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ANNA LI: GymCastic is fantastic!
LOUIS SMITH: GymCastic is fantastic!
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JESSICA: Welcome to GymCastic, episode 8. 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: And Uncle Tim from Uncle Tim Talks Men’s Gym
JESSICA: And Dvora is dealing with the storm this week, so we wish her the best. And you guys can tweet at her and tell her you’re thinking about her. She’ll hopefully join us next week or the week after. So this week we have an interview with Jermaine who’s the artistic director and choreographer for the show and also a dancer on the tour. And we’re also going to talk to Jill Hicks who’s a longtime NCAA coach and now chaperone on the tour. So we’re going to talk to them later. We also have some very interesting listener feedback that confirms everything we heard about NBC’s translation of the Khorkina interview. But, it’s interesting. We’ll discuss that all. It’s maybe not as one-sided as we think. Before we get started with the news this week, I have two really exciting announcements. One is that there’s an article in the New York Times on November 1 called “Classes Take a Tumble Happily.” And this article talks all about the trend toward adults doing gymnastics and how many adults have started gymnastics since watching the Olympics. And if you’re a gym owner, I highly recommend reading this article. It has some great statistics about how revenue has gone up after the Olympics, not just from kids’ classes, but also from adults. And some great quotes from adults. I just really think the writer did a great job. And, shout out to me and Dvora, because we were both mentioned. My research was mentioned on the age of gymnasts at the Olympics in this article and Masters-Gymnastics.com website was mentioned. And also Dvora’s article in The Atlantic was mentioned. So we’re making waves here, people. We’re doing big things. The second thing I want to mention is that there will be a show on this Sunday on CBS. And I would like to ask all of you to please please watch it. It’s this Sunday, that’s November 11th. It should be on, I think it’s 5:00 on the east coast, 2:00 on the west coast, but check your local listings. So on CBS, it is called Courage in Sports. It is kind of an annual sports awards show and I was involved in… I pitched the main feature that’s going to be on that show about Sara McMann. It’s really an incredible story. The show is billed as “the most inspiring hour in sports.” People that have been on it in the past are people like Lance Armstrong, Muhammad Ali, there’s been some major players on this show, so that tells you the caliber of athletes that have been on the show in the past. So Sara McMann, who I pitched for the show, has really one of the most incredible stories of comeback, adversity, inspiration, of anyone I’ve ever known. And she’s also, I think really Lance Armstrong and Muhammad Ali have got nothing on her. Honestly her story is just incredible, so make sure to watch this Sunday, CBS, Courage in Sports. And check your local listing for time. I promise you you will be incredibly inspired by the show. And just an anecdote to tell you guys for the show: I always remember Sara McMann from when I wrestled because she would do a handstand before her matches to… I don’t know if she did it to psych out the other wrestlers, or if it was just her way of getting her body together before. But she would do a handstand next to the mat and just hold like a perfect handstand with her feet together before her matches. And she always stood out to me. And I was like, “God I’m glad I’m not in her weight class because that’s just nuts.” So anyway I hope you guys enjoy the show, and let me know what you think about it. And I hope you like it. And with that, let’s get into the news. Blythe, what do you have for us this week?
BLYTHE: Ok, so. On the American front this week there’s a terrific interview from WRTV Indianapolis with vault silver medalist from London Mckayla Maroney in which she declares, “I’m not washed up yet.” She is still healing from her two surgeries following the Olympics and breaking her fibula on the second night of the tour. But she thinks that she will return to gymnastics and that she does have more competition and more really good vaults in her. She also confirms that her Heart of Dixie character may not be just a one-off. The show’s writers are thinking about writing her in for more. And so we will see if maybe her Hollywood career takes off as she said that she would like it to. She has confirmed before that she wants to be an actress. The Arthur Gander Memorial in Switzerland happened. It is a yearly competition, one of two really big Swiss meets. And the other one, the Swiss Cup, is coming up this weekend. It’s maybe the most high-profile mixed pairs competition. No Americans in there, but it was won by Russia’s Igor Pakhomenko and Switzerland’s own Giulia Steingruber, who seems to be kind of the new Ariella Kaeslin, very powerful, terrific vaulting. But interestingly, she did not choose to perform on floor exercise at Arthur Gander. The women choose their three best events, the men choose their four best events, so it’s kind of more interesting competition where you can eliminate your weaknesses. And very nice for them. The Russians have released their roster apparently for the 2013 University Games which will be held in Kazan, the same city as the 2013 Europeans were going to be held in, but now those have moved to Moscow. It says that Aliya Mustafina, Tatiana Nabieva, Ksenia Afanasyeva, and Kristina Goryunova, who was suspended in 2010 I believe for testing positive for a banned substance and wasn’t able to be on the Russian team or even contend for a place because of that. But she has returned competition. She’s actually one of the better beam workers in Russia. In Vietnam the bronze medalist from the 2011 World Championships on vault, Phan Thi Ha Thanh, dominated their national championships. She won gold on everything, all around and all four events. Elsewhere in Asia the Japanese Nationals are happening this weekend and Kohei Uchimura, our Olympic Champion, is expected to compete on a few events. He also looks like he’s going to be at the Stuttgart World Cup December 1, so we can look forward to that. Also happening in Europe in early December is the Glasgow World Cup, in Scotland, that also has some really big names on the roster. That’s all I got for this week.
JESSICA: So I think speaking of that Scotland meet, it’s really interesting that I guess it was reported this week that the whole Scottish Gymnastics Federation are all threatening… yeah, do you want to talk about that?
BLYTHE: Yeah. They’ve been having some problems, and there have been some articles. And I don’t know if it is affecting the gymnasts itself or if it’s just kind of a Federation problem. And I don’t know how much you can separate you know the Federation problem affecting the gymnasts or not. Now the Scottish men have brought in Jim Holt who’s actually a coach from Seattle and he travels around the world. And his thing is basically bringing gymnastics, high-level gymnastics coaching, to countries that are not really known for doing gymnastics. He’s done it in the middle east, now he’s been appointed the head coach of Scotland so he’s working with the Scottish men. Now it’s also… you have to sort of recognize that especially with the Scottish men, some of the most prominent actually go and compete for Great Britain. And of course if you’re a Scot you compete for Great Britain at the World Championships, at the Olympic Games. So you have Daniel Keatings and Daniel Purvis, both of whom have said that they would love to compete for Scotland at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. If that comes to fruition, they will be the linchpins of the team, no doubt about it. So I find it hard to.. a little hard to see this really affecting the team. But as far as the Federation and as far as getting funding for them goes, yeah it’s a big deal.
JESSICA: Yeah I thought that was pretty interesting because you don’t often hear the whole… you know, every administrator is like “we’re done, and this is time for a new group to step up.” So it’ll be interesting to see what happens. I also just wanted to comment on that Maroney interview. It’s an interesting interview, because basically the TV station, it sounds like, from what I can tell from viewing it, it was a great interview, and they were only able to air a little bit of it. So they ended up posting the whole thing online, which is not what people saw on air. And so some of the things she said in that interview- this kid is so savvy. Like it’s hard to believe she’s 16. She’s really really savvy. So one of the things she said was, “how do you get to be a kid, how do you get to be a teenager?” And she gave the most honest freaking answer that has ever been given in an interview by a gymnast. And she said, “You don’t. You don’t get to be a kid. You have to grow up really fast. You’re going to spend like two months away from your entire family doing gymnastics with the national team when you compete in the Olympics.” Just, totally honest answer. She’s like, you don’t get to be a kid. You get to do gymnastics and travel around the world. And then she also talked about how Izbasa told her that she was sorry that she took her medal away from her. And that they totally hugged and talked for a really long time. They did drug testing together. And that they… they had this long, because sometimes you’re so dehydrated after a meet that you can’t pee. So you end up spending like two hours sitting there waiting to go to the bathroom. So you can really develop a relationship with somebody if you’re doing drug testing with them and you’re both dehydrated. So she said they had a really long talk and they have a great relationship and it was just like… it sounded like a really meaningful exchange that she had with Izbasa. And she was like, “People were like ‘oh you didn’t hug her, you’re such a bad sport.’” And she was like, “I was in shock and then we spent all this time together and talked and we have a great relationship.” So I was so happy to hear that. And the other thing she talked about was, the interviewer asked her – and we’ll post this on the site. But the interviewer asked her, I don’t know, some famous baseball player, he’s not playing for the Yankees and he said “when I come back I’ve got something to prove!” And what do you think of that when you’re going back to Rio? And she was like, she straight up said, “I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. I do gymnastics for myself, I do it because I enjoy it, and that is the only reason.” She was like, “I don’t understand when people say stuff like that.” I loved her answers! It was just, this kid it just sounds like she’s totally doing gymnastics for the right reasons. So impressed with her, you know. It really seems like what you see is really what you get with her. And she’s very straightforward, very savvy, and she really is coming from the right place, which is just a great thing to see. So I really encourage you guys to watch that, it was a great interview, and we’ll post it on the site. Last time when Ruggeri was on, he made a very interesting suggestion, so we’re going to talk a little bit about that. So Uncle Tim, take it away.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah, so in his interview he brought up the idea of having a team for the team competition and then also a team basically of specialists for major competitions like the Olympics. And I guess we were just going to kind of talk about what we thought about that idea. And to start, I wanted to point out that the United States used to do this way back in the day. So for instance in 1932 at the, I believe the Los Angeles Olympics, the United States had two teams: one composed of five men of the team competition, and another team composed of 15 specialists. But this was also way back in the day when the men were still competing on flying rings and doing the rope climb and doing something they called the Indian clubs. I don’t really know what those were. But yeah, so they had different events back in the day. So what do you guys think? What do you think about the five member teams? Do you think we should have two teams again? What are your thoughts?
