Legendary Gymnastics Coach
Veteran UCLA Gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field—known affectionately as Miss Val—has never done a flip or played an organized sport. Yet the former ballerina somehow became a celebrated, seven-time NCAA coaching champion, mentoring Olympians such as Simone Biles over the course of her legendary 29-year career. In talks, she shares her unorthodox coaching methods—championing gratitude, ownership, and joy—for leaders, athletes, and anyone who wants to lead a high-performance life.
Valorie Kondos Field began her career as a professional ballet dancer and choreographer for the Washington DC and Sacramento Ballet Companies. Although never a gymnast herself, she’s transferred to her student-athletes all she learned in the world of classical dance. The result? Nearly three decades of coaching one of the premiere athletic programs in any sport, and mentoring hundreds of elite athletes, including Olympic champions Simone Biles, Jordan Wieber, Kyla Ross, Madison Kocian, Laurie Hernandez and Nastia Liukin.
A four-time “National Coach of the Year,” and member of the UCLA Athletic Hall of Fame, Kondos Field’s reputation is only one reason that 46 former US national team members came through her program, and why half of the last two Olympic teams committed to UCLA. Her coaching success can be attributed to her extraordinary leadership and mentorship of young student-athletes, and the way in which she used gymnastics as an avenue through which to teach valuable life lessons, all while encouraging individuality and joy.
As a recent breast cancer survivor, Kondos Field’s positive outlook and hope-filled message is especially impactful. Throughout her treatment, she empowered her athletes to use their voices, celebrate themselves, and to enjoy the elite sport that has damaged so many in the past. Kondos Field shares her professional insight and motivational message in her book Life is Short, Don’t Wait to Dance: Advice and Inspiration from the UCLA Athletic Hall of Fame Coach of 7 NCAA Championship Teams.
Also known as the nation’s foremost gymnastics choreographer, Kondos Field’s other credits include choreographing and directing a myriad of live variety shows, such as the NCAA Opening Ceremonies for Women’s Basketball, a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar roast, CBS’s “Jump, Jive & Thrive” Breast Cancer Research Foundation benefit, and 26 years of cirque-type shows for SeaWorld’s Summer Nights and the San Diego Zoo. Her current projects include additional live stage shows, TV specials, events and the development of a theatrical musical. A dynamic and charismatic speaker, Kondos Field has also developed a corporate coaching program for national organizations, including JP Morgan Chase.
How did Valorie Kondos Field go from being a professional ballet dancer and choreographer, to one of the most successful gymnastics coaches in NCAA history? In this talk, Kondos Field details her journey—from her earliest days in dance, to being mentored by legendary men’s basketball coach John Wooden, to becoming a mentor herself, training some of the most elite athletes in the world. Despite not having a background in gymnastics, Kondos Field found that the discipline, determination, perserverance, and sacrifice needed to become a professional dancer carried over into the world of athletics—and in becoming a champion in any walk of life.
Over the course of her 29-year career, Kondos Field honed an unorthodox approach to coaching that focused on nurturing the athletes as individuals, not just as competitors. Believing that athletics are a masterclass for life skills, she guided her teams accordingly: helping them prepare mentally, emotionally, and physically. The heart of a champion isn’t validated by merely winning a prize, says Kondos Field, but in striving for excellence and taking responsibility for everything in their control. With genuine warmth and candour, Kondos Field shows us the power of finding joy in what we do, celebrating our individual differences as strengths, and cultivating a sense of grit, resilience, and determination on the path to success.
When Valorie Kondos Field was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer, it would have been easy for her to descend into despair and hopelessness. Instead, the seven-time NCAA Champion coach decided to channel the philosophy of her life’s work into her treatment, turning a potentially devastating year into one that was meaningful and gratifying. She decided to be grateful that her form of cancer was treatable, grateful for the chemotherapy she was receiving, and grateful that she had the choice to adopt a positive attitude. Inspiring, funny, and delightful, Kondos Field explains how intentional gratitude opened up her life in a number of ways she could have never imagined, allowing her to thrive and grow—and how we can do the same.