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ANNA LI: GymCastic is fantastic!
LOUIS SMITH: GymCastic is fantastic!
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JESSICA: Welcome to episode 10 of GymCastic. I am Jessica O’Beirne from Masters-Gymnastics.com. And I’m joined by…
BLYTHE: Blythe Lawrence from the Gymnastics Examiner
SPANNY: Spanny Tampson from Spanny’s Big Fake Smile
UNCLE TIM: Uncle Tim from Uncle Tim Talks Men’s Gym
DVORA: Dvora Meyers from Unorthodox Gymnastics
JESSICA: You guys, we are so excited for this episode. It is our 10th birthday, we decided that we’re tweens now. And we thank you all so much for your support. This if of course the best gymnastics podcast in the universe. And this day we are bringing you an interview with Greg Marsden who is pretty much the most successful NCAA women’s gymnastics coach of all times. And yes, you can debate that amongst yourself with Yoculan’s book and how she labeled herself. But we are very excited to talk to him today. We’re also going to talk a little bit about what’s happening in the news, and we’ll talk about the new Code of Points. There is a suggestion that there are a lot more options for deductions for artistry. So we are going to talk about that. It’s pretty interesting what the classifications for artistry are. And I want to remind you guys to support the show. Tell your friends about it. Post it on Facebook. Post it on Twitter. Tell people to listen. Click on our ads. Support our sponsor. We really appreciate your support, and we love having all of you guys support the show. I also want to remind you guys that next week there is no show. We will be on Thanksgiving break. So we will be out next week, but you can enjoy all the past episodes on iTunes or Sticher or the website. And you can also find any related links that we talk about today… when we do the artistry discussion we’re going to talk about a bunch of routines, and we will have links to those routines on the site. And with that, let’s take it over to Blythe. What’s happening in the news.
BLYTHE: Alright, well competition-wise the big thing that went on this week was the Asian Championships. And there’s three main storylines that I can see coming out of that. You have young Zeng Siqi. I’m sorry if I’m butchering names. I have no Chinese experience, and so I don’t know how to pronounce things correctly. But she is known for being very very cute if you have watched the Chinese junior team over the past couple of years. She’s a new senior this year. She won the all around. It was a big win for her. And she just did very very well. But I think the one that really made a name for herself on the women’s team is Shang Chunsong, who should be a big person to watch next year. And Shang is a very small person on a team of very small people. She really does not look like she’s 16 – and I don’t mean to start anything by saying that. But she’s just…. she’s very very small. She’s got some great big skills on uneven bars, though. Tkatchev to immediate Gienger. She does a Shaposhnikova and a Hindorff which are things we don’t usually see from the Chinese on uneven bars. And she’s got great ability on beam, on floor, and so it’s very cool. On the men’s side, Liu Rongbing won the all around. He won pommel horse, he won high bar. He is, I believe, 19, and so he should be a big contender for the CHinese men’s team and has a lot of potential as well. The last thing would be the return of North Korea. They were banned from international competition for two years, and they’ve just come back. And they looked… well, as good as they looked two years ago. Ri Se Gwang, who is their super vaulter, he landed a full twisting double tsukahara off vault, which is just an amazing thing for a human being to able to do. And Ri is 27 years old. He’s been on the international scene for the last five, six years. He won vault at the Asian Games in 2006, and he just continues to be kind of a machine, and really not bad also on rings – he won that event – and on floor. He tumbles almost as well as he can vault. Some of the most effortless stuff. Kind of stock stuff, but really, effortless. In sort of lighter news, the Fierce Five met the President at the White House. They were not able to attend the official reception for Olympic athletes earlier after the Games, but they got a special meeting with him and they go to watch his helicopter take off. And that was kind of a thrilling experience, there’s some photos of that. We don’t know if McKayla Maroney gave him the unimpressed face, or, do we? She tweeted something about it, but…
JESSICA: Yeah, she…
BLYTHE: Are there pictures you guys?
JESSICA: Yep, they did it together.
DVORA: The photo’s up.
BLYTHE: Oh ok. Oh I haven’t seen it.
DVORA: I just posted it on Facebook.
BLYTHE: NCAA signing day happened, and some of the big recruits… Amanda Jetter to Alabama. Jessica Howe, who competed for WOGA, is signing with Cal. Claire Boyce of Texas Dreams is going to Florida. Ashlyn Broussard, also of WOGA, is the big signee for Georgia. Nastia Liukin Cup champion Charity Jones this year has signed with Oklahoma, she is 16 or 17 right now. McKenzie Wofford who announced that she verballed to Oklahoma about a year ago has signed with them. Megan Hemenas and and Taylor Ricci of Canada… Megan is a former US Championships competitor… they are going to Oregon State. Oregon State seems to get all the Canadians, must be the geographical location. Sophie Lee of WOGA is going to Standard, and Hallie Mossett is, at this point, the only signee for UCLA. So, I don’t know how any scholarships they have to give out this year, but it must be one where they’re just… not a lot for UCLA this year. The Romanian Nationals are happening now. THey seem to be getting a little bit better on the uneven bars thanks to a concentrated use of wearing grips. They’ve made the effort that they are going to start training grips from a young age, which has, I’ve heard, actually doubled the amount of time they able to spend preparing on bars in training and before competition. So, Romania recognizes their weakness and they seem determined to get better. That’s what I got, what do you guys got?
JESSICA: There was an interesting interview that went up from Sandra Izbasa. It’s on… if you go to Facebook it’s on the Romanian Gymnastics fans page. And she talks about… kind of a follow to last week when we talked about Maroney and how they spent time together after vault finals. And she told her that she… Izbasa told Maroney, “you know, you shouldn’t worry about not winning this, you’re going to win in 2016.” And it’s a very interesting interview. She seems very mature. She talks a lot about how she knows what she needs to do despite… even if her coaches tell her something different, she knows herself, she knows her needs, and she, you know, she’s kind of in charge of her own gymnastics. It’s an interesting interview.
SPANNY: Lauren Hopkins mentioned the other day that Rebecca Bross is going to be competing at the Mexican Gala, which is obviously performance-based. But yeah, she had asked around and WOGA wasn’t aware of it, USAG wasn’t aware of it, and then all of a sudden USAG announced Bross was going. So that’s an interesting turn of events. I think it’s great, it’s just hard for me to imagine her going to a performance-based competition. Excited to see her.
JESSICA: Yeah she’s not the gymnast that I would expect to go to that, but good for her.
BLYTHE: So Philipp Boy is apparently contemplating retirement.
DVORA: Oh no!
JESSICA: Oh no! We can only hope that his next profession will be “underwear model.” Otherwise, hearts are breaking.
DVORA: I was about to say- if he’s going to spend more time with his modeling career, then I can be ok with this.
BLYTHE: Spanny, can we get a “that’s too bad”?
SPANNY: That’s too bad… No it’s very too bad! [laughs] [[laughs]]
SPANNY: I need to see him!
DVORA: You sincerely think it’s too bad [laughs]
SPANNY: I do! That’s too bad.
DVORA: Who will replace him?
SPANNY: No one.
DVORA: I’m sure someone will [laughs]
BLYTHE: That’s too bad for the German team. Now of course, if we remember the Stuttgart World Cup from last November, he had this really horrible fall on high bar. And I think it seems to have changed sort of the way he approaches gymnastics. He was very tentative on high bar this year, often throwing some of these bigger release moves – Kolmans – and just not even reaching for the bar. He’s obviously afraid of doing it, and catching it, and pealing to his back the way he did in Stuttgart. And that video is online and it’s just… it’s one of the falls of the last decade, and he’s very lucky he wasn’t hurt worse. And probably, that’s in his head a little bit. Can’t blame him.
JESSICA: Should we talk a little bit about the history of USA gymnastics? We’re going to do… you know, there’s a couple of… I don’t know if there’s other podcasts you guys listen to, but I listen to several literary podcasts. And they do things like chapter by chapter and discuss each chapter of a book .So we all have a copy of The History of USA Gymnastics, the early years through 1991. And we’ve all been reading that and we’re going to kind of bring a little bit of that.. each chapter to you through the coming weeks. So Uncle Tim, go ahead.