JESSICA: I love this idea. I would love to see a bigger team. I would love to see a team of specialists and then a team of all arounders and you combine them for the three up three count. And if we did that, I would say no alternates. Have a bigger team. Why aren’t we allowed to have a team as big as volleyball has, or one of these other sports, you know? So I think, I’m all for it.
BLYTHE: Well I think that we’ve gotten there a little bit. There’s been baby steps that have been taken toward something like that. And basically it’s that even if your team doesn’t qualify, if you medal at the World Championships right before the Olympics, you get a berth to the Games. It doesn’t matter what your country does. And that might be something that they could expand upon a little bit. I’ve often thought that maybe, you know, the top 20 teams or something like that could elect to send a specialist to the Olympic Games. Even if they’ve already qualified a team. So for example, you could’ve held Maroney off and just said, “This is our vault person. This is our specialist we’re going to enter.” And then had five other people compete in the team competition. That might open it up a little bit to some of the best in the world. But, just food for thought.
JESSICA: Hm, that’s interesting.
UNCLE TIM: I guess I just wonder how that might affect poor countries, because they wouldn’t be able to send as many athletes as some place like the United States. And also something that the FIG is trying to do, at least according to the platforms for the last elections, they’re trying to shorten qualifications. And if you have teams and all these specialists, I feel like that could also make the competitions longer, because you have to figure out who actually ends up qualifying for the event finals and everything. So I think that could end up going against what the FIG is trying to do.
JESSICA: I think that you could actually though make it exactly the same… take exactly the same amount of time, but also have the additional people. Say you have a team of 12, so you have six all arounders and six specialists. And basically what you do is you still have the same format go up, five up, four scores count, then three up, three scores count in finals. But you have 12 people to choose from instead of just your six or five. So I mean if they did it that way, your qualifying would take the same amount of time because you’re still only competing that core group of people.
UNCLE TIM: But how would you determine qualifications for event finals?
JESSICA: It would be the same way. So it would be, you know you have to put up your best people. You only have those five people to put up, so it’s whoever scores the best. So say on beam you might compete your two all arounders or three all arounders and two beam specialists. And so the same thing, if the beam specialists are the one that get the highest… oh so you’re saying for individual finals? If one of your individual people doesn’t compete. So you’d have to put up your all arounders. Your all arounders are going to have to be, you know, some of the best. Because I was thinking like you basically have four of the best in the world and then so we would’ve had probably another vaulter on our team this year, probably Anna Li would’ve made it for barrs, Ebee would’ve made it for floor and vault, and then Finnegan would have made it for beam. And they would just be the additional competitor instead of Kyla Ross doing all around.
UNCLE TIM: I personally kind of like the current system and not necessarily the five member team. I like the challenges it poses. It makes the people in charge kind of stay on their toes. They have to kind of figure out how they can put together a team that could potentially win the team competition and individual medals, and I kind of like the strategy that’s involved in it. And I like that they keep changing the rules because then the strategy has to change every so many years. I think that’s a good thing.
SPANNY: We’re discussing a dream world where it’s so hard for me to look beyond the fact that we do have these limits. What if it was like swimming? What if each event got to field their own team? What if we sent… we could send three girls for vault and three girls for bars and
SPANNY: …like, a fantasy. And instead, I think there’s two schools of thought. You could either send your top eventers and then have to pick a team from them, kind of like swimming. And be like ok, this is a relay, we’re going to put together our four best people. Or, again in our dream world where we could field three separate eventers and then another handful for team. But then you’d think your best team girls of let’s say five, some of those I would assume would be the top on their event. Like if you had Maroney, well we want her on our team but we also want her for vault. I don’t know I think there’s a lot of ways of doing it. It’s just hard not to… I’m not butt-hurt. I’ve been bitter about it. But you know I appreciate that they do have like… that way we see trampoline, and some people see rhythmic – I don’t – so that we can see other facets of the sport. Their exposure. But I’d be lying if I said I just didn’t want all those spots for artistic gymnastics. So we could have these really awesome competitions, and there wouldn’t be amazing specialists sitting at home because they don’t fit… you know they’re not the right puzzle piece for the team competition. I think individual event finals would be less of an afterthought.
JESSICA: I think like I’m so passionate about like keeping specialists involved. Because A, like I love specialists. I know a lot of people are like, “the all around.” I don’t know why they always say this. Like the commentators. Tim, tell us why you always say this. Like the all arounder is the most speciali, it’s the most prized, blah blah blah. And like that’s great. Like the all arounder is great. But the specialists are the people who make your jaw drop. Who make people get out of their seats. I mean the specialists are really something totally unique and they are so good for the sport. The other thing about specialists and why I think they’re so important, why I think think we should have more of them, is because specialists tend to be older. You can stay in gymnastics longer. This is where we can have longevity. Like ice skating, who’s kicking our ass in terms of keeping their fans for a long time and filling stadiums. Tell me if I’m wrong, but it seems to me they’re kicking our ass. That you know they can… their athletes can stay around for much longer than gymnasts can, and I think that longevity will absolutely help the sport. People like to follow an athlete for a long time. And the longer you can follow an athlete, the more success they can have. If they finally get down to only doing one routine at some point in their life, but they’re the best in the world on that, why not? You know I think it’s always such a shame when we have the best in the world but they don’t get to make an Olympic team. Like we had Alicia and Anna who could have won medals on three events, and they weren’t even on the team. And Alicia especially, it would have just been great for the sport. And it makes a difference in gymnastics when you have a name. Remember Produnova who kicked ass at, I forget was it her first a World Cup? And she got so underscored and she famously said, “you know, well apparently the judges just didn’t know my name yet,” or something like that. And then you know after that meet she did great. But it was the same routine and she got underscored. So reputation kind of makes a difference in gymnastics. And so I think anything where you can keep specialists and individuals, I really like. Alright so we have this week, there’s a new app out. And so Uncle Tim has reviewed it. I’ve taken a look at it, too. And he’s going to… there’s two versions, a men’s and a women’s. So Uncle Tim’s going to give us a review of the men’s version of the Routine Maker app.
