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Summer 2003
Field of Dreams
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To be sure, winning is wonderful, and few schools can approach UCLA’s athletic achievements. In fact, with 90 NCAA team championships as of this May — 67 men’s and 23 women’s — UCLA has won more national titles than any other school in the nation. The joy of winning was clearly evident on the faces of Kondos Field’s gymnasts when they earned their most recent NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championship April 25 before a packed arena in Lincoln, Neb.

“That jubilation, that celebration was simply because we did it, we completed the plan. We worked hard and we competed well. The win,” she says, “was icing on the cake.”

Icing, perhaps, but in and of itself, it is not success. That inner glow, rather, grows practice by practice, class by class, relationship by relationship. The most a win can do, Kondos Field says, is confirm the feeling. A loss cannot erase it.

Granted, Kondos Field operates free from the pressures of hungry sports agents, rabid boosters and big-money television contracts — those elements that can create an environment in which winning becomes paramount, sometimes to the exclusion of the collegiate ideal. Her unsullied method might appear as a lamb among wolves in the world of one of college’s revenue sports.

Yet, her approach would not be without precedent. Kondos Field’s role model in coaching — the man she phoned, victorious, from the arena floor in Nebraska — stuck to his principles for many title-free years before finally earning a national championship.

Some scholars of collegiate basketball tend to dismiss John Wooden’s success as the product of a less pressurized time. But Wooden also struggled with major challenges, including high academic requirements, practice facilities so dated he cringed when showing them to recruits and the indignity of playing home games in high school gyms and civic auditoriums.

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