UNCLE TIM: Alright, so even before USA gymnastics took over, there were a lot of different organizations. And today we’re only going to talk about one of them, and they were called the Turners. And to understand that, we have to kind of go back to 19th century Germany. So at the beginning of the 19th century, Napoleon Bonaparte was kind of a big deal. He was taking over much of Europe, and the German states were no exception. However not everyone liked Napoleon. And Friedrich Jahn was one of those people. And he made an effort to promote all things German. He was known for singing German songs, and he refused to eat non German food. As part of his German nationalism, he started a gymnastics movement. He believed that gymnastics was a way of preparing men to be good German soldiers who could defend the homeland. It’s important to note that his version of militaristic gymnastics was not this intense regime where everyone was doing the same thing. So it wasn’t basic training, and it wasn’t US National Team training camp. I mean the boys didn’t have to line up in front of Jahn like the girls line up in front of Martha. Then they don’t do a choreographed uniform routine then perform routine after routine under Jahns watchful eye. Jahn was in fact a huge proponent of creativity and innovation, and he also kind of created some of the precursors to modern day events like high bar, parallel bars, and even balance beam. And before I continue with the history, I have a question for you guys: do you think men should still do balance beam?
DVORA: Not being a man, I don’t feel that I can properly answer that. But what do you think, Tim?
UNCLE TIM: Well, I think they should do it. I mean honestly if Paul Ruggeri can do an aerial front walkover on the balance beam, I mean, why not? I don’t know. As a kid, I mean, I loved to go on the balance beam for fun and kind of make the girls mad because I wasn’t scared. And so I’d do like, back handspring step out without a problem and the girls hated me. But I loved it. So I don’t know. Jess, it looked like you were a proponent of boys and balance beam, what are your thoughts?
JESSICA: Totally! Totally. I mean you think high bar exciting, can you imagine guys doing beam? Oh my God, it would be the best thing ever. I love it. I love beam anyway, it’ s my absolute favorite event, so I’d love to see guys doing beam. And I think it would create a different kind of innovation on that event. I think we’d see more upper body moves on that event, which you don’t see as much from the women. So I would love to see it.
DVORA: Would this mean that the women took on an additional event? Because already the men have six event and the women only have four. So are we going to put them on… they used to do flying rings. Well I guess we’re not bringing back the flying rings. But…
JESSICA: High bar
DVORA: But they used to do parallel bars.
JESSICA: P-bars or high bar, I’d love to see women on.
DVORA: Well, high bar would be, I think, the closest. I mean it’s already, you know they already swing high bar on the high bar of the uneven bars. But, what about an event that’s kind of more different than the four events they already have?
TIM: Ok. So then the question is, how did the Turners come to America> So in 1848 there was a revolution in the German states over issues like censorship and political freedoms. And for a brief moment, the revolutionaries were successful. But ultimately they were met with defeat. And facing the possibility of imprisonment or execution, many Germans chose to emigrate, and that’s how they wound up in the United States. Because they thought it was a land of freedom and possibility. With them, they obviously brought their culture and they established Turner clubs which were basically German cultural centers. They had gyms and libraries and they put on choral performances and drama productions. And by 1860 there were about 150 Turner clubs. And while these people were in America, they did not lose attachment to their homeland. A select group of German Americans went back to compete in the gymnastics meet at the 1880 Turnfest in Frankfurt. Americans took second and third which was a monumental moment in American gymnastics as Bryan Shank has pointed out in the book we’re reading. It was the first time American gymnasts were participating in an international competition. So, what happened to the Turners? Because unless you’re from the midwest, you probably haven’t heard about too many Turner organization. So truth be told, a lot of Turners gymnastics programs disappeared. And it’s really hard to pinpoint one moment in history that caused their disappearance. But a major event was WWI. And in case you don’t remember from high school world history class, the United States eventually joined the Allied Powers and the Germans were part of the Central Powers. And because of this, being German in America kind of sucked at the beginning of the 20th century. For instance, people vandalised statues of Germans heroes in Chicago. German names were anglicised so they weren’t so German sounding. Foreign language newspapers were censored. German influences were removed from school. And as a scholar whose name is Gerald Gems pointed out, in order to fit in, Germans had to learn to identify themselves as Americans who played baseball, football, and basketball, rather than practice ethnic gymnastics. And while there aren’t many Turner halls around anymore, their legacy still lives on because the Turners are largely responsible for physical education in public schools. So, to conclude, I have one question for you all: what do you think of including gymnastics in physical education in programs in schools? The Turners were obviously all about it, but they also had special programs to train instructors how to instruct people in gymnastics. So do you think middle school and high school students should get out those panel mants and tumble? Should they get out the old wood beams that Cathy Rigby trained on and that are still lurking in the gym closet somewhere? What do you think, is it safe? What are your thoughts?
SPANNY: I think that’s my first reaction is that like, nowadays my first thought is… every parent would be sue-happy and if one kid stubbed a toe we should just shut down the entire operation. But even when I was a kid, even when I was in highschool we had a gymnastics session and in elementary section we were allowed to goof around with panel mats and bars. Even when you saw a playground… an old school playground would have a real rickety pair of metal parallel bars, and you have the three horizontal bars, and we would just go nuts on those and it was fine. Now they ripped down all the awesome playground equipment with the gymnastics equipment and put up crappy little plastic playgrounds. My first thought is that parents wouldn’t stand for it. It would be too dangerous and their kids would get hurt and instead we’ll just let them get fat.
JESSICA: I think the same thing. I think that gymnastics in school is great. I’m a big proponent of.. if you start your kids in gymnastics, they will not get hurt in other sports later in life. They won’t be the person that trips and falls down and breaks their wrist. How does that even happen? Gymnasts learn above all to fall without getting hurt because you fall constantly in gymnastics. So I think it’s a really great thing to do. But it’s interesting that.. I was reading the National Coaching Conventions newsletter from last year in preparation for the interview with Marsden today, and there was a call from the head of one of the committees to all of the colleges that teach physical education or kinesiology in their universities. They wanted to know if you were teaching gymnastics or not as part of that program and, if so, have you connected with USA Gymnastics to have… You know, apparently they have a teacher education program. So it’s interesting that this is… you know, it’s still in a lot of schools, and it’s… I think it’s important to do. I had it in high school, which was super fun for me because it was like the only time PE was ever fun. Except badminton. Which I found I loved. So you could try to smash someone else in the face as hard as you could even though you weren’t actually fighting with them. Anywho, I digress.
DVORA: [laughs] Yeah I think it should be in Yeshiva schools too [laughs] just my own personal two cents. Private Jewish girls schools should all have gymnastics. That would have made high school a lot better for me.
UNCLE TIM: I guess one thing that Jahn was a huge proponent of was creativity and innovations, which kind of ties into our next discussion which has to do with an email we received from Katy Lovin, who is also one of our awesome transcribers. I’m going to paraphrase her email. Basically she was talking about episode 8 where Jermaine was discussing artistry, and she was a little bit surprised that his immediate response was about Jordyn, because in the gymnastics community, we usually associate artistry with ballet. And she says “so it really put things in perspective when he, as a trained dancer, associated her with artistry because of the way her movement – Spanny’s buzzword – fit so well with the music. Not because of her vast ballet skills. That opens up the door for events like bars, pommel horse, rings, etc. to be viewed as artistic if you look at artistry as being framed as the movement of the skills being performed to the proper tempo and fluidity of that routine.” And we already discussed this a little bit after the interview, but I think it’s worth expanding on. So I’m kind of curious- on floor exercise, how do you guys define artistry? Or what counts as artistry on floor?
JESSICA: I think musicality is the first thing that comes to mind. So you have to have movements that fit with the music. It doesn’t mean it has to be a particular style. I disagree that you have to do tango dance to tango music, which is something that’s in the proposed Code as an example.