UNCLE TIM: Right. Well I feel kind of like I’m on QVC or something doing a review of some product. So I guess I want start by saying that I, Alexander, love this app because it allows my brain to addle. My family, which is full of math teachers, is going to hate me for saying this, but I’m so happy to have this app because I no longer have to do math. So let me explain what this app does. So basically the app let’s you create routines. And you touch the screen and say, “I want that skill and that skill and that one, but not so much that one.” Then after you pick your skills, you put them in order, and basically the app tells you your D score. And after you make the routine you can save it. And if you’re an athlete or a coach, you can use the app as a training log. And it allows you to jot down training notes, it also lets you keep track of how many times you hit the routine. But even if you’re not an elite gymnast or the coach of an elite gymnast, you can still have some fun with this feature. For instance, last night I created a gymnast named Danell. And I made up some routines that I would like to see him do. Then I also created some notes, in which I channeled my inner Yin Alvarez. For instance I wrote down things like “triple fist pump.” And if you do the women’s app, you can pretend like you’re Marta Karolyi. There seems to be a lot of role playing you can do with this. Anyway. So that’s what the app does. What it doesn’t do is turn you into an instant expert on gymnastics and the code of points. Like you don’t just download this app and turn into Steve Butcher and Nellie Kim. You still need to know the skills and you still need to know the code of points. If you don’t you’ll end up making impossible routines with difficulty scores that are far too high. For instance, on high bar, you can’t do a Rybalko into a Kovacs. One skill requires you to swing forward, and the other skill requires you to swing backward, and that combination is just physically impossible. But the app will give you two tenths of connection bonus even though there’s no way you could actually do this combination. So in future versions, I’d like to maybe see that fixed in some way. Some other suggestions I have are sound effects and pop-up images. So for instance after you make a routine and it’s really great, I would love it if the app would say something like, “That was a really great routine, [growl].” Or something like that.
UNCLE TIM: Or if you make a really big routine which you try to do a Rybalko into a Kovacs, like an animated GIF of Al Trautwig in a leotard pops on up the screen…
UNCLE TIM: …and he starts shaking his finger at you and says in a sassy voice “nuh uhhh” or something like that. That would be great. So another idea that I had would be to incorporate the Sims in some way. So you create a gymnast and then you can actually model the face and hair and everything after that gymnast which I believe Spanny did on her website many years ago. My final suggestion would be some kind of deluxe edition. And let me explain this. You know how there are a ton of websites that let you cheat when it comes to Scrabble and Words With Friends. Which FYI I would never do. So if you ever use these sites you can recreate your board on the webpage and then you type in the letters you have and the site tells you which word to play. So I was thinking if they could make a gymnastics version of that, that would be great. So basically you type in the skills that you have and then the app spits out this routine and tells you the connections that you could have, different connections, and what your difficulty score would be. It would basically take out all the hard work of creating a routine and your life would be super easy. And like I said the point of this app is to have your brain addle away. So I think that would be great. But all in all I really think this app is a lot of fun. It’s not necessarily something that will help you understand the code of points better, but it will be useful for coaches and gymnasts. And I think that it’s well worth the $3.99 it costs. It’s super cheap, and you can buy it on iTunes.
JESSICA: Let’s take it now over to our interview with Jermaine, and it’s coming to you right now.
SPANNY: For gymnastics fans who may not know you yet, can you tell us a little bit about your background as a dancer, a choreographer, and how you got involved with the Kellogg’s tour?
JERMAINE: First of all, I’m Jermaine Brown, choreographer, artistic director. I basically, I’ve been dancing for a while and happened to just want to do more and felt like I had a stronger voice. So I started choreographing. I choreographed for artists such as Christina Aguilera, worked with Britney, JLo, Justin Timberlake, spread out into doing more fashion stuff, looked at Louis Vuitton, Victoria’s Secret. I’ve been choreographing for the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show for the past five years. And you know worked with Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, Nike. And basically while I was working for Victoria’s Secret, we did this section called “Game’s On” where all the apparel was all stuff of the Olympics. And we wanted to have gymnasts involved in that number. So we hired a whole bunch of gymnasts and some who were from the male gymnasts. And what happened was John Macready was one of the gymnasts that was there, and I think all the guys saw what gymnasts could look like if it was set to music. And it was one of the most popular things during that show. And everyone pretty much liked it. And John Macready was one of the head of creatives on the tour, and he called me two years in advance and was like, “ok I think I would like to do this with you.” So he called me in and I told him definitely and we went to work. So that’s how I got involved.
SPANNY: So in the gymnastics world we have a lot of, we’ll call it discussion but it’s really more arguments, regarding the term artistry. Some believe it’s objectives, others don’t. So what styles or movements rather do you personally consider artistic.
JERMAINE: Well for me I think the floor routine first of all is more artistic. I think usually the women are more artistic than men. I think there’s some things from my experience of working with them and watching them in competition that I think you know the men can do a little more than just a leap to the corner before they tumble. A leap that really doesn’t look that interesting from a world of people who are becoming so much aware of things around the world because of… we’re so connected by social media and all these things and being aware of movement and all this stuff. So seeing something that’s kind of a like a leap to the side of the corner before you tumble, even from some of the gymnasts, listening to them talk, it’s kind of like, you know to me I think that can be something that can be a little more interesting. But then when you take gymnastics out of sport arena and you see apparatus like rings that set to music. Like in the show we’re doing this number where it’s to Bruno Mars “Let it Rain” and it’s a duet between me and another dancer, Kelly Cabrera, and that is joined by the guys on rings and that gets applause every night. Because there’s something artistic about it, there’s something beautiful about it, and I think for me as choreographer there’s a lot that I can see that I feel in my head I can change in the performance aspect and make it artistic. I think it’s all movement. So how you control it, how you set it, how many people you bring into the [inaudible] and make it look interesting and creative. I think it’s movement and when there’s movement there’s creative artistry there. And they’re already doing it, it’s just setting it in a certain way and making it pop out.
DVORA: So kind of picking up on Spanny’s question of the arguments that go on within the gymnastics community about artistry what do you think? Have you watched competitive female floor routines? And what do you think of the dance in them?
JERMAINE: For me, it is artistic. And you know it’s a mix of artistic, you know the artistry seeing that it’s definitely artistry in there. And then you have the athleticism of the tumbling and the strength. So for me it is. I’m not sure exactly what is the argument.
JERMAINE: If you can enlighten me, maybe I can speak a little bit more.
DVORA: About some gymnasts being you know, they’re powerful, and this gymnast is more ballet-like, and there’s kind of this butting of heads over style. Or this one’s a good dancer and this one isn’t a good dancer. And I was just wondering what you thought of the overall dance quality of a lot of the gymnasts’ floor routines. As a dancer
JERMAINE: I would like to speak in a broad way maybe. I think everyone has a point of view, everyone has weaknesses, everyone has strengths. So to take someone and say, ok I think this floor routine is where almost like that place where you get to explode and say this is who I am. Right? So if you’re arguing everyone should be the same, cookie cutter, and like let’s all do the same style, then I don’t know. It would kind of be this boring world of everything. I like the fact of seeing you know a girl who’s longer, maybe she doesn’t have the power moves and she has to do this lengthy stuff. To me I think that’s what’s joining the two worlds together where you do have the power moves and you do have the artistry. And also as a choreographer it’s more interesting to me to see the, like for example, Jordyn Wieber. her floor routine. I heard her music and I went down to see it. And it’s choreographed so well and it’s fit to the music, and she’s still doing power moves and tumbling, and there’s an artistry there. And then she gets to show her personality, and I think that’s great. That’s great. People should be able to see. And I think that makes people a little bit more interested. And I think from a fan and also coming from a professional world and seeing the choreographing and also seeing how the world is changing, how do you keep people engaged with gymnastics? How do you keep people you know wanting the younger… younger kids are going to come, but how do you get the parents, “ok this is something.” How do you get viewers involved with it? It is odd being open new things, and trying new things. Because then it’s not, I think in this country, the strength of gymnastics, yeah. But it can be, I think, you know so much more… how can I say, reachable to audience. It’s… I don’t know. It’s almost like a formula that has been created for a long time and we’re still following that. So as people change and become more aware, how do you keep them engaged with you know the history and where gymnastics is going? For me it’s about being open to all these things.
DVORA: And if you could give one… you watched the gymnasts on tour as they’ve learned the routines and learned to perform, and you’ve watched them in competition. If you could give gymnasts one piece of advice about performing, or something you’ve noticed that most gymnasts could improve on, what would it be? Like, how to improve their performance quality, especially on floor exercise.
JERMAINE: First thing is like I heard Paul said, Paul Ruggeri said you know his coach tell him this, and it’s true. And I used to tell this to dancers before you go on stage. “You’ve done it all the time, silence the noise in your head, and just do what you’ve done yesterday. Do what you’ve done two weeks ago. And enjoy it.” And I think there’s something when you are having fun and you enjoy what you are doing and you just let it go, there’s something special that happens. It’s there already. Do what you know what you can do, and let it be about what you are capable of doing. Not what you just saw. Because then you’ve taken on what that person has done, and that starts putting noise into your head. So just focus on what you’re capable of doing, and let that be enough.
