From Gymnastics Coach to Life Coach with Miss Val
Written by Michelle Emmick
We have a choice: a choice to walk in circles or step forward. Every single one of us has experienced negative self-talk, the ‘poor me, I’m not good enough’ trope. Unless you have a mental disability, you have a choice- the choice to choose your thoughts. We all get into the desert sometimes, the desert being an isolating place where you must challenge yourself. And it’s in the desert where real transformation happens, where you allow your thinking to switch and step into a place of gratitude, enumerating every single thing you can be grateful for, big or small, acknowledging what you are thankful for everyday and repeating those thoughts until it leads you out.
Those are words of Valorie Kondos Field, a.k.a Miss Val, a remarkable woman with a 37-year career as a dancer/choreographer turned legendary head coach.
She is a seven-time NCAA Champion, 22-time Regional Champion, and an 18-time Pac 12 Champion for the UCLA Women’s Gymnastics team. Inducted into the UCLA Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010, the four-time National Coach of the Year was also named West Region Coach of the Year and Pac 12 Coach of the Century.
Now retired from gymnastics coaching, Miss Val continues her impact. In her book, Life Is Short, Don’t Wait to Dance: Advice and Inspiration, Miss Val shares her personal and professional journey and life lessons as a coach.
“The only reason a person needs a coach in their life is to help them achieve something they can’t on their own. The fact is you can try and dictate a change in someone, but you won’t get the same result as if you motivate them,” says Miss Val.
Valorie began her career as a professional ballet dancer and choreographer for the Washington, DC and Sacramento Ballet Companies. Though never a gymnast herself, she transferred what she learned in the world of classical dance and combined her solid upbringing, mental toughness, and winner mindset to coach one of the premiere athletic programs in any sport. She’s mentored hundreds of elite athletes, including Olympic champions Simone Biles, Jordan Wieber, Kyla Ross, Madison Kocian, Laurie Hernandez and Nastia Liukin, among others.
Inside her book, Miss Val shares how her experiences shaped her coaching style and created a coaching program that reads more like a life coach playbook. In the chapter “The Art of The Ask,” Miss Val shares that her entire adult life wouldn’t have happened the way it had if she had been afraid to pick up the phone and ask for what she wanted.
Of this, she shared, “I want young women to have the confidence and belief in themselves that my mother passed down to me. She used to say, ‘the worst thing you can hear is a no.’ People have always said I don’t take no for an answer. Well, I’ll stop when you tell me it’s enough because how often is it that you get a yes on the first try?”
Miss Val calls this Lifeskill, The Nudge. Another one of her key takeaways in life-skills coaching is “‘Act as If’ you are here for a reason, and you are unique for a reason. Your light has never populated this world and never will again. It isn’t about acting like someone else; it’s about seeing yourself at your full potential.”
These amazing life lessons were put to the ultimate test in 2014 when Miss Val received a call from her doctor and learned she had Breast Cancer. While many struggle with the effects, Miss Val decided to keep her faith and hope at the forefront.
“It is proven that when your brain focuses on being positive and grateful, it produces healthy chemicals, and it floods your system with those chemicals. My inner dialogue was not I have to go to chemotherapy; it was I get to go to chemotherapy,” she divulged.
Miss Val shared that her coaching style shifted drastically during that time.
I was still posturing being a coach. I was on the competition floor and putting on a stern effect because I wanted everyone to know I took my job seriously. When I got diagnosed, I heard a quote from the bible: ‘Be anxious for nothing and grateful for all things.’ From that point on, I switched from posturing to being grateful for the opportunity to help these women to be champions in life, and that became an opportunity I was grateful for, not expecting to be a coach. The year I went through chemo, I was enjoying the moment, and on the competition floor, I made a commitment to myself to enjoy it all.
Now years cancer-free, Miss Val has planted roots in Fayetteville, Arkansas, with her husband, retired UCLA Football Coach, Bobby Field. And like many retired coaches, there’s no sign of slowing down. Miss Val wants to produce an urban nutcracker for film and an animated film about the environment.
She is also working on producing a documentary about the 2018 National Championships, which is considered one of the greatest comebacks in sports history.
Next up, Miss Val has taken on the role of Supervising Choreographer for the Gold Over America Tour featuring the best gymnasts in the United States, including the most decorated gymnast of all time, Simone Biles. If all of this wasn’t enough, Valorie spends her free time actively involved with the UCLA Jonsson Cancer Center Foundation, LA 84 Olympic Foundation, Women in Sports & Events, Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Unite for Her, and many other charitable organizations.
I ended my interview by asking Miss Val how she defines beauty, and in her eloquent words, she shared this:
It’s that inner light that exudes from someone who is grateful and thoughtful with their gratitude. It’s a calming peacefulness and confidence that comes from just knowing that living in gratitude fuels that inner light.
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