How She Got There: UCLA Women's Gymnastics Head Coach, Miss Val

You can't say the words "college gymnastics" without simultaneously thinking of Valorie "Miss Val" Kondos. Best known for her incredible and unprecedented success as UCLA's Head Gymnastics Coach, Miss Val's extraordinary talent, grace, support and love of both the sport and her team is evident through every performance. Her Campus had the chance to learn more about Miss Val, her coaching philosophy and what she has planned for the future. 

Her Campus: All legends start somewhere! Could you state your major, graduation year and involvement at UCLA?

Valorie Kondos: I'm a 1987 graduate with a degree in History. I was the 1982-1990 UCLA Gymnastics Choreographer and Dance Coach. From 1990-present, I am the UCLA Gymnastics Head Coach.

HC: You’re pretty much a celebrity at this point, but for the 1 or 2 people who may not be familiar, could you please introduce yourself?

VK: I am the Head Coach for the UCLA Gymnastics team, a position I’ve held for the past 29 years. I have earned 7 National Championships, 18 Conference Championships, I am inducted into the UCLA Athletic Hall of Fame, and I was voted the PAC 12 Coach of the Century. AND I’ve never done gymnastics. I was a ballet dancer prior to coming to UCLA. 

HC: You enamor fans nationwide with the affectionate moniker of “Miss Val.” What made you want to be addressed that way instead of by “Coach?”

VK: In my first year as an assistant coach with the UCLA Gymnastic team, I was giving the team a ballet class, and Lisa Taylor, one of the gymnasts, said, “I’ve always had to call my ballet teacher Miss. Should we call you Miss Val?” To which I replied, “Sure, call me Miss Val.”

HC: You’ve instilled the lessons of discipline, commodity and positivity. How did you personally learn these skills/values?  

VK: I believe that any endeavor a person seeks is achieved more quickly and the result more brilliant and fulfilling when they embody these attributes in the process.

HC: Gymnastics is a unique sport, combining both athleticism and grace. What initially drew you to the sport? 

VK: The fact that a gymnast can play other sports, but other great athletes can’t play gymnastics. I had 17 years of classical ballet training, and I couldn’t get up on the bar and do a giant swing or tumbling pass. It takes years of consistent discipline and hard work to achieve the simplest of gymnastics skills. Gymnasts truly are Superheroes.

HC: What is your favorite event to watch? Which event is the most nerve-wracking?

VK: My favorite to watch is floor. My favorite event to coach is beam because it is all about the strength of the athlete’s mental game. The most nerve-wracking event for me to watch is vault because it is over so quickly, there is no time for adjustments. 

HC: For those who may be dreaming of balance beams and floor routines, what advice do you have for future gymnasts?

VK: Regardless of what you do in life, always find a way to enjoy working on the things you don’t enjoy doing and that don’t come naturally. 

HC:  What has your time been like at UCLA, and what will you miss the most?

VK: My time at UCLA has been filled with establishing relationships with some of the most amazing people in the world from all different sports and walks of life. UCLA attracts bright, smart, talented, tenacious and courageous people. I’ve been fortunate to work at an institution where I am surrounded by these types of people every day. It is the relationships that I will miss the most.

HC: What you went through with your cancer is incredible. How has that changed your life, and what lessons have you learned? 

VK: When I heard I had cancer, I also immediately heard God say “Be anxious for nothing and grateful for all things.” Living every moment in gratitude has made my life richer and more meaningful. 

HC: You’ve survived cancer. You’ve given UCLA 7 NCAA gymnastics championships. You’ve inspired countless girls and young women. What’s next in life for you?

VK: I am excited to continue my speaking engagements worldwide, stimulating the discussion of how to change our culture in athletics, which starts at home with our children in helping them define their definition of success. I am also determined to produce an Urban Nutcracker for film. And I would like to assist in any way I can to destroy the human trafficking crisis in our world. 

Miss Val, from all of us here at Her Campus and from the entire student body at UCLA, we thank you for all that you have done and continue to do.

You are the epitome of what a True Bruin is. We love you!