SPANNY: I’d asked on Twitter, because we had a couple of followers who were pretty excited you were on, we have a couple of questions.
SPANNY: The first, well a couple of different people had written in regarding the tour, who would you say is the best shuffler right now?
JERMAINE: I knew you were going to ask this question.
JERMAINE: How did I know you were going to ask this question?
SPANNY: The Twitter wants to know.
JERMAINE: [laughs] Yeah they have been asking me that question on Twitter and have not been answering it. I mean I think they’re all pretty… it’s funny because when Aly, Gabby, and Jordyn does it every night, like they go up in uproars screaming. I think it’s between, right now it’s between Jordyn and Gabby. You know they’re doing the shuffle really, hitting it every night. And the guys are doing a great job with it also.
SPANNY: Speaking of Gabby, Amy on Twitter, she asks – well we call her Lady D for the Lady Douglas – is Gabby, the Lady Douglas, is she interesting in more choreography? Has she spoken anything about future floor plans in terms of choreography? And is that something you would be interested in doing? Travis Wall has come out on record saying he would love to choreograph another floor routine. Is that something you see yourself doing in the future?
JERMAINE: Yeah I mean definitely I would love to you know be a part of doing floor routines and taking it from a different.. you know creating it from a different angle. We’re keeping the ounce of what it is respecting gymnastics but also bringing in something that I think can be a little bit more. There was a part where Gabby – Miss D – needed to fill in, and I choreographed like two counts of eight to the floor exercise that she’s doing in the tour. So definitely it’s something I would like to continue pursuing.
SPANNY: Is… I’m not sure if this was again part of your job description. Where did Nastia learn to do her aerial silks? Were you a part of that?
JERMAINE: No, silks was with Mary Sanders.
SPANNY: We’ve been asking this of everyone, and I think you could definitely find an example to pertain to your particular experience, what is your most embarrassing experience either regarding gymnastics, the tour, performance, choreography, flash mob, do you have anything you’re willing to share with us?
JERMAINE: The only thing I can think of right now with gymnastics [laughs] is that I keep calling all the apparatuses by the wrong name. That is kind of like a little bit embarrassing coming in you know. But for dance sake I think one of the most embarrassing moments was when I was on stage in Paris, France and performing in front of a stadium of like 20,000 people. I did a kick in the air and I fell on my butt and all the dancers came over. Because it was kind of like a community…
SPANNY: Oh on [laughs]
JERMAINE: where all the dancers came over to me to help me. And I played it off like I was doing push ups. I rolled over and I started doing push ups. I got up and I kind of like just got back into the routine. So that was like being embarrassed in front of a lot of people.
JESSICA: Jermaine can you tell us a little bit about your site?
JERMAINE: Respect My Step is basically a website that me and my business partner created to basically reach dancers around the word. And basically the dancer, you know not everyone can move to New York or go to LA. You know and sometimes people are talented, young gymnasts and young athletes, who do stuff within movement. And basically some of them just don’t know that they’re talented. So with Respect My Step you have up to a minute to share your voice as a dancer, you know what is dancing, capoeira, floor routine, whatever. Within that, when you finish, you say your name and you say “respect my step.” It’s uploaded to respectmystep.com and people basically view your video and give you repsect instead of likes. And if they really respect you they share your video on Facebook and different social media sites. And we don’t allow any comments because we know the world of social media and stuff like that, it’s very, everyone has an opinion. So we allow people to just… it’s like.. if you like something you say it, if you don’t you don’t need to share it unless someone asks you. So we’ve been up for four months now and things have been going really well for us and we’re trying to reach more people around the world. And Paul Ruggeri just did a video for us and hopefully it’s going to be up either next week to the following week. And I know that some of the performers, like acro and Mary Sanders who does rhythmic, and I know also John Orozco wanted to do a video for us also. So it’s something that’s a little bit.. what I like about it is that there’s movement within what these athletes are doing and ways of dancing. And seeing the merge between dance and gymnastics I think is something very interesting for new viewers to see also. Within the men and women. So yeah I just wanted to talk about respectmystep.com a little bit.
JESSICA: I thought Jermaine had some really interesting things to say and a really interesting perspective on gymnastics. I just want to get your reactions to that interview and see what you guys thought.
DVORA: Well I thought one of the things that really struck me, because as gymnastics fans we tend to be super critical of the dance. As critical of the dance and expression as we are of the elements themselves. And what was interesting was to hear a dancer, who’s trained as a dancer, really just thinks about movement and expression, take a more expansive view of what expression and dance is. He was just so much more positive about how gymnasts move than gymnastics fans are about how the gymnast move. I think especially coming from hip hop and a less traditional form of dance, he takes… he doesn’t look at just one style. He I think appreciates the athleticism, the athleticism itself being its own form of expression. And doesn’t take such a narrow perspective on expression and dance in gymnastics. So I thought that was really refreshing.
JESSICA: I think also it’s really… he… I think it would actually gymnasts to have more of this, looking at their performance as movement and looking at it as a performance. Like when he was talking about if you take yourself out of… if you compare yourself to other people, you’re only thinking about, he said, what you’re not capable of instead of thinking of what you can do. And I think when you… I think it helps take the pressure off. Just like when Ruggeri was talking about how when he was totally not focused on gymnastics, he finally made the national team. This theme has come up in many interviews with gymnasts, and I think that having that perspective of looking at what you’re doing from a broader bigger picture perspective of happiness and joy in what you’re doing is really good for gymnasts. I really liked what he had to say.
SPANNY: I like the choice of the term “movement” as opposed to dance. Again dance… well it can be very broad. A lot of especially gym fans, we tend to put them into tiny neat little boxes where there’s ballet dance because they’re ballet moves, or you have jazz dance with your jazz moves. Movement… yes jazz hands. Movement is so broad. I like the focus on movement and its affect toward artistry and performance. Because even talking about rings, talking about other events, movement. And how we can say something like “pommel horse is so artistic.” Well, bear with me. [inaudible whisper]. Because of the movement. I think I could… I focused a lot on his choice of the term movement versus dance.
JESSICA: I think that one of the things I was really thinking about when he was talking is how NCAA gymnastics, one of the things I really appreciate about it and I wonder if this is what attracts so many foreign gymnasts to NCAA, is that when you go and watch NCAA’s NCAA championships, you can see so many different dance styles, so many different aspects of American culture, and so many different body types, so many different dance. It’s one of the places where gymnastics actually gets to shine in terms of performance. There’s so much richness and diversity in NCAA gymnastics, and I had that moment of watching NCAA floor finals flash in my mind when he was talking about that. And I like that he said also about how you know if you watch one person and they might not be classically a great dancer in terms of they don’t have a balletic background, but they have this… they’re being their most true selves, and it comes through in their performance, and that that is really something that transcends what is judged in gymnastics. Like great performance really transcends perfect split leaps.
DVORA: And Jermaine’s concern isn’t the… you know he’s thinking, he has a different set of priorities obviously when he’s looking at these performances. He’s not thinking deductions he’s not thinking start values. And it’s just a very you know… he can afford to take a very expansive view, and I think it’s useful to appreciate it and try to bring it into the way we think about performance in gymnastics, but he also doesn’t have the other set of concerns in terms of the difficulty, in terms of having the energy to do four tumbling passes that are really difficult. So as much as I love the way he approaches movement, gymnastics coaches and athletes have an additional set of concerns, more than just performing.
JESSICA: This was, I thought it was also really interesting that he talked about how the tour is getting more fans, and how it’s bringing all these different aspects of movement together. Crossing different disciplines. Is really reaching out to a different fanbase and is getting more fans. And that’s really something that I as a gymnastics fan, I hadn’t really thought about. I thought you know I see it in gymnastics glasses you know. And I love the idea of taking this broader view of how the tour can bring in fans that to see gymnastics in a totally different way. And I think this tour actually really does that well compared to other tours because it is totally different than anything that’s ever been done before in terms of gymnastics shows, gymnastics competitions. Even the professional shows they used to have. Like this is totally different, and I think it works really well in that way.