UNCLE TIM: Rather than polka
JESSICA: Yeah, or yes, you can’t do polka
DVORA: There’s so much polka going on right now. We need to stop, this trend must die! Kids and their polka.
JESSICA: But if you look at Boginskaya’s routines, which I always loved, they’re totally weird ass modern dance-ish. Or like, lyrical? I don’t even know what to call what she does.
JESSICA: Yeah except when she pretends to play the guitar. Oh my God, worst moment ever.
JESSICA: Yeah, but I think musicality is the most important thing. But artistry, it can be anything. That’s why the whole thing about it fitting to music doesn’t fit for me.
SPANNY: I think it’s a performance. I went to a theater conservatory for years, and I think… you can’t teach someone a stage presence. Or when you see girls go out there, and it’s floor… and I agree it’s not a Broadway show, but I don’t think you have to be smiling and cute, but you should at least go out there assuming people are watching you and that you enjoy that. And when girls go out there and it looks like they’re just going the movements the coach told them to do, I wonder why they’re doing it at all. I think you can tell… there’s just, I don’t know if it’s an aura or… it’s something intangible about an athlete who can go out there, perform as if she’s aware people are watching her and judging her, and yet she still enjoys that. I don’t know, I think that’s been a lot of criticism of the girls we say aren’t artistic, is when they walk through the movements and it’s very, you know, step by step as opposed to the girls who can really get lost in what they’re performing.
DVORA: I’m going to.. maybe this is a cop-out, but I mean I’m going to think of artistry like the Supreme Court definition of “obscenity:” you know it when you see it. So this is what makes me really nervous about trying to… in the new Code of points, especially find all these deductions and all these ways that we’re trying to measure artistry, like it’s science? And that doesn’t leave space for someone perhaps like a Boginskaya who’s going to come out with these spectacularly weird movements that were also really captivating. Where is the space in the rules for that? And, I mean, I’ve read about this, and I’m not even sure if I want it in… like I don’t think I want it as a criteria for judging. Because who’s deciding this? The person who decides whether or not your full twisting double back made it all the way around is also qualified to judge your artistic merits? I mean, they’re not necessarily the same skill set. And, yeah so I think it’s a cop out but I think all the things you guys have said in terms of musicality, not looking like you’re scared half to death out there… I can’t enjoy a performance when the gymnasts looks like she’s afraid and she just wants to finish it. I can’t enjoy it if you can’t enjoy it. And that doesn’t mean smiling. You don’t have to be cheerful cute little girl for me to enjoy it. And sometimes it doesn’t.. you know, if Boginskaya had smiled during her routines, we all would have been incredibly weirded out by that, because it wouldn’t have fit. But then we also later learned she didn’t like to smile for reasons but…. Yeah, I can’t really put my finger on it. Musicality, the movements fitting… not just fitting ht emusic, but not feeling like they’re interchangeable. Like a lot of these routines, you see it all the times in different routines, the music changes but the gymnast’s choreography barely changes from routine to routine, which just shows you that that choreography wasn’t at all special to that routine. And to the music that was selected. So…
UNCLE TIM: Ok and so you said that it’s kind of.. you know it when you see it. So what are some routines that you see artistry in?
DVORA: I’m going to… you know, I always cite this one, but Olga Strazheva – if I’m mispronouncing that I’m sorry – 1989 floor routine, which I think a million people loved that routine because it’s completely different and weird. It had a beginning , middle, and end. Like the beginning and end parallel each other. This was just a clearly well thought out routine. Someone was thinking about the music, thinking about the way it was presented, and she just threw herself into it. And it was just so impressive, it’s one of my favorite routines, because, it’s… so weird [laughs]
UNCLE TIM: Ok what do you mean by weird?
DVORA: Just the… you know, I guess we’re also getting used to… just the shape of her movements. It was very staccato kind of movements. I mean I feel like when you look at the choreography, just in terms of if you break down the number of moves, there isn’t a lot.. like, so many moves. She’s not moving fast, which is… I think sometimes when we look at dance and choreography and floor exercise, they’re doing a lot and they’re doing something. I feel like she’s not doing so many dance moves, but they’re all like sharp and punctuated with the music and you can tell she understands it. A lot of times you just get the sense that the gymnast doesn’t understand they’re music at all. They’ve heard it a million times in the gym, but that doesn’t mean they really are listening. And yeah, I just really love that routine. And obviously the Soviets just had tremendous dance training. that, you know, they raise their arms – they don’t’ raise their arms from their shoulders, they use their back muscles. You could see it on every single movement, they just knew how to dance. And so you could throw anything at them. Except for hip hop. I would never want to see a Soviet gymnast ever do hip hop.
SPANNY: I think too, again separating artistry from choreography, is… I don’t know why this routine stands out for me, is someone didn’t have great choreography, but she.. I still consider this routine artistic even if now in my older state I realize how chincy it was, but Moceanu’s 96 routine. Not the greatest choreography, not the hardest stuff, but she knew how to… she executed it well, it had great moments, she sold it, then when you forward to her 98 choreography where it was, it was great choreography in the way… then you could still, I can see the same artistic talent between the two routines even though they are vastly different. I think that’s one thing that people really.. they see great choreography and think she’s artistic, and bad choreography means she’s not artistic. Where, I don’t… I think many athletes have the potential, they have that… whether it’s musicality or artistic ability, they’re just given crummy choreography we judge them on.
JESSICA: And I think that’s a good point because.. you can see a level 5 gymnast with that horrid music, and they’re doing their compulsory routine. But you can see there are kids who are trained to perform, and that same compulsory routine that you’ve seen 25 times in a row will make you perk up, look at the kid, and start feeling something. And that’s the difference… I think that’s when you know when you’re seeing something good, and that’s the difference between performance and artistry, I think. Or performance as a part of artistry. And there’s one other thing that I wanted to mention that.. when Dvora brought up obscenity I thought of this, but I had a coworker long ago when I was coaching, who was deducted for artistry, but her artistry deduction was for vulgarity in her routine. The judge went up to her coach afterward and said, “I deducted blah blah blah because I considered that movement vulgar.” I had no idea you could even do that, and it was fascinating to me. And basically the part of her routine was, she was on all fours in kind of a crawling motion, and she did an isolation with her chest while she was crawling. But it was like the hip hop-ish era, the early hip hop-ish early 80s kind of thing. So it wasn’t her pelvis. I don’t know, I mean I just thought that was crazy. I was like, you can get deducted for that? Like, that is clearly, I think, totally out of the realm of what someone should be able to judge as vulgar or not vulgar. And I’m like damn, if someone could deduct for that, we’d have to do like.. half the NCAA routines wouldn’t be able to be done.
DVORA: Well just speaking of obscenity, I did an intersquad when I was doing club gymnastics. And I fell off the beam and cursed. And I got my notes back, on the card… this was like intersquad saying how the routine went… and they were like “don’t curse when filing.” And it was like a really audible F-bomb. [laughs]
UNCLE TIM: So to piggyback off…
DVORA: But that was artsitic right? You know, it rose from the emotions of the moment, I’m sure the crowd got into it, like they were with me, they understood, it made sense [laughs]
TIM: So to kind of go to the Code of Points, and you talked a little bit about it, artistry falls into performance into the Code of Points. Artistry of performance is the category and then we have composition in choreography as the other category and under artistry of performance, they have insufficient artistry performance throughout the entire exercise, expressiveness, confidence, style, personality, uniqueness. The other thing is inability to play a role or a character throughout the performance, and finally performance of the entire exercise as a series of disconnected elements and movements. Those are the possible deductions. What do you guys think about this idea that they have to play a role or a character?
SPANNY: That’s crap.
DVORA: What are we, synchronized swimming?
SPANNY: Well that, and again, I think it’s a treat when you get a gymnast who is, again, if the music is tango music and you want to do tango dance and you want to wear red, I don’t know, that’s great. But to expect every routine to be themed, because that’s what it’s gonna be, what roles are they gonna be. We’re gonna have a cheerleader routine. You’re gonna have the sassy routine, whatever. And how much crap did Raisman get, like piggybacking on her heritage, using Jewish music, I guess. Are they that desperate to milk quote-unquote artistry out of these girls that they’re gonna make them play a role? And who’s the only one who’s ever going to play a role? It’s gonna be a Russian who does Swan Lake and that’s the only thing we’re ever gonna accept.
