Gymnastics coach at RE: 'Success is what lasts beyond the win'

Legendary UCLA gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field encouraged RE upper school students. She challenged them, questioned them, called on them, listened to them. And, clearly, she inspired them; after her motivational address during assembly on March 30, she received a rousing standing ovation. A featured speaker in the Holzman Center of Applied Ethics Speaker Series, Kondos Field also met over lunch with upper school coaches in the Pagoda to share coaching strategies.
Kondos Field, who sat across from Natasha Rodriguez ’23 on the auditorium stage, passed on wisdom accrued during her 37-year coaching career at UCLA. She urged the upper schoolers in attendance to practice gratitude, take control of their thoughts, manage their time and learn the difference between winning and success. And, she said, don’t ever cheat.

“Winning is usually, if not always, about bragging rights,” she said. “Success is about the things you learn along the way. It’s about resilience, it’s about grit. It’s about falling and learning to stand up with courage … Success is what lasts beyond the win.”

Kondos Field, who was a professional ballet dancer before she joined the UCLA gymnastics program as an artistic coach, won seven national titles at UCLA, coached a number of Olympians and was named the Pac-12 Conference Coach of the Century. She gave a TED Talk in 2020 entitled: "Why winning doesn't always equal success.” Proposed as a Holzman center speaker by Rodriguez, who has known Kondos Field for years, Kondos Field also met with parents and student-athletes on March 29 at the Posner Lecture Hall.  Associate Head of School John A. King Jr, the director of the Holzman Center of Applied Ethics,, introduced her. 

"You can cheat your way to an A," she said there, "but you are not developing the tools to be a champion in life."

At the Lewis Family Auditorium, she asked students to say aloud: “The choices I make will dictate the life I live.” Students repeated the phrase in unison, twice, and they also pulled out their smart phones when prompted. “Busy is good,” she told them. “If you’re not busy, you’re not living life, so be busy … I don’t buy the excuse ‘I don’t have enough time.’ That is B.S. You do have time. Manage your time better as far as [your phone] is concerned.”

She also said. “Your phone is not attached to you. You are attached to your phone.”

The author of Life is Short, Don't Wait to Dance, Kondos Field said her outlook changed on June 9, 2014, when she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. As she prepared for chemotherapy, she found herself soothed by the thought: “be anxious about nothing and be grateful for all things.”

“Gratitude is the great elixir in life,” she said. “When you flood your brain with appreciation, motivation kicks in … Choose your thoughts. Choose your life one intentional thought at a time. No longer be a victim in life.”
Founded in 1903, Ransom Everglades School is a coeducational, college preparatory day school for grades 6 - 12 located on two campuses in Coconut Grove, Florida. Ransom Everglades School produces graduates who "believe that they are in the world not so much for what they can get out of it as for what they can put into it." The school provides rigorous college preparation that promotes the student's sense of identity, community, personal integrity and values for a productive and satisfying life, and prepares the student to lead and to contribute to society.