DVORA: I kind of want to go back to your earlier point about being at that performance. Because one of the things that as you were thinking I was thinking of is how I spend a lot of time watching dance. I go to a lot of competitions, I go to a lot of shows. And you don’t often see actually… I mean dancers are doing things that are really really difficult, and you don’t see a ton of mistakes. I mean obviously Jermaine recounted a pretty funny incident from his own performing days, but you don’t see a ton of mistakes. And as you were talking about being in the moment, let’s say, and performing, and thinking just about the performance and not stressing yourself, I wonder if that’s perhaps – and this is purely anecdotal, because I don’t know, maybe there are tons of mistakes I don’t know about – but maybe the fact that they’re thinking of performing instead of not competing, instead of being very much outside of the moment, maybe that helps them stay on point. Maybe gymnasts can learn how to perform better and think about the performance, doing skills in competition might be a little easier. I just wonder if taking that approach would be beneficial in competition.
JESSICA: Now we’re going to talk to Jill Hicks, let me tell you a little bit about her. Jill was an elite gymnast with SCATS and a National Team member before a knee injury nipped her collegiate career in the bud. Jill was an assistant coach from 87-97 at her alma mater Oregon state, and if you guys remember this was like their heyday when they were at Nationals every year, that place was sold out, so I’m not saying it was totally to her credit, but I’m just saying. In that time period the Beavers made nine consecutive NCAA appearances and produced 33 All-Americans and five National Champions. If you watch them during that time you know their beam and floor routines, her responsibilities were unique, original, and commanded attention. Hicks eventually returned to her native Southern California to take over the head coaching position at Cal State Fullerton. She absolutely transformed the program, taking the Titans from despair to fifth at the Western Athletic Conference Championships and continually qualifying gymnasts to NCAA regionals. Jill, welcome to the show. Thank you so much for doing this interview!
JILL: Sure. No problem.
JESSICA: So, one of the things we first ask people is if theres anything they’ve always wanted to talk that they never had the opportunity, so we talked a little before the show started. So tell us about what you’re kind of passion is right now.
JILL: Definitely the area that I think keeps coming back, whether it was when I coached in college or working on this tour is working with the young women who are becoming adults, or some who already are age wise, but really helping them learn to communicate and have a voice and be able to say, “no” and not be afraid. I think the beauty of our sport is when there’s a lot of structure, and I think one of the reasons they’ve been so successful is because these young ladies, or children actually, as they become teenagers, they’re really passionate about what they’re doing physically but I think mentally they kind of skip over learning how to communicate, and instead there’s some fear because they want to be the one that their coach wants to coach. So it’s a tricky thing especially for kids who become elite, I think, learning that balance of being able to communicate and have a voice. And so that’s really what my passion was as a college coach, and club coach and also being on tour.
JESSICA: So, how would you do that? Like when you get a freshman in NCAA, how would you address this from the very beginning?
JILL: It starts with, I think, them feeling comfortable enough to spend time one-on-one, just stopping by the office, or building that relationship with them so they feel safe and that’s huge because they’re always trying to figure out who they can trust. So it takes time, I mean I feel like even on this tour it’s taken up til now and we’ve been at it for two and half months. So you have to be patient and you have to wait until they’re ready and then as the relationship develops then those kind of conversations start to happen. Then it’s just really kind of being a good listener but also, in the beginning really, being consistent so that they trust you, so that they’re able to go a little deeper when they want to and they’re ready to.
JESSICA: And so what do you think it is about being an elite gymnast that brings about this lack of communication or kind of stunts this development in this way? Like the coach as an authority figure brings that out when they’re young, or do you think it’s the trust issue?
JILL: Well I think most of the time kids aren’t going to move up the elite latter unless they’re pretty brilliant, intelligence wise, but they’re also a pleaser and at a natural level they want to please. They love having that structure and they’re goal oriented. That’s great when you’re learning skills because gymnastics is all about progression, so then you start thinking about it in terms of communication and it’s not so great. I think for the athlete, they sort of transfer doing the same thing to their communication style, where they wait to be told, or they wait to be talked to instead of when their feelings start to happen, they don’t naturally just let them out. You know what I’m trying to say?
JILL: When you’re learning a skill you just stay focused and you get it done and it kind of transfers over. When they should be communicating at times and kind of asking questions, they’re usually uncomfortable with that and they don’t know how, because they’ve never been allowed to. I think maybe, also it happens with different cultures, we have a lot of elite coaches that come from different countries…
JILL:…so you have that, too. Where they want the athlete to just get the job done kind of thing, so communication isn’t really a top priority.
JESSICA: So if you were to give advice to coaches or parents or gymnasts right now about how they could encourage their athlete to communicate with them in a safe way, to tell me how you’re feeling and it’s not going to…you know what kind of advice would you give just like as a step one?
JILL: This just happened actually with one of the situations I was in and I encouraged the mom to have their daughter start journaling, because I think once they can start seeing it on paper, how they feel, then that’s the first step. They might not be able to verbalize it, but if they can get it out on paper, and then hopefully then the mom and the daughter will have a go at journaling. And if they have that kind of relationship where it starts to come out on paper, then they can start talking about it at home, and then hopefully mom and dad can start to build the strength in the athletes to start then transferring it into the gym. But the kids that I see in college, and here, that have that going on at home, are willing to do it at the gym. It’s when you don’t have it going on at home and in the gym where, you know, it’s really tough on gymnasts.
JESSICA: And, I remember when I was competing, if you had a moment where you were like off to the side talking to the coach, it was pretty much always bad. Like you were in trouble or your coach was mad at you. How can you create that environment for a coach where it’s not seen as a negative thing when you have to step to the side a moment and communicate?
JILL: Umm, that’s the tricky part [laughs]
JILL: Sometimes what I saw happen in my experiences was the assistant coaches kind of were that buffer, you could go to them and then that would start the communication process, and that happened to me as an assistant coach a lot, and that worked pretty well. When kids don’t have that in maybe the club situation, I think it falls again on the parent. If you can get the parent involved, then I think that’s your only best option.
JESSICA: So let’s get into now, a little bit about what your role is on the tour and kind of what you’re doing, and tell us about it.
JILL: Oh! My title on my contract is ‘chaperone/production assistant’. So basically, the chaperone piece, I’m in charge of just the fierce five which means I’m on their bus. So it really has become, now that I’ve gone through it, I feel like I’ve really become that stable figure hopefully, everyday, that they can rely on to be there for them and know what I’m just that actual person that’s consistent in their crazy world that they’re in right now. And then when it trickles down it’s more things like today I’m here with Aly getting her nails done, or I’m running to Target to get what they need or making sure that they don’t miss their interviews or things that they have to do, you know reminding them where they’re going throughout the day, to doing their quick changes during the tour, making sure they’re leotards are ready to go, communicating sometimes with their parents about what’s going on, to making sure they have the food they want on the bus [laughs] so that’s all the chaperone piece. It just changes every single day. And I’ve even done some of the- so we have some kids who come to the tour for just one or two stops, some of elite kids, and so I kind of help them break down their floor and beam routines so that they’re ready for what we call a spotlight routine, so I’ve done some of that. Just helping them to feel comfortable. I’m also in charge of the tutor, we have an academic tutor who travels with us and she’s on the bus with us so I coordinate all of that…
JESSICA: Wow, Jill, you do everything! You’re coaching, you’re the mom, you’re the runner, nail appointments, gosh!
JILL: And you know what I love it because after being a head coach and the buck stops there and you’re the bad guy the whole time, it’s really fun to be there for the people, who it’s so stressful on them, and I get to just, “What can I do for you? Do you need coffee? Do you need…” just to, I know what it’s like to be at the top. It’s really fun to be the assistant kind of, is the way I see it, as far as production goes. And I’m the disciplinarian for the fierce five, like setting up policy procedures, I mean I don’t set those, but I’m the one who is making sure they’re where they need to be in terms of curfews and all that, too.
JESSICA: What do you think is the most challenging part for them, for your fierce five, about learning the show and doing the show as gymnasts?