DVORA: And just going into Raisman for a second, because obviously she is a really controversial figure in this artistry discussion. Everyone has beat up on her over the past few years. She’s, first of all, gotten better. Where does the audience play a role? Because if you watch the Olympics, the audience is getting into her routine. So, us artistry experts, like know that is not a good routine. Where does the crowd enjoyment play a role in this discussion? Like, going back to Moceanu, you’re saying yeah the choreography is a little chincy but she performed and the people loved it.
UNCLE TIM: So I know that Dvora in the past has spoken about the turns and also isn’t a huge fan of some of the harder split leaps with the arms and everything. Do you think that the girls are capable of doing a triple turn or a Strug leap on floor and still remain artistic while they do it?
DVORA: Not that I’ve seen so far. Even the ones I really enjoy watching still have to stop. I was looking at Ana Porgras who has a beautiful routine in 2010 and then she gets to her triple turn or double turn with her leg horizontal, I forgot which one and just stops, looks down, sets up the turn, and winds her body, goes for it. Actually, no it was a Memmel turn, and then she fell out of it anyway. So it was ugly turn and she couldn’t complete it and she disrupted a beautiful routine to get it and we all know why. Because the choreographer was like “you’ll look beautiful at this particular moment. This is the right time for a Memmel turn.” It’s because it’s worth something. And so I think we have choreographers and gymnasts and coaches making decisions about what goes in these routines in the dance department, not based on what goes with the music, not based on what the gymnast can do effortlessly and can express and can perform but what’s gonna rack up and increase their start value. And so if we’re really concerned about artistry, I want a solution to this problem. I would really like to see the leaps and the jumps and the turns de-emphasized. I think we had some of the better artistry when we had fewer dance rules, bonus, components requirements; when the space between tumbling passes was really an opportunity to express.
SPANNY: I think if they widened the options you had. Right now, it’s kind of ironic that the most artistic, you know the high scoring artistics are Memmels, Gogeans, and Strugs. Just let that sink in for a second. That’s the reality. And there are so many, especially if you watch older routines from the 80s and 90s, there are so many different types of leaps and turns and dance skills that maybe are in the Code. They’re just worth negative nothing. If we either put value into other dance elements other than twisting split jumps and turns with your foot above your head, I think that would give girls the opportunity to expand their repertoire of quote unquote artistic skills. Again, I don’t think a Strug jump equals artistry. But if we gave them more opportunities with more skills, instead of limiting them and putting them into a box, we’d see better variety.
DVORA: But do you see the issue of saying that a switch leap, which should be worth just as much as, I don’t know the names of all the ugly jumps that I hide from. I try to know less of that kind of stuff. But you see the difficulty in saying this should be worth as much as this incredibly hard leap that you run halfway across the floor to do, when you already are including the dance in the difficulty. When you’re equating dance as in difficulty. It’s putting it in your difficulty mark. That’s what’s hard, to say that a beautiful turn, a single turn, or a beautiful single turn and added to it, an attitude should be just as much as a triple. You see, what is actually harder to perform?
UNCLE TIM: What if they made a requirement that you have to do a certain number of As or Bs in terms of dance and they added that as a requirement in terms of adding simpler skills but skills that you could perform well. They used to do that back in the 60s.
DVORA: I do think that dance would have to belong in the requirement, like making a dance requirement but I don’t think it belongs in the difficulty. I think we need to take it out and it would look a lot better. I think Chellsie Memmel said, why would you do this turn that she’s not gonna get credited for. They’re so hard. And the gymnasts don’t them as well as they can do their tumbling. I’d rather watch a double pike than a triple turn.
JESSICA: And this is the other thing. I feel like in the same vain, they need to bring back a gym-acro requirement. This is the essence of artistic gymnastics, gymnastics acrobatics put together. Dance and acrobatics put together. That is what artistic gymnastics is. Otherwise, it’s just tumbling. It’s just dance. You used to have these beautiful things where you would have, like Moceanu. I love when she used to do her front handspring to her shaposh. It was beautiful. I love that combination of dance and acrobatics and they need to bring it back on beam and they need to bring it back on floor because this is what differentiates the sport from other acrobatic sports.
SPANNY: It would fill so many holes on beam too. To bring it to beam real quick, my beef with beam has always been a lot of standing around and a lot of walking back and forth and we’re missing a lot of those creative moves to get from point A to point B, and back in the day, a lot of times, the gym-acro would be that move. And you’d have several of them in the routine and now without that requirement, why do a leap into back handspring when you can just walk backwards and touch the end of the beam?
BLYTHE: Well I think what we’re starting to talk about here is they should have this requirement, they should have that requirement, and everybody should be able to do a full turn. It sounds like what we’re almost advocating for is a return to compulsories, which I would be totally okay with. But I don’t that if we want to see more artistry, stocking the routines with more and more requirements, even more than they already have now, is the way to do that. I think that what we would end up with is less artistry as a result.
JESSICA: Yeah I’m all for taking out Dvora’s suggestion of dance from the difficulty. So you have a requirement of dance but it doesn’t count toward your ten skills or your top eight skills or whatever it is now that counts toward your difficulty. I think then we would see more variety and we would see things done just for the artistry and for what it adds to the routine rather than what adds up for you in points. Again, I feel like it would go back to the 92-96 Code which was pretty much perfect.
DVORA: Yeah, three leaps and a turn. If you look at the routines from 85-88, you don’t even see those consecutive leap requirements. And we had some amazingly beautiful routines coming out of that era. Like, Oksana Omelianchik just does a single switch leap and it’s one of the most famous routines. Gymnastics fans love that routine.
BLYTHE: We wonder why the 80s were such a great era where what we have now looks a bit different. I completely agree. It’s because people are having to put so much time and energy and effort into the switch ring to Strug which is fine but for one thing, everybody is doing it, and another, you just feel like once you do that in a floor routine, there’s not a lot of room for other choreography. There’s not a lot of energy.
DVORA: That’s basically it. They have four tumbling passes. That’s also an issue, in terms of how much time you actually have to dance. Everyone does four tumbling passes. Thank God it’s no longer five tumbling passes. Everyone is doing four tumbling passes and yeah. I think the second they add any dance into the start value difficulty score, things got a lot worse very quickly. Obviously, gymnastics fans complain about artistry all the time, for years and years and years, but I think even the team that had traditionally been very good, got a lot worse. Like Russia, they are not that great right now and you know they have some really lovely talented gymnasts but they are also working from the same Code and the same set of requirements and it’s reflected in their routines. So they might be a little more elegant or a little more stylish than the Americans. I’m willing to concede that point but they’re still doing the same crappy routines because they have to do the same crappy leaps that are hard for their gymnasts too and the same turns and they fall out of the turns just like everyone else does. And there you go.
UNCLE TIM: And to bring things back to balance beam, one of the composition choreography requirements is you get a deduction if you are found to have a lack of creativity in movements and transitions. How do you define creative movements? Is it butt shelving? Is it, I mean what is a creative movement?
SPANNY: This is something I feel pretty strongly about. In that, I think beam is the ultimate opportunity to experience movement and to get creative. And it breaks my heart to see current gymnasts, like that is choreography. That’s movement, is a butt shelf and flicking your wrists. And obviously, like I’m pretty vocal about that that drives me nuts. When I grew up, and again, let’s look at the Mag 7. Every single beam routine by every member of that team, even Kerri Strug, has skills and movements that are different from the other routines. You can look at every single routine and be like, oh I didn’t see that in the other six routines. So when I grew up, I just thought that’s how it was. I thought that was part of the game that you tried to come up with movements that other people weren’t doing. And you can’t blame current gymnasts because there’s no reward for it, you’re probably penalized for falling when you screw it up anyway. I wish there was some incentive to get creative. And again, I think it’s such a broad term. When Ohashi does her baldet, when she did it, WOW and everybody freaked out because we haven’t seen that in forever. And that was a move that wouldn’t have been that original or innovative sixteen years ago. Now, we’re just blown away. I don’t think it’s hard to be creative on beam. Take Gina Gogean, someone who is not hailed for being an amazing beam performer. She had interesting movements. She had a skill, I used to try to dot it and I’d fall on my face. She’s kind of straddling the beam. She does kind of a chest roll and then turns so she’s facing the original direction. I’ll find the video and we will put it online. Or Shawn Johnson. Some people are like, she’s not that creative on beam. She did a chest cartwheel and people are like holy crap that’s amazing. I want to beat myself over the head because we used to see that all the time and now we don’t.
