Legendary Coach Bows Out After 36 Years
By BELINDA KUO
After thirty-six years of dedication, UCLA gymnastics coaching legend Valorie “Miss Val” Kondos Field has officially announced the 2019 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) season as her last.
Across her career, Field led the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) women’s gymnastics team to numerous victories, accumulating a total of nineteen NCAA regional titles, fourteen Pac-12 titles, and seven NCAA championship titles. She has also won exceptional personal titles, including the 2018 Pac-12 Gymnastics Coach of the Century, and is the second coach to ever be inducted into the UCLA Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010.
Since starting her career, Field has gained quite a respectable reputation for a variety of feats, ranging from her irregular beginning to her exceptional accomplishments, and without a doubt, all gymnastics fans will be heavily impacted by Field’s retirement.
Ironically, prior to her coaching career, Field possessed no experience in gymnastics, having only studied the art of ballet throughout her adolescence and much of her early adult life. By adulthood, Field made the ultimate decision to pursue a professional career in dance, despite her lifelong dream of attending UCLA.
Several years later, Field came across an opening in UCLA’s gymnastics department and despite her lack of expertise, was soon hired as an assistant gymnastics coach and offered a full scholarship in lieu of a traditional coaching salary. Field’s diligence promoted her to the head coach position by 1991.
What Field lacked in experience, she made up for in her unrivaled commitment, utilizing her expertise and creativity to inspire her team to perform with impeccable technique and artistic showmanship in floor routines.
However, in 2014, tragedy struck when Field was diagnosed with breast cancer. Despite all obstacles, Field never lost sight of her priorities and expressed her sentiment during an interview with “I don’t think I’ve ever worked a day in my life because I love what I do so much.” Field’s dedication even extends over her own personal life, as seen from her decision to abstain from television in her life in order to prioritize her recovery and team.
Without a doubt, Field has demonstrated her tenacity and determination for her work and team as seen from the weight of her influence on UCLA’s gymnastics and all seven of the NCAA championship titles they have received under her coaching alone.
Year after year, Field has acted as the driving force for the team, devoting all of her time into not only pushing the members in gymnastics, but also in all other aspects of life as an advocate for gymnasts and dancers alike.
Most notably, in her article targeting the Larry Nassar scandal, she referred to Nassar as a “mentally deranged pedophile,” indicating her contempt for his criminal sexual misconduct. Unable to suppress her frustrations, Field utilized her position in the gymnastics world to raise awareness for the severity of sexual abuse and emphasize the importance of perseverance.
Field’s decision to retire has deeply affected many gymnasts and fans, but Field believes that her retirement allows them to appreciate the closure of her career and make “every moment magnified.”
Field was not only a superb coach, but also a model within the gymnastics world. Even after almost four decades, Field’s reputation has remained impeccable, and “Miss Val” will always be remembered as the gymnastics world’s greatest supporter.