JILL: Oh, okay. They totally love the dance stuff, it’s like the first time they’ve gotten to do it, and they just love the parts that aren’t gymnastics, that they get to actually just dance and have fun. And for most of them it’s pretty comfortable, like you’d be surprised if you went to the show how good some of them actually are. And then for others it’s really awkward and hard, they’ve never learned anything but gymnastics choreography in their floor routines, so that’s been, for some that would be their most challenging thing. For others, I’m trying to think, as far as the tour part goes I think it’s juggling their agents and all that they’re-because we do the tour Sunday through Thursday and drive to every city, then on Sunday they gear up for whatever their agent wants from Monday to Wednesday, and they fly all over, and sometimes they don’t even know where they’re-I mean they always know where they’re going eventually, but it’s incredible to me. To me, I would think that would be the hardest part, but they handle it so well it’s amazing. These girls put all that hard work they did in getting to the Olympics, you can also see it now in their professional lives. But I would say the juggling of the schedules is probably the hardest thing.
JESSICA: We understand there’s been more security than ever. I remember when I was at the tour I would go like, “What are those guys, like Secret Service?” so how’s that been?
JILL: It depends on the city, some things catch us by surprise, definitely in LA and San Diego and down there, there was a lot of paparazzi. And like, if we just want to go to the pool or the girls want to do that, we do have one person comes with us who travels with us the whole time whose job is security and he’s really good at it.
JESSICA: And I have another question just about if you’ve had some scary moments with security but if you don’t want to answer any of that or if that’s going too far feel free to..
JILL: No, no. Yeah, totally. One time we were, I think it was Vegas, there was a woman who would not-she was relentless about getting an autograph. Like, I try to be that buffer sometimes of you know, not very often because we have someone who does it, but on occasion if the girls just want to relax by the pool, they had just flown in from far away, I can’t remember where, and this woman would not give up. Yes she was relentless, she finally did get their autograph but, usually people are really nice like when you say, “You know not right now” they’re great, they feel bad and they’re great. But one time we were in Starbucks, we were going to Starbucks and they figured out who we were when we got in the door but there was a man out front who didn’t say anything when we walked in. So we got our coffee and of course the whole coffee shop figured out who we were and we came out and the guy started chasing us! [laughs] And I told them to just sprint to the car and we locked the doors and we were all scared and of course laughing at some point, when we got out of there, but that was probably the scariest one.
JILL: Yeah. But for the most part, we do have security and the first thing we do is call them and they take care of it and it’s been very safe.
JESSICA: So how does everybody stay in shape on tour? I think you guys have a trainer that’s with you the whole time?
JILL: We did have a trainer; we don’t anymore. What we’ve decided was things weren’t going as good as we had hoped so we actually got some coaches involved. So for every show stop we have one of the elite staff with us now and they actually run them through conditioning before the show. So they’re sure to get that done. What we did before was we actually would go to gyms on the off days, like I would find clubs in the cities that we were in. And that worked pretty well and the guys especially really liked that, but I think that for the girls it’s just too hard to go from that elite structure to doing it all on their own. So now since we’ve changed it and we have these elite coaches with us, it’s really helped. They run stairs, they do their National Team warm up and then they, on those four days Thursday-Sunday they’re sure to get that good workout and then we encourage them that when they’re off on their appearances, to work out in the hotels, and that;s the best we could do. Because they aren’t going home to their gyms.
JESSICA: Could you tell us about the safety changes that were made after Aly and Maroney’s injuries?
JILL: The matting’s the same, they just added more of it. they added more matting on bars to lengthen the dismount, or both ends, and then they also added isofoam in between the beams, there was just the regular matting underneath each beam, there’s four beams that kind of go together, or is it three, I can’t remember. But now there’s isofoam throughout the whole beam area. And then I think on the floor they actually added some isofoam where they land their tumbling passes, and then there’s spotters as well.
JESSICA: And do you guys have a full time athletic trainer on the tour now, too? Or like on or off?
JESSICA: Oh, nice!
JILL: It rotates, so it’s not the same person, but they stay about two or three weeks and then it rotates to the next one, and it’s all National Team people, I think they’re normally people who are normally travel with, I guess I don’t know, but they’re all already connected through USA Gymnastics.
JESSICA: So since you have been hanging out with a bunch of teenagers on this tour, what kind of things have you learned? Like movies, TV shows, texting slang?
JILL: [laughs] Well, they love Teen Wolf. Um, they’re really into social media, they love to get on right after the show and see what people are posting and they laugh and have a great time with that.
JESSICA: Tell us a little bit about the personalities of the fierce five. Like who’s the class clown, who’s the bookworm, who’s in love with Justin Bieber, that might be all of them?
JILL: [laughs] Oh gosh. I love Aly she’s the funniest thing ever. And they have these great London accents that they all do, that are just hysterical! It’s really neat to because Nastia, you can tell, she’ll join our bus every once and awhile, they just adore her and they really look up to her. The neatest thing about the fierce five is that they really do love each other, and I mean it, and they really do respect each other. They have this bond, it’s just, I can’t, I feel so lucky to be a part of. I would say Gabby’s the sleeper, she likes to sleep a lot.
JILL: Aly’s the laugher, Jordyn is the calm glue, really consistent, really organized. McKayla is hysterical as well, she’s very social and just super awesome, outgoing…
JESSICA: So, what would you say like one best moments that you’ve witnessed so far on tour, either with the girls interacting with fans or the girls just bonding? What are the best moments, like top 3.
JILL: Oh gosh. Well for me personally, like the first two shows I just kind of stood there taking it all in and realizing that everything I’ve done in my life, from when I was a club gymnast, elite gymnast, to college gymnast to college coach, it’s like I just stood there amazed that I had this opportunity to to be with these girls at this time. I’ve known Kyla and McKayla since they were little, so it’s such a gift to be back with them. Anyway for me, that was the moment of like, “Wow, what a neat thing that I get to-I just was so humbled by that. But then the other really neat thing is, like I said, just being a part of this group that cares so much about each other. You know, I know it’s not always been that way with other quadreniums of kids so that’s so special. And then just watching them out there having fun. It’s amazing. After all they’ve been through, all the hard work they’ve put out there, it makes me feel so happy that they’re having such a great time on this tour and kind of experiencing getting to enjoy their gymnasts for the first time in a whole new way, where it’s not so structured, and seeing the people clap for them. Because a lot of time club kids don’t get the recognition until the end and then there’s only how many of them that get recognized that way.
JESSICA: So let’s switch gears a little bit and talk about what you do outside of the tour, what you will be going back to-or I guess you’re still doing it concurrently. You have a consulting firm for NCAA recruits and you help people find the right team for them. What would you say are the biggest misconceptions about getting onto a college team? Like it you were to pick the top 3 biggest misconceptions.
JILL: I think what I’m seeing is, okay so the top kids, the drop down elites or the strong level tens, they’re almost automatic, I don’t want to say automatic, but they’re probably going to get their top choice so they’re going to be recruited by the college so they don’t have to go through all of the figuring out college recruiting. It’s all those other kids who are maybe an average level ten or becoming a stronger level ten and nobody knows them, I think the misconception is-well not a misconception but what I’m seeing is all those kids are so lost unless they have a club coach who is really steering the boat. I think they give up too early. I think they just don’t think anyone would really want them, or they just don’t have any idea of what to do. That’s where I feel like I’ve had the greatest impact on the misconception out there because some of my best kids were walk-ons that nobody knew, and so I love to give them those stories and I love to inspire them not to give up and to stay positive. If they have that passion and that love for the sport, and a basic amount of talent, they can do it. And I think they don’t know that, they have absolutely no idea. And a lot of kids have never even seen a college meet before, believe it or not.
JESSICA: To me the college recruiting season, and just college recruiting in general seems like it’s totally out of control. I mean we just had, was it Lexie Priessman who’s not even a senior gymnast and she’s committed to Georgia already.
JESSICA: Does it seem like college recruiting is reaching a breaking point? Like something has to change, it’s getting out of control? What do you think about it?
JILL: I completely-everybody I talk to feels the same way, every coach, every college coach, every club coach, the parents are just thrown into it and they’re just doing it out of fear; I think they’re jumping so fast. But definitely all the people who have been around for a long time they’re wondering- I mean I’m thinking that way. Like I remember years ago it got like this and we kind of made some adjustments, we tried to change some of the rules to help push it back to later, but my hope is that it is getting to that point again and they’re going to have to make some changes. Because I don’t know why it got relaxed again, like why it’s getting to a more severe place of being so early, because I didn’t recruit those kids really. When I was at Oregon State I did, I was recruiting the top kids in the country, but at Fullerton, the last ten years, I was looking more for the walk on average level ten. I’m not sure, but I would agree with you that it’s getting out of hand.