DVORA: And just to jump on to turning and changing direction, no one changes direction anymore. I just watched a video from the Asian Championships, a very nice Chinese beam routine and she faced the other way one time for like five seconds. And this was a routine that scored very well. I remember seeing at the American Cup, and I’m gonna massacre her name but Iordache, I was sitting right behind the beam, I only saw her butt. I was sitting like very close because she never switched her direction. At all. I saw her face like once or twice during the whole 90 second performance, the entire time. And these are just two that stand out in my mind. One was very recent, one I was there to see live but there are so many routines where no one changes direction. They spend the absolute minimum amount of time down low on the beam. It’s just boring to watch someone do tumbling lines back and forth. On men’s floor exercise, when everyone was doing their tumbling passes back and forth to the same corner.
UNCLE TIM: So to interject quickly, I’d like to point out that now there is a deduction for lack of directional changes. They are supposedly going to enforce this more. They have to move forward, backward, and sideways. And they also can’t do more than one half turn on two feet with straight legs during the exercise.
JESSICA: Next up, we’re going to talk to Greg Marsden. He really needs no introduction but I will try. He’s been coaching at Utah for 38 years. He’s won 10 national championships and that’s one before there was an NCAA championship for women in gymnastics and 9 under the NCAA umbrella and he’s really known as a marketing genius and the forefront of marketing in gymnastics since he holds many of the records for regular season attendance and pre season ticket sales. If you ever get a chance to go to a Utah meet, it’s definitely something to witness and we’re really happy that he took the time to talk to us today. So without further ado, here’s our interview with Greg Marsden.
JESSICA: For people who aren’t familiar with your story, you came the head coach at Utah at a relatively young age. Can you tell us a little bit about how you landed that job? You’re not a gymnast but a diver? Is that correct?
GREG: Yeah I was a diver at a small college in Arkansas, Central Arkansas University and not a particularly good diver. It was, like I said, a small university. But I took a gymnastics class about my junior year with the idea that it would help with my diving. And I became intrigued with the gymnastics and got to the point, again, at a relatively low level, I was able to compete a couple of events, vault and floor, because they were the most similar, obviously to diving. So I did a little bit of that in my last few years of college while I was finishing my degree. And then I got an opportunity to work on a master’s degree and they needed a faculty rep for the gymnastics club at Arkansas State University and so I served in that role and got a little bit into coaching and continued to compete a little bit myself. I taught high school for a year. I knew I wanted to teach at the university level so I started to apply to schools and ended up accepting graduate assistantship at the University of Utah. I was here for a year teaching a variety of things including camping and life saving and handball. So a variety of things but I also had one of my assignments was an activity class, gymnastics. And I just happened to be here when Title 9 was being implemented and happened to be the guy that was teaching gymnastics and they came down and asked if I’d help start a team here. And so we put an ad in the student newspaper and I think we wound up with eight people on that team the first year and really didn’t know how the whole thing worked but somehow found ourselves at championships that first year finishing tenth. So that was kind of the beginning.
JESSICA: So many coaches have been interviewed about what they look for in recruits. There’s so much information about what to put out there if you want to be recruited. So what we want to know is what is something that you would run from as the coach looking at a recruit?
GREG: Run from?
JESSICA: Run from. Like something you see in a recruit and you’re like oh no no no no. This is not gonna work. This person is not cut out for college gymnastics or they’re not cut out for my program or something that is a red flag for you.
GREG: You know that’s tough because life is about compromise. I’ve had people on my team that I thought I would never invite that type of person to be on my team and have had them there and found a way to make it work and they were successful and we were successful. They accomplished great things and the team accomplished great things. You know when you first said that, I would first say, my first thought was someone that couldn’t fit into a team of mine was more of an individual and had a hard time interacting with other people. While I would think hard before I would invite that type of person onto a team, I have in the past and we found a way to make it work. So even in that situation, if there are other aspects that make that compromise worthwhile, I can do that.
JESSICA: You know, a lot of female gymnasts have the same coach their entire lives and when they get to college, they have to adapt to a new training program and a new coaching style. Do you find that gymnasts have a difficult time making that transition and how do you work through that?
GREG: Well in our situation we’ve never been so egotistical to think that we have the one answer, the one way. So we’ve really always been open to people bringing with them where they came from, trying to listen to that and adjust what we do to that. So it’s really never been a big problem for us. And I’ve never felt like it was a big problem for our athletes to adjust. The biggest challenge as gymnasts come from a club situation to a college situation is 1. adjusting just to life because they come from a very structured environment. Most of them go to school or home school. And they’re in the gym all day and then they go home and the meal’s there for them. And they study and go to bed and get up the next day and do the same thing. And there are very little decisions that they have the opportunity to make. And suddenly, they’re drooped into a college environment where almost all the decisions they suddenly have to make. So that’s a big adjustment for them. The other thing I think is once our season starts just the grind of every Friday or Saturday night, having another meet. And being able to bring it week after week after week. And getting that whole thing figured out. Those are the two things that I think are the big adjustments.
JESSICA: There was a 2006 article in the Salt Lake Tribune where you said, “I like it when my relationships grow with my team. Enough where they’ll speak their minds. Sometimes in society, all women hear is that they have to get married, have children, and live happily ever after. I want to emphasize their own power.” And we had Jill Hicks on the show about two weeks ago and she was emphasizing the same thing for gymnasts, especially gymnasts to learn to stand up for themselves. And you don’t often hear coaches from other sports talk about this stuff. You don’t hear a football coach saying “my athletes need to learn to stand up for themselves and find their own voice.” Why do you think this is so important in gymnastics in particular?
GREG: I think in women’s gymnastics, they start as young girls, many times coached by men and are subservient to men coaches who can be really tough. I think it’s important as they transition to young women that they do find their voice, that they do become independent, never relinquish themselves to another person. They become individuals, strong, confident, that can speak up for themselves. Otherwise, you put yourself in a position that you can be taken advantage of and for women, that can wind up in an abusive relationship. So yeah, that is something that we talk a lot about, that we encourage them to do. We want them to ask why we’re doing something, why we’re asking them to do it this way. We want to have that interaction back and forth. And its really rewarding when you see somebody come in, they’re timid in the beginning. But by the time they leave, can do that.
JESSICA: Suzanne Yoculan once described you as a terrific card player. She said you might not always have the best cards but you know how to play them. Without addressing the quality of your cards, it seems like you always know how to get the most out of the gymnasts that you have. How do you do that?
GREG: Well you look at what somebody’s strength and weaknesses are and you try to coach to emphasize their strengths and disguise their weaknesses as much as you can. And college gymnastics gives you the better opportunity to do that. International gymnastics tends to do everything it can to expose the weaknesses but the way college gymnastics is structured, we have the ability to disguise a little bit and to emphasize somebody’s strengths. You try to do that. And at times, I’ve been criticized for, you know, we’re consistent and we execute well, but we don’t have that much difficulty. Well, it wasn’t because we didn’t want to do difficulty. We just have those types of athletes. So, like you said, we played the hand we had. We did the best we could with what we had. Right now, we have very powerful athletes who are doing more difficulty and so we’re criticized that maybe they don’t execute or they don’t do this as well or that as well. We’re trying to emphasize what we do well and get better at what we don’t do as well. It’s got much less to do with the coaching as it does with the type of athlete we have and as coaches we try to emphasize the strengths and get better with our weaknesses but understand what those are and try to have a strategic approach so as a team, we’re going to be as competitive as we possibly can with the person that we have.
