I am incredibly fortunate to have my first team as head coach be one that is filled with unquestionable leadership and talent. I have been a part of this Bruin Family since 1987 as a freshman on the NCAA Championship team and have been on this campus for the better part of 30 years. My blood runs Bruin blue, and I cannot wait to continue this journey.
Waller, like Miss Val, is a Bruin through and through. He and his wife are both UCLA grads as is their oldest daughter, Alex. Their younger daughter Lilia is also a Bruin. She was a member of the UCLA gymnastics team until injuries forced her retirement in 2019.
While at UCLA, Waller earned four All-America honors and was part of the UCLA men’s gymnastics team that won the team championship in 1987. He also won individual titles on the pommel horse in 1989 and the high bar in 1990. He graduated in 1991 and had 15 years of coaching experience before joining the UCLA gymnastics staff.
Waller has spent the last 17 seasons with UCLA and was part of four of Miss Val’s seven NCAA titles. In 2003, he was acting head coach when UCLA took the Pac-10 Championship, Regional Championship, and NCAA National Championship. He was voted the National Assistant Coach of the Year in 2004 and the West Region Assistant Coach of the Year in 2010 and 2018, awards that are voted on by his peers in the gymnastics community.
Waller served as a member of the USA Gymnastics Executive Committee and the 2000 Olympic team selection committee and chaired the Athlete’s Council. Aside from Olympic and collegiate experience, Waller and his wife are co-owners of Waller’s GymJam Academy in Santa Clarita, a successful gymnastics club.
With the legacy left by Miss Val, there is little doubt that Waller has the capability to pick up where she left off. His dedication to UCLA is apparent and his coaching experience is solid. UCLA fans should be confident in his ability to keep moving UCLA gymnastics on the same course set by Miss Val.
Congratulations on the promotion, Coach Waller!