JESSICA: And since you brought up Fullerton, I want to ask you, I mean for anybody out there who doesn’t know the miracle that Jill worked at Fullerton, you should look at the routines online before she got there and then after. I mean she absolutely transformed that program, I’ve never seen anything like it.
JESSICA: You really did. I mean the only thing I think is close is what Danna Durante did at Cal. But really it was…
JESSICA: Yeah she did a great job and that’s, you’re up there as number one and she came in as a second for like miracles in one year. I want to know for college coaches who are in that situation, when they’re coming in and they’re really bringing a new-implementing a new system coming in, what are your recommendations for changing bad habits with gymnasts that you get who maybe don’t’ have the best basics or there’s maybe something they have to change? How do you address those bad habits and really address changes in your new gymnasts?
JILL: Again it goes back to the relationship. You have to build that relationship with the athlete because they are very insecure about their gymnastics, especially those kinds of kids who need to make those changes, they know it but they don’t have any confidence because they were never given the technique from the beginning. So again it starts with the relationship: them trusting you, them respecting you and of course once you start giving them the cues, and it works for them, knowing how to build on that. And then, again, they trust more and they try harder, because making changes technically when you’re that old is almost close to the hardest thing they’re going to go through. It’s so hard to change your body and risk and feel different and not be so afraid that you’re going to get hurt. So if they can trust you as a person then they’ll trust you with their technique.
JESSICA: And you’ve been in collegiate gymnastics for a long time, what kind of changes have you seen over the years, and is there anything you would like to see changed when it comes to NCAA gymnastics right now?
JILL: Uhhh… That’s a good question. [pauses] Hm. Well I think it’s the recruiting. because they’re kids and they’re in middles school and they’re trying to make a decision for four years later. If you just put a group of kids like that together in one room and then talk to them five years later and say, “Did you make the right decision? Were you comfortable with your decision? Were you glad about your education?” You know probably, they’d have question marks. They might not have a bad experience because I mean there’s so many great colleges at the top, great people, great colleges. But how could they know? And it’s such an important time in their life and to get the right degree, you know those things set them up for the rest of their life. So to me, that’s what I would like to see, hopefully this year when they have their meeting, I hope that the energy is such that they can come up with some ways to push things back to where kids are a little bit older to make commitments somehow.
JESSICA: And this is a bit of a taboo subject but it;s a very real issue for gymnasts. Many gymnasts don’t go through puberty until college when they’re training hours taper off and they’re bodies are able to grow a little bit. I was just wondering, you must have deal with this, so what advice would you give to coaches and even athletic trainers, you know someone who’s helping a gymnast through this transition, but let’s say this gymnast isn’t comfortable talking with their parents or they don’t have that kind of relationship
JESSICA: How do you help people through this, like how do you address it?
JILL: Mhmm. What I find key is education because you think that these kids would know what foods to eat and how their body’s changing and how to stay fit but they don’t. Often their so robotic they don’t really take the little bit of knowledge they have from club and transfer it to their heart. You know what I mean? You have to want that. You have to want these changes to make the sacrifices and they’re usually tired of sacrificing. And so it kind of helps, again the relationship with them trusting you and then helping them to get to a point where they can take the advice, because you really do have to realize it’s an education, you’re giving them new tools and new things to think about it in a whole new way and then hoping they transfer that passion Like, “Okay I do want to be fit! And it’s going to be hard, but it’s gonna be worth it.” and then hopefully when your seniors, juniors, and sophomores get it, that inspires them even more. And then you’ve got something going, and it really does trickle down and you see the power that has. Because to just get mad at them or have your trainers weigh them on occasion, all that other stuff, it does no good. It’s a part of it, but really the way I have found success is again the relationship and the trust and connecting your heart with it, in a whole new way that they never really realized.
JESSICA: And since you brought up the weight issue, your gymnastic career was during the, in a way it was like the heyday, gymnastics all of the sudden blew up in the United States for the first time, but it was also kind of a dark period for gymnastics. Did you experience any of the daily weigh ins and any of that stuff that helped you change the way you do things now?
JILL: Oh absolutely. I am all about, it’s not about weighing them in. I mean you have to have that range for safety reasons, but only the trainer knows unless something gets dangerous, but no you can tell, they can tell just by how they feel. There’s so much education out there and every girl’s body is different and treating them as an individual and in breaking that past of negative vibe that they have is really hard to do. They often have different hang ups based up how it was handled when they were in club. So really exploring that to where they become open with you and talk about it with you. I think having been an elite gymnast and I went through that myself where I was weighed in and told I was fat when I wasn’t, then when I became just a regular person I could gauge-we were just talking about this the other day on tour with the girls-it’s like there’s so often times where like mentally we feel like we are huge because when we were fit we were told we were big. Then there are often times I would look in the mirror and go, “Well I’m only a size six…” you know and then I’d have to tell myself, “That’s an okay size, I’m okay”, like I have to because of all of that confusion. So I try to transfer that when girls open up to me about those kinds of issues, I can totally relate, and luckily I never did anything out of control as far as, or dysfunctional, so much with my eating issues. It took me three years after I was an elite gymnast to not have all these mental issues that really were twisted up. I had to kind of untwist them and I’ll probably carry it with me my whole life, I’ve kind of accepted that.
JESSICA: And did you, to work through that, did you talk to people about it? Like what helped you, did you see professional help did you talk to other former gymnasts did it help to talk to people who were also retired athletes?
JILL: To be completely honest, when I met my husband
JESSICA: Famous wrestler Dan Hicks by the way everyone. Very famous. Go ahead.
JILL: [laughs] He was just so, he loved me so unconditionally. And I had such twisted thinking, I kept waiting for him to kind of criticize me, I actually gained 30 pounds my freshman year. That’s a lot of weight. And so I was super insecure, and I couldn’t believe that this two time national champion wrestler guy was like kind of interested in me, because I was so insecure about my body and about myself and everything, and he never even brought it up. I would bring it up. Like I was always curious, and eventually as we got closer, he would just look at me and go, “Eat what you want!” or we would go out and I would be so nervous to order something and I think it was his unconditional love that got me to realize, “Oh my gosh, he doesn’t even think about it/talk about it/care about it, he cares about me as a person!” and so to be loved like that, especially by a male person when you’ve had a male coach who treated you the opposite, that’s what really got me, you know. And then we talked about it and I think through those years I began to realize what my hang ups were; kind of got them out on the table. And then the next year I dropped that 30 pounds and I’ve never gained it back. It was so mental and there was so many issues. So that, and I really think learning to be fit came later as I had to learn how to work with my college gymnasts, you know I actually transferred what I was learning to my own body and so I think through the years those types of things have really helped me to learning along the way and doing it myself. [laughs]
JESSICA: That is so sweet, Jill! Unconditional love brought you peace! I love it! I’m gonna give Dan an extra hug for this next time I see him for that story.
JESSICA: Another thing I want to ask you about is, thanks to the book Little Girls in Pretty Boxes as we’ve already discussed the late 80’s and into the early 90’s were seen as an era when there was some unhealthy things happening on the elite side of the sport. Did you know that some of these things were happening in the gym, did you feel pressure to kind of keep silent? What are your feelings about this now?
Jill: So I guess when you’re looking back and you’re in that environment, where you’re being trained for the Olympic team and be an Olympic gymnast on the National Team and all of that stuff, you really have no clue at that age, and especially back then. And I don’t know if it’s different now for kids today because theres more information out, and like you say it kind of blew up so big and people start writing books on issues and people start talking about different abuse issues. You know I think kids are more educated now and their eyes are more open and so are parents but I think as the thing, you know my parents saw red flags all along the way but I think they were constantly trying to balance how much was me and how much was the coach and how much can they say. Because parents feel that pressure to stay out of the gym, especially as they become more elite. I think you feel even more, as a parent, like you shouldn’t be in the way because you want every chance for your child to make the Olympic team. And so that’s where I think it’s still the same, and I think so much comes back to the coach and the parent. Because really you’re talking about children, even though they’re 16, 17, when it really starts to show up, some of these dysfunctions that some of these coaches have, I think that would be what I would encourage. I keep telling parents, “Go in, communicate, go to practice, watch what’s going on, be involved”, because they feel this pressure to pull away, and I think that’s the worst thing you can do. Because they think, “Oh she’s a teenager now, she doesn’t want me there”, but I think that they need you there. They need someone protecting them. They’re not old enough yet, they don’t have that voice.