JESSICA: In college gymnastics, timing is so important. It’s a really long season. You compete, like you said, every weekend. And you want to win the meets but you don’t want to peak too soon. You want to peak at the end of the season. So what is your strategy to accomplish that?
GREG: To go through a series of peaks and valleys. I think you have to continue to progress throughout the year but you’re gonna peak and go down a little bit and then peak again and go down a little bit and so I think you wanna try to have a series of those and build those into your training plan and not only throughout the preseason but throughout the season as well. So, hopefully the idea is, that at the end of the season, hopefully you’ve got everybody healthy so you can put the best team that you possibly have on the floor at the end.
JESSICA: I asked Jill about this, and Miss Val is going to be on the show next week and I’m going to ask her the same question. Do you think that recruiting has gotten totally out of control now? Is it, with freshman committing to a school before they ever visited before they’ve…they can only have one contact with a coach—it just seems like it is a constant, all year-long process now with no break.
GREG: It is, and it’s crazy what we’re doing, and, you know, but the genie’s out of the bottle and it’s hard to put it back in, and… if you’re going to continue to competitive you’ve got to play the game. I mean, we can talk about how crazy it is and how I’m not a believer in the direction it’s going and I wish there was a way we could get back to a little more level-headed approach to it, but I’m not sure how we do that at this point. It would take some monumental legislation by the NCAA, that I’m not sure they’re ready to do at this point. But no, we’re making commitments to people that are three and sometimes four years away from stepping onto a college campus, and they’re going to really change in that time, sometimes for the better, sometimes not. Sometimes who they are and what they want is going to change, and it may continue to be a good fit and it may not. And from their perspective, I mean, what they want may change and the situation at the school they are committing to may or may not be the same thing. So, I don’t think that it’s an ideal approach that we have right now, but I just don’t see a way to put the genie back in the bottle at this point.
JESSICA: And is there a way—like, I know at the coaches convention, I think that you guys can make proposals to change the rules in postseason—is there the same kind of situation with the NCAA where you can submit a proposal and say, “I think recruiting should be changed, you could only do it in your junior year.” Do you guys have that opportunity as coaches?
GREG: Well, yeah. This has been a hot topic of discussion, not only in gymnastics but across all the sports for a number of years now,for at least the last four or five years, and, as this has really begin to get earlier and earlier. But it’s really tough, because all of this is…you know, there’s no real commitment. So verbal commitment, it’s taking somebody’s word, on both sides. So it’s really hard to legislate that, and people find a way to work around the rules, and go earlier. I mean, if you can’t…you know, right now the wait it is is people can call us at any age. They or their parents can call us anytime. They can come onto our campus and interact with us anytime. So that is the way around it is, rather than us reaching out and contacting people, they are contacting us, or we’re going through their club coaches and saying, “hey, we’re really interested in so-and-so, have them give us a call.” That kind of thing. And I’ve got to be honest with you, not everybody’s in favor of making a change. If you’re a young and up-and-coming coach, or your program, you’re trying to get to the next level—I mean, you want, those people want to try and take advantage of that. They was to get in their early and work harder, and try to get somebody’s commitment before, you know, maybe one of the top programs can maybe get to them. So, it’s not that everybody feels that thing is broken and should be changed.
JESSICA: And going back a little bit to discussing the changes that you have seen over the years, in the NCAA, I wonder if you think that…you know, you mention that you’re not known for throwing the hardest skills, but doing very clean gymnastics, and emphasizing the strengths of your gymnasts. So do you think that there is a…it’s worse throwing harder skills in NCAA? We reached a point where it’s like, you, is there basically an incentive to do that? Or have we kind of peaked, until you get what is incentivized, you get to NCAA finals, it’s floor finals, and you throw everything at that point, or…you know, how do you think the skills are kind of going in terms of that?
GREG: I think that this is gymnastics and kids want to do what they can do. I’ll give you the most obvious example that we’ve had recently is Daria Bijak is a gymnast we had from Germany, and because of the skill that she had earlier in her career she had developed some kind of unusual skills, especially for college gymnastics. Double front, punch front, front layout on vault, which she did those things very well, but they weren’t being rewarded well in the college scene here, especially during her first couple years. And we have people come out of the stands, especially guy gymnasts, come out of the stands and go, “Wow, she got robbed, I can’t believe they’re not rewarding her for this”—that kind of thing—and she and I, I can remember, she and I sitting down after her freshman year and having a discussion about, do we want to change the score, do we want you to do what she can do, and we both came to the answer that—she wants to do what she can do. And to heck with the scores. If we can’t win, you know, her being her and doing what she can do, and then, you know, we won’t win. Somebody else can win. But we’re gonna have fun and do what we can do along the way. And I think that’s the way, you know, people are. If they can do it, and they can handle it week-in and week-out every Friday night and be consistent and not risk injury, I think they’re gonna do it.
JESSICA: Well, from a fan perspective, I can tell you that we appreciate that, because I loved watching Daria Bijak, I loved, love her and I loved her skill and I loved her crazy vault and I that that’s…yeah. Totally the right way to do it, ‘cause I enjoyed watching her every time she competed. So…
GREG: You know when you come right down to it, and I know everybody’s all about winning all the time and…but there’s another aspect to this team, you’ve gotta enjoy what you’re doing and feel like you’re going somewhere, otherwise it just becomes monotonous and really not that much fun.
JESSICA: So, every year there is an NCAA Coaches Convention, kind of—is it postseason, is it around Level 10 Nationals? Can you tell us kind of what happens at the convention, and do you always attend the convention?
GREG: You know, I attended for 30-something years, and, you know, to be perfectly honest, it was the same discussion, sometimes with different faces, sometimes not with different faces and voices, and nothing really ever changed, we argued about the same—you know, half the time we’re arguing about the judging and the other half of the time we’re arguing about the format and the rules. Very little was accomplished in either one of those over that time. So, I got to the point where I felt it was a bit of a waste of time. So I do go occasionally, depending on circumstances now, but I don’t go every year like I used to.
JESSICA: Ok. And a couple years ago, you made a proposal to change the postseason format and Nationals format. Can you tell us about the proposal and what the status of that proposal is now?
GREG: Well, I had been thinking about that proposal for, you know, fifteen or twenty years. You know, here’s my thought—and I know it’s very controversial, and especially with gymnastics purists or people who are really enthusiastic about gymnastics and just can’t get enough of it. But I’ve always felt…I’ll tell you a story. When I was about five years into my career, I think, I was very young, very enthusiastic, very passionate. We had had some success, we were tenth, ninth, sixth, second, and we won after five years. And I couldn’t understand why the media wasn’t doing a better job of covering us, because we were having success and at a school that, on a National basis, not many of our team were having that success, and I constantly would call the media and try to encourage them to come out to our meets and that kind of thing. Finally a TV guy said, “Coach, I’m going to tell you it like it is. Our job is not to promote your program. Our job is to report on what people want to hear. And if you want us up there, then you need to put people in the stands, because the way we look at it, if you’ve got ten people up there, maybe there are a thousand people in the community that care what the score was, or care about hearing it. If you’ve got five thousand people in the stands, now we’re talking about enough people in the community care that they’ll tune in to how you did.” And so that, you know, a light went off in my head, that if Utah gymnastics was ever was to be what I envisioned it being, that I had to address that side of it. That I had people in the stands. It didn’t matter what, how many championships we won or what our record was, if I couldn’t put people in the stands, I would never expose it to the wider athletic community. And so that’s what we set about doing, and it became my second passion, was to put people in the stands, because I knew that that would be the only way I could make gymnastics generally popular. And one of the ways we went about that was the event that we created, so that it became something. You know, I looked at all the other sports that did attract an audience: football, basketball, hockey, baseball; and I looked for common threads among those sports and tried to figure out a way that I could apply those to gymnastics. So I want to, if I was fortunate enough to get people to come to the event, I wanted to do something that was fast-moving, fun, they could understand, and they left feeling like, “Wow, that was great, I want to come back.” Because I’ve always felt you get one chance at those people, and if you don’t hook them the first time, you probably don’t see them again. You know, they think, “Oh, that’s a nice…that was nice, but, uhhhh…not me.” So we really worked hard on format and creating that kind of environment and we’ve been very successful in doing that here, and I think some others have been successful in doing that at their place. And each year more and more—you know, that’s slowly beginning to happen more and more in places, in more and more programs, kind of thing. Where I don’t think we’ve done a great job of it is when we get to our postseason events, and so, when we started, we were the crown jewel of NCAA winter sports. Our attendance was greater than any of the other sports, and over time, those other sports kind of figured it out and they knew they had to address that too, and they changed their rules. I mean, basketball went to the shot clock and the three-point thing. Volleyball went to rally scoring. And all of those things were very unpopular. In fact, my athletic director was on the basketball committee, and he said, “When we, you know, voted for the three-point shot and the clock, seventy percent of the coaches were against that.” They thought that would have ruined the thing. The same thing with volleyball. I mean, that was not a popular change to go to rally scoring, but those things change the nature of those sports and made it much more fan-friendly. And we have…the gymnastics committee has hung on to the old ways and we do things so much, and I think it’s allowed other sports to pass us by and become much more popular and mainstream, while we have continued to really cater to only those people who are really avid gymnastics fans.
