If you follow the world of gymnastics, you know that Valorie Kondos Field and Nick Ruddock are absolute icons in our sport. ‘Miss Val’, as she is more commonly known, is the head coach of UCLA Gymnastics and recently won the NCAA Championship in epic fashion, making that the 7th of her amazing career. Nick Ruddock was formerly a national team coach for Great Britain (assisted Amy Tinkler to Olympic Games) and now spends his time consulting for 14 National Gymnastics Federations, which is incredibly impressive.
Given their unbelievable accolades, it’s a no-brainer that every gymnastics coach, medical provider, and parent should want to be sponging up their secrets to gymnastics success.
Recently I was incredibly honored to be asked to speak alongside Miss Val and Nick Ruddock at Gym Con 2018, hosted in Birmingham, England. The theme was “Happy, Healthy, Hungry” which couldn’t be more appropriate now more than ever in our sport.
I spoke about all my main thoughts on gymnastics sports performance, strength, injury prevention, and the future of gymnastics in regards to the need for culture change. I also sat on the edge of my seat when Miss Val and Nick spoke about developing Olympic cultures, how to build long-term success as a coach, and how to achieve high-performance competition results while keeping gymnasts in their best physical/mental health. I literally couldn’t write notes fast enough.
Here were four of the most impactful quotes from my journal
“Leave the athlete better than you found them” – Nick Ruddock
I thought this was an incredible way to frame our job as coaches and medical providers working with gymnasts, or honestly any youth athlete. Our goal is to build athletes up in terms of their morals, values, character, and also their athletic ability. If that isn’t happening, and injuries or burnout are showing up, we really need to hit pause and evaluate the situation.
“Once I started being authentic to myself, I started being a leader worth following” – Valorie Kondos Field
Out of the entire day, this quote resonated with me the most. I literally got goosebumps. I personally went through (and am still going through) a huge growth process to lead myself first before I lead anyone else. If you don’t really line up your values, figure out why you coach and consciously chose habits that are in line with those values every day, then it’s going to be really hard to produce a championship type culture in your gym that helps athlets thrive.
“Help them love the sport so they return to learn the sport” – Nick Ruddock
Again, this was a fantastic way to summarize what everyone wants in gymnastics. Make gymnasts fall in love with the sport, even the challenges, so that in the end they want to stay involved and pay forward the deeper character benefits that were instilled in them. I know for a fact this was what I was lucky to have from my coaches and mentors, and what I aim to do with gymnasts I work with.
“You have to coach the entire person, not the gymnast” – Val Kondos Field
If this wasn’t the most strikingly accurate statement of the day, I don’t know what was. It’s really easy to get wrapped up in the technical nitty-gritty competitive side of gymnastics (being a ‘strategist’ as Miss Val says). However, we have to remember that if we want to achieve long-term high-level gymnastics results, and also maintain physical/mental health in the process, we coach kids who chose to do gymnastics, not gymnasts who are kids. I was happy to hear this is how Val coaches at the Division 1 NCAA level, and how Nick coaches at the international elite level.
There were hundreds of people who reached out to me saying they wish they could have attended the conference, and heard the days worth of golden of information from the lectures. Although 300 people from 14 countries attended (still blows my mind) many people from around the world couldn’t make it.
The good news is, Nick has just released the digital version of Gym Con, jam-packed with all of the lectures given that day and entire PDF downloads of the material. I am sincere when I say this that this is an absolute must watch course for anyone in gymnastics.
Given the massive change occurring in gymnastics, and the continued change in the next five years, the concepts that everyone touched on in this conference are game-changing for those working with gymnastics. The digital edition of Gym Con is available for public viewing. Trust me when I say this, that the content in GymCon is with the money 10 fold.
If you want to check out some of the awesome highlights from the entire day, here is a fantastic video that detailed a lot of great moments.
Please don’t miss out on this information that can help change your life and the lives of the gymnasts you work with. I hope you find it incredibly valuable like I did! Have a great week,
– Dave Tilley DPT, SCS, CSCS
CEO/Founder of SHIFT Movement Science