JESSICA: Thank you. I think that’s really great advice. Ok so Jill, that’s all we have and I want to thank you so much for being on the show it’s really been a pleasure having you!
JILL: Thank you so much! I was honored to be asked so, I wish you guys all the best!
JESSICA: So now we’re going to talk about our Halloween contest, Spanny, go ahead.
SPANNY: The time has finally arrived. We have received, hopefully, all of your submissions. I was pleasantly surprised. We will have all of the entries posted on the GymCastic website. I tried to label them the best I could, I just used the Twitter handles, so thank you all for participating. Now the way this is gonna work is we have narrowed it down to a final four and each one of us will vote which one of those four we enjoy. Now I have to clarify- I really loved everyone’s costumes. I picked the final four based on originality, let’s call it a d-score, a level of difficulty, and executing the costumes. These are the ones I looked at and I haven’t seen yet, I was like, “This is amazing! I would totally freak out if I saw this person at the bar and take a million pictures of them!” So we will go to you guys and see what you think, and we will select a winner right now.
JESSICA: [laughs] Ok, this is going to be entertaining. Ok, one, two, three:
JESSICA: Yes! We all agreed? @auroranola?
UNCLE TIM: No I went with the Russian Uniform so.
JESSICA: I think @auroranola because, I love the Russian one too, but the beading-the beading!
BLYTHE: You cannot argue with somebody who has taken the time to bedazzle by hand with 1700 rhinestones. And it looks great, too!
JESSICA: Yeah, it’s like beautiful!
SPANNY: Yeah and just a reminder you can look at all these pictures at our GymCastic website because they’re all worth looking- I know I have two for @auroranola and one for @redemmaxyz, I’m gonna have to stick my vote with @jdpacey. There’s a nostalga issue for me, one for @redemmaxyz and two for @auroronola which makes @auroranola our 2012 Halloween Costume Contest Winner!
SPANNY: They were really all incredible. I’m excited to do it again next year. So, @auroranola, I will tweet you, but send us your contact information at GymCastic@gmail.com and we will get in touch with you. In the meantime, why don’t you peruse Cloud and Victory’s t-shirt collection because your prize is you will get to choose any one of her t-shirts. Again she has Game of Thrones themed, dance themed, but of course we like the gymnastic themed one the best. I have my own fierce five shirt, I washed it and it stays soft and it barely shrunk. So pick your own shirt at Cloud and Victory.
JESSICA: So let’s get into listener feedback this week. Spanny what do you have?
SPANNY: Well what I largely wanted to touch on was the confirmation. Last week we had discussed that NBC was kind of, I don’t want to use the term cuckold, but they’re giving us translations that aren’t really, you know they’re saying what’s not being said. So we mentioned the Khorkina interview, I believe it’s during All-Around in 2004, where she says all this controversial stuff, and now for a hundred years we’re like, “Oh my god, like Khorkina says all these things”. We have two separate confirmations now regarding the Russian translations that NBC has, in fact, led us astray in what we are to believe about Svetlana Khorkina. The first confirmation is from Yuri who left a comment on our website. She comments that there are a couple phrases that sound weird, or incomplete as if they cut her off mid sentence, which that’s certainly not applicable to only NBC. Anytime you watch anything on TV you have to understand it’s edited, you are at the mercy of editing and producing and they want to create a story. But in this exact case they really just selected bits. The translation of what Khorkina was actually saying in the video is, “You can’t get all the money in the world, yes there is a crisis, but I was born in Russia and I will stay in Russia. I like it when they call me a diva, as far as I understand, a diva is some magical creature as far as I understand.” This is another instance when they probably started to cut her off kind of in the middle of what she was saying, “As much as a mother of own children.” I remember this being a big issue because, “Oh she wants a gold medal more than she wants to mother a child” and probably Elfi making a big stink about it. It’s all interesting that they just used a bit of what she said, and it could have been taken out of any context, we don’t know, “I don’t want to be strong”, I believe that was the actual diva line, “I like to be called a diva” or something. I’d have to look up and see what the subtitles were, “I’m saying that it’s my last ball, my last Olympics, I would only go there and take what’s mine”. So yeah I invite you to watch the actual fluff piece and see what NBC is telling you she says. I think this kind of revisited the situation at the American Cup where NBC is telling us that, “Oh with the Russians they definitely said this, and they definitely did that”, and everyone’s like, “Oh well I hate her now because NBC said she’s a diva brat”. I’m not saying it’s true or false but we have to keep in mind we are at the mercy of what we’re being told I guess. But on the second confirmation regarding the Russian subtitles…
JESSICA: Yeah I have a friend who I’ve know a long time and she’s a native Russian speaker, that is her first language and she wants to remain anonymous, but this is what she said, “I watched the segment and can tell you that the person who told you translation was wrong, was absolutely right. There are a few weird things, too. At 51 seconds the translation says, ‘I know that people look at me; they watch me’ she actually said, ‘I feel completely calm, I know that their presence…’ then it cuts off. They accurately say that she says, ‘I like being called a diva’. Soon after that at a 1:05 she says that she also did not say, ‘You can’t catch her, she always comes out a winner’, she just said she likes to be called a diva and that in her understanding it means magical, which they also basically got right. It’s possible that she said that part about catching the diva later and they edited that out, but it’s definitely not in the video. At 1:44 where the translation is, ‘I’ve been great for a long time’, like the person who told you originally, what she actually said was, ‘I don’t want to be strong’. At 1:38 I’m not entirely sure she said she wants to mother a child, which Al repeated later in the broadcast. But the first few words are a bit hard to understand, so it’s possible.” So basically the important point that she makes in the email that she sent me, which we also have to take into consideration which is what Spanny was saying, is that TV is a visual medium so when you’re translating what someone’s saying I can see them taking the visual moments that are good, like when she winks at the camera and when she turns this way or whatever, so it may be that the audio was correctly translated but they picked the video moments to show that were not in sync with what she actually said. Maybe I’m totally giving NBC an out here where I shouldn’t, because it’s deplorable what’s going on. [laughs] So here we have it, three people are confirming that the translation is totally wrong and that there’s no idiom that’s being misunderstood either, so yeah that’s kind of- that’s disheartening and scary. There you have it.
SPANNY: If you have any other feedback for us you are always welcome to tweet us @GymCastic or you can email us at GymCastic@gmail.com or leave a comment on our website. Thank you for rating and reviewing us on iTunes, we were featured in the New & Noteworthy sports podcasts so it was right up there in the bottom corner. So thank you guys for getting us noticed, it’s pretty fancy. We really need a transcriber, so if you love gymnastics and typing, let us know. We’d like to make our podcast available to the multitude of gymnastics fans who are hearing impaired. So if you’d like to help us out just let us know at GymCastic@gmail.com. Remember we have a phone number now for voice mails, so please leave your name and city in a sixty second voice mail at 415-800-3191. We will respond or we will listen to all of your voicemails, just another great way to leave your feedback for us that you would like us to address on our upcoming shows.
ALLISON TAYLOR: 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
JESSICA: So that’s it for us this week. I want to thank you guys for listening. Next week we have Chellsie Memmel on the show. We are so excited to talk to her! We’re also going to into a little bit of the history of USA Gymnastics and how the organization came to be. Remember you can always find us on iTunes, Stitcher, our website, Facebook, Twitter or of course you could send us an email or send us a voicemail. Remember to watch Courage in Sports this Sunday on CBS, it’s 5:00 on the east coast, 2:00 on the west coast, remember to check your local listing. Courage in Sports, CBS, set your reminder, set your alarms it’s gonna be a great show, and let us know what you think. Thanks! And until next week I am Jessica O’Bierne from Masters-Gymnastics.com…
BLYTHE: I’m 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
JESSICA: See you guys next week!