JESSICA: And, you know, it’s interesting that you mentioned this and changing the format and sticking to the old ways, because I think the FIG president, Bruno Grandi, is the bane of many gymnastics fans existence, but I think it’s very interest that his focus is, how do we make gymnastics more popular? And I think, in a recent newsletter, he said, “We have to make gymnastics meets two hours.” And I was like, did he talk to Greg Marsden? Like, is he following NCAA gymnastics now?
JESSICA: So, seriously, I was like…
GREG: Well, I don’t think it takes a genius to figure out those things out. I mean, if you look at across the board, at what attracts people and what…you know, you don’t have to be that smart to figure it out. The challenge is how do you get there, though. How do you create that environment in the sport of gymnastics, without totally compromising the nature of sport. And that’s…the balance is the tough part of that. And there are legitimate arguments to be made on the other side of things. I mean, I’m very passionate about the way I see things and how my vision of that, how we could accomplish that. But others have a very different view, and I don’t begrudge them their view of things and they have legitimate arguments to be made, on both sides. So that’s the tough thing, is balancing the two, and how do we get there. My point is this though: We’ve got to get there, or we’re going to go away. We’ve got to get there, or we’re going to go away.
JESSICA: So, what is the status now of the four teams and finals and changing the regional format? I mean, I thought it was that you proposed it many years, it was passed, and then it changed, so what’s…is it happening? Is it not happening?
GREG: It’s not happening.
GREG: And I don’t see it happening any time in, you know, in the near future. I’d love to say I was wrong. But I don’t. You know, what happened is that we voted for it, it was passed—it’s passed numerous times, as early as 1995 at our Coaches Association, and there was a very strong contingent of people who were adamantly against it, and it was passed by the gymnastics committee and was scheduled to be implemented, and then all of a sudden, it went away.
JESSICA: So if you were going to suggest the top three things that a new gymnastics program or an existing program could do, or even club gymnastics, elite gymnastics could do, to fill the seats, to create that audience you are saying that we need in order to stay relevant and grow gymnastics, what are those top, the first three things that a program should do?
GREG: Well, let me see—you’re talking about club gymnastics?
JESSICA: I mean, gymnastics in general. Any gymnastics meet. Like, I think there’s way too many age groups.
GREG: Well, it’s got to be fast moving. It’s got to be entertaining. You know, we kind of—one model that we use is kind of professional basketball. From the time we start the meet ‘til it’s over, we want it to be a production and we don’t want there to be a dull moment. So, if there’s not athletic activity going on, then we’ve got something else entertaining the people that are there. Here’s the thing. Gymnastics will entertain. You know, people who are avid fans of gymnastics, you know, they will sit through so much because they’re so entertained by the gymnastics. The problem is, is when you get beyond that group of people. To appeal to the general public, who don’t know that much about gymnastics, and may or may not be as entertained by just the gymnastic part of it. You’ve got to appeal to them in different ways. And I mean, what we’ve felt is it’s got to be quick, no more than a couple hours. You’ve got to make sure they know what’s going on. You’ve gotta really make them feel like they can affect the outcome. I mean, if they—not that we want them to be the judges, but if they think the judges are doing a bad job, boo the judges! You know? Cheer for your team so loud that maybe it’s intimidating to the other team. You know, because that’s what’s happened in all of those other spectator sports. Especially the home fans feel like they can have an impact on the outcome of the event. You’ve got to take it beyond just gymnastics. I mean, gymnastics is great, and we’ve got a great product, and I don’t know of anybody who’s not intrigued by it, and I think that’s why it’s so popular every four years at the Olympics, because even if you’re not a gymnastics fan, you can see that was these athletes is doing is incredible, and you could never…I mean, I can shoot a basketball, but I could never do what they do. I can throw a football, but I could never do what they do. And so that’s not the problem. The problem is not the product we have. The problem is how we present the product.
JESSICA: So, you’ve had some controversial posters and photos in the past, you’ve done for marketing for the team. And do you think, looking back, that those posters were, or photos were, harmful or more beneficial for the program?
GREG: I think they were beneficial because I don’t think they were ever really that controversial. I think they became controversial because there was a small group of people who misunderstood what we were trying to do, and it opened up a discussion that was really great for both sides. And, you know, when I say it was helpful, I mean, we had some of our largest, in those years, we had some of the largest crowds in the history of the sport, because of the attention that was drawn to it, and the discussion that…I mean, we were on every morning radio show, we were on both sides of the issue and, you know, that kind of thing. And it really brought us to the attention of that larger audience, and so they went, “What’s this about?” and they came up to see what it’s about. And we got ‘em here, and, you know, it was fun. The meet was fun. And so they came back, and they kept coming. So I do think in that way, it was helpful, and I think the discussion was a good one to have. You know, my intent has never been to attempt to be controversial. You know, if something became controversial, it wasn’t because that was our intent going in. I mean, if it was image, we felt it was within the nature of our sport and was a beautiful, artistic kind of image. Now, if some people were offended by that or saw it in the way…again, I think the conversation is healthy. And there have been times where there were enough people that felt it was pushing the envelope that we would remove it.
JESSICA: So we have a couple of questions from listeners. We let them know that we were talking to you, and so they wrote in with some questions. Double Double Gym Blog, they would like to know what do you plan to do with the future of Utah gymnastics and if you have some exciting recruits in the next few years?
GREG: I just have contacted with a group to come in, and we’re going to do a big refurbish of our facilities and—still, I think, one of the best in the country, but we’re at a point that we’re feeling that we need to take the next step forward with that, so we’re probably going to spend close to a million dollars in the next couple of years kind of re-doing our facility. Yes, we have some great recruits coming in. Unfortunately, other than Baely Rowe, who just signed a letter of intent last week, or just this past week, I can’t speak about any of them because it’s all verbal commitments.
JESSICA: Awesome. And how about—a lot of people asked this question—so, looking ahead to the season, what are some of the routines and skills we should look forward to seeing?
GREG: And now we’re in kind of a transitional period with a group of athletes who I believe are very talented and hardworking, but are untested. So, the challenge we’re going to have this year is, those people moving into those roles and getting comfortable with them, and I think…I’m not sure what’s going to happen early in the season, because we won’t know ‘til we know, until we’re there. But I’m confident that as the season goes on, they will develop into great competitors and finish this for us. I mean obviously, I think, our leaders on the floor this year are going to be Corrie Lothrop and Georgia Dabritz. I think they will both be going all-around and are going to move into those roles of being at the end of our lineup and scoring scores for us. But, a lot of people who were freshmen last year and did very well in a very specific role on one or two events, they’re going to really have to step up and be able to compete three or four events for us this year, and become very consistent and very confident competitors. But it’s going to be a challenge, and what remains to be seen.
JESSICA: Awesome. Well, we can’t wait for the season to start. We’re really excited, for the opener’s against UCLA, is that right?
GREG: Yeah, yeah. We start easy.
GREG: On the road at UCLA. [[LAUGHS]]
JESSICA: Oh, here we go. Well…
GREG: You know, I’ve always felt you can schedule meets that are easy to win, or you can schedule meets that are fun to compete in. And we may not always win all of them, but we try to schedule meets that are fun to compete in.
JESSICA: Awesome. Well, I’m looking forward to that one. And thank you so much for taking a whole hour to talk with us today. We really appreciate it.
GREG: Thanks everybody! Hey, and thanks for promoting gymnastics. You all do a wonderful job, and it’s much appreciated.
JESSICA, BLYTHE, SPANNY, DVORA, UNCLE TIM: Thank you.
ALLISON: This episode is brought to you by Elite Sportz Band. Elitesportzband.com. We’ve got your back!
JESSICA: Visit Elitesportzband.com, that’s sportz with a Z, and save $5 on your next purchase with the code “gymcast.”
UNCLE TIM: Now we go to Spanny for some listener feedback.
SPANNY: Well, I want to start with a correction. Elizabeth Price, or Ebee, she has been assigned two separate European meets this fall, which we’re really kind of beating ourselves up over admitting that, because we are all really excited about that. Again, as we’ve discussed, Martha isn’t known for letting girls to non-team meets that we’re not ready to dominate. And Ebee, she impressed everyone so much over Nationals and Trials, that I know—I think I can speak for everyone when I say that we’re all really excited to see how she does. So in our self-inflicted punishment, we have a couple of ideas to appropriately beat the crap out of ourselves when we mess up, something kind of that big. Some suggestions are a diet of tears and fruit and chicken; a Parkette’s workout with Donna Strauss; or, ooh, only eating tuna fish and crackers. I can’t, I’m sorry. I’m excused from the tuna fish diet.
JESSICA: The Carly Patterson Lunch Diet.
SPANNY: Oh, god. That poor thing. But anyways, if you have any appropriate suggestions, for us to…but you know, hopefully the best punishment is that you send us the correct information, and we readily accept that. Some more feedback. This is from Yuka…I’m sorry, Yuka, I don’t even know how to start this, [inaudible]. “Thank you, thank you for your podcast.” I’m just going to paraphrase a little bit about thoughts on a possible topic. Are there pivotal changes in coaches or equipment that have advanced the level of difficulty and improved execution? Are there other changes in the works? Et cetera. We focus a lot on how the code, and how only certain members of the FIG, are shaping the sport, when it really is not only the evolution of the gymnasts performing the sport but the equipment, coaching, techniques…I think it’s interesting. I think video replay has really interesting kind of, or it will in upcoming years, effect. I think that’s one training tool that, as people get to use it…now they have coaches, there’s a video replay system where it’s frame-by-frame, it’s basically robot coaching. Stuff like that, and a lot of different sports use it. I think those are the types of things. Have you guys any opinions on evolution in coaching techniques?
JESSICA: Yeah, I mean, I just think that, in terms of equipment, that’s the biggest thing. I mean, the air floor now. I wonder if we’ll be using an air floor instead of springs in the near-future. I think it would be great, actually. I think that everything Tumbl Trak has created since the early ‘90s has totally revolutionized the sport. Just being able to do things…like, I remember when we were learning tkatchevs on the Tumbl Trak bar. Like, that was a totally revolutionary thing! You could do it without being in the air, without being totally terrified of death—I mean, that was just my experience. So, yeah, that kind of stuff I think makes a huge difference.
SPANNY: Yeah. That’s one of my favorite drills.
JESSICA: So fun! Right?
SPANNY: Like, fling! I was never good. I was never, never, never, ever good enough on bars to ever think about doing it, but I could still do the drill and it was just a deathtrap, but we had fun.
JESSICA: Totally! That—I feel like such a superstar when I do the Tumbl Trak bar, cause I’m just like, “Oooh! Look at me! I’m doing a drill for this and a drill for that!” And it’s super fun. I’ll never do it, but it’s totally fun to do.
SPANNY: So this will go well with—we just finished up our interview with Greg Marsden. Tony from Facebook, in response to our interview with Paul, was the marketing of men’s gymnastics, which obviously—well, gymnastics, we’ll say, Greg went into, the marketing of gymnastics in general. Tony says, “This last weekend I went to see the Kellogg’s Tour of Champions in Boston. It was a great show, and the athletes in all disciplines looked great. What started me thinking about this was a podcast—the wonderful Gymcastic—men’s gymnastics needs a better marketing plan, or maybe just needs a plan.” And then he compares it to trip to European athletes, and how over there they are on prime time, they are on talk shows, they may or may not be sexualized, but—and we’ve spoken about that, on an episode, maybe a month or so ago. There needs to be a plan, because there’s so much potential in men’s gymnastics. So yeah, we’re always welcome to hearing your opinions on the plan.
JESSICA: And Tony, we’re going to have Justin Spring on the show in December, so we will definitely ask him about this, and I think this is, it’s an interesting topic, so we’ll definitely…thanks for your feedback, and we’ll ask him about that. SuperGymmie says, “I love Gymcastic. You should be on TV.”
SPANNY: To which I say, I agree with you. I agree that this is only minor, this is a discussion, I don’t think it’s going to happen, but I love thinking that, at least, Uncle Tim and myself can at least put together our own YouTube commentary of your favorite routines. Replacement for the trio, with maybe your favorite duo. Maybe not your favorite.
TIM: [[LAUGHS]] The snarkiest duo.
SPANNY: Yeah. We’re just thinking about ideas. SuperGymmie also does really great montages, if you find on her YouTube page…yeah, she’s just got really great music selections and comes up with some cool footage edits, so yeah. Check out SuperGymmie on Twitter. And YouTube, is what I meant. Next week, we are interviewing my favorite, Miss Val, queen of everything. So send us your questions, please, via Gymcastic @ Gmail, and Facebook or Twitter, is probably the easiest way to send them to us. What have you always wanted to ask her? Now, she’s requested non-standard questions, so please bring on the unusual, unique and philosophical topics. This is not your forum for, “I just want to go out there and hit my best,” type of interview. Miss Val is known for speaking her mind and she’s got a lot to say, and we’re so excited—I’m so excited. One more announcement is we are looking for a green gym owner to feature on the podcast. So do you, or someone you know, own a gym with a sustainable power source? Have you weather-proofed for the new East Coast hurricane season? Did you put solar panels on the roof of the gym? We would like to hear from you. Just sounds brilliant, but really difficult. Again, contact us, email us at Gymcastic @ Gmail, or on Facebook, or on Twitter. Yeah. And I think that’s all we have for feedback this week. Jess?
JESSICA: That does it for this week. Remember that next week we are on Thanksgiving vacation, but when we come back after that we will bring you our interview with Miss Val. We want to thank Greg Marsden for coming on the show today. Remember that you can support the show by clicking on the ads on our site, visiting Elitesportzband.com. Tell your friends! Post on your Facebook! Let people know that we are out there. And thank you all so much for rating us on iTunes, and let’s see, what else… I want to remind you that you can see our links to the things we are talking about on the show. You can leave us a voicemail, or you can find us on Skype. We’re at Gymcastic Podcast on Skype, or you can call the phone number a leave a voicemail, it’s 800—sorry, no, it’s (415)-800-3191. And so that is it for this week. For Gymcastic, I’m Jessica O’Beirne from Masters-Gymnastics.com.
BLYTHE: I’m Blythe Lawrence from The Gymnastics Examiner.
SPANNY: Spanny Tampson from Spanny’s Big Fake Smile.
TIM: Uncle Tim from Uncle Tim Talks Men’s Gym.
DVORA: And Dvora Meyers, from Unorthodox Gymnastics.
JESSICA: Have a great Thanksgiving, and we’ll see you in two weeks.