Episode 83 Transcript

DANNA: We, I believe and I teach and we embrace a culture that accepts people for

who they are and you know not everybody is going to come with that same view. It is

a part of, you’re right, the south tends to be more, um, based in their faith, um, but you

know not everybody’s going to come with that same view or that same faith or having

grown up going to church, um and that’s, you know that’s fine. We, I want our team and

our culture is that we accept everybody for who they are. We love everybody for who

they are. They don’t want four of the same coaches. I don’t want seventeen of the same

athletes.

 

[EXPRESS YOURSELF INTRO MUSIC]

 

JESSICA: Today, Georgia Head Coach Danna Durante.

 

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JESSICA: This is episode 83 for March 23, 2014. I’m Jessica from Masters-Gymnastics,

and this is the best gymnastics podcast of all time, bringing you all the most fascinating

people from around the gymternet. Today we’re talking to Danna Durante from the

University of Georgia. Later this week we’ll bring you full meet recaps from the U.S. and

Jesolo and all of the NCAA Conference Championships. Remember that you can support

the show by subscribing by email. You can subscribe on Stitcher or iTunes. You can

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of the show. Remember to enter our gymitation contest. Just, um, go to our website to

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had someone imitating their favorite commentator. Um, we had an “oh boogers” entry,

[LAUGHS] which I love. So enter the gymitation contest. We can’t wait to see what you

guys come up with.

 

[SOUND BYTE]

 

JESSICA: Today’s interview with Danna Durante is brought to you by TumblTrak. One

of the most frustrating parts of coaching team or rec classes is a lack of space, equipment,

and not enough stations to keep the kids all going at once. And when you’re a kid you

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a parent paying for classes there’s nothing worse than watching your kid just standing

around. This is why I love circular equipment like TumblTrak’s fitness wheel. The fitness

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Like, you can put the trampoline bed in the middle and then you can cross vault, like

cross tumbling. You can have kids going one way down the diagonal to vault on one

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It’s super fun. You can build an entire lesson plan around the fitness wheel- from drills,

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tumbltrak. That’s T-U-M-B-L T-R-A-K. tumbltrak.com. Tumbltrak. Do it again.

 

[SOUND BYTE]

 

JESSICA: Danna Durante is a very, very good coach. And before she was a coach she

was an elite gymnast in the Kristie Phillips, Kelly Garrison-Steves era. She grew up in

Tulsa, Oklahoma. She was a two-time member of the U.S. National Team and she was

coached by Kristi Krafft. She qualified for the 1988 Olympic Trials and she placed

twentieth. Durante graduated from Arizona State in 95. She had a bachelor’s degree in

exercise science and wellness. She was an All-Pac-10 gymnast, back before there was

Pac-12, from the Sun Devils, from 92 to 95, and scored five perfect tens while she was a

collegiate gymnast. She also met her husband, Joe, at Arizona State, where he was a

gymnast as well. Gymnastics love story! We’re totally going to get to that in this

interview. After graduating Durante was an elite level judge from 96 to 2000. She

coached club for awhile then went to the University of Washington, then had a very

successful coaching run for about nine years at the University of Nebraska. Then she

went to UC Berkeley where she turned that team around like nobody’s business. She was

only at Cal for a year, but seriously it was like watching a cactus bloom. In just a year at

Cal they scored the highest team score in five years. It was just incredible to see what

happened there. She really was like watching a whole different program when she took it

over. After Cal she took over the program at Georgia from Jay Clarke. In the first year

under her leadership at Georgia they went from not qualifying to Nationals to getting

back into the Super-Six for the first time since 2009. This interview was recorded on

March 5th

 

[SOUND BYTE]

 

JESSICA: Okay, so we had Tricia Woo on the show awhile back.

 

DANNA: Oh…

 

JESSICA: Yes!

 

DANNA: Yes! Woo!

 

JESSICA: Woo! The Woo! Um, and she was one of my absolute all-time favorite,

favorite beam workers in NCAA, and followed her career into the circus. And I asked her

specifically, what led her to get to the point where she was on beam, which I feel like,

she, you know, she should have been the NCAA champion on beam. And she specifically

said it was you. It was all you, because she didn’t believe in herself and you said to her,

she was like around all of these elites when she was competing. There was the whole

Olympic team basically went to college then and you made her believe that she could do

 

DANNA: Oh my gosh. I had no idea she said that and I, ah, I’m excited. I’m excited

to hear it because I mean that was a work. These young women are just a work. It’s a

process. I love the coaching, but I love the mentoring even more and so for her to say

that me believing in her and getting her to believe in herself made a difference brings me

great pride and great fulfillment. I mean, okay, I’m doing the right thing. I’m doing the

right thing, because she’s amazing. I agree with you. She’s one of my favorites and I still

can see her today just the way she moved. The way she commanded attention on beam.

The way that she performed her skills was phenomenal. I wish I had one more year with

her, because I think she, if I could have gotten her just that much more she would have

been NCAA Champion on beam. She was incredible.

 

JESSICA: Yes. So what is your magic formula on beam? I have to say that your beam

performance, I think it stands out. There’s, I’m very opinionated about choreography

especially, ugh, so I’m enjoying the choreography this year. I think the team looks really,

I think they look really confident on beam. Um, I don’t think their scores always reflect

that and every once in awhile the freshmen have nerves. This happens. You got to get

used to that stuff. And it’s a young team.

 

DANNA: Yes.

 

JESSICA: Um, but what is your magic formula on beam? What’s happening on beam this

year?

 

DANNA: You know I have to give credit for choreography to Cassidy McComb. She

helps a great deal, actually puts the routines together and then I’ll tweak a thing here or

there or we’ll work together to make it look like I want it to look or fit that athlete. And

for me, just specifically choreography should, um, it should move you. You know? It

should move you with the performance. And it should, the judges should be able to get

lost and the fans should be able to get lost in the way that you move on beam. It

shouldn’t look like you’re on four inches. It should look like you are, you know, on a

huge dance floor and you just, you entice people to get lost in the movements. And so

that’s different for each athlete. For some it’s short. For some it’s more soft movement.

For some it’s a mixture of both but um, we work really hard to try to see what works with

each athlete. And then Cassidy has just been such a godsend to me, because she has a

great eye as well. And between the two of us we’re able to say, this works, that doesn’t,

this is bothering me. You know and so we really work well together in that way. Um, and

I don’t know that there is a magic formula other than helping these young women believe

that they are as amazing as they are and really building confidence in them. And that is a

daily process. It’s not one day. It’s not one week. It’s not in the fall. I mean it literally, it

starts in June when they show up on campus and it’s every time they touch the

equipment, any event, every time you talk to them in the office or just out of the gym, it

doesn’t matter. It’s really just building confidence in them as a person and it translates

into their gymnastics. I think beam is the event that that shows it most drastically on,

either positively or negatively, because the room for error is so small. Um, but really

that’s my, that’s just my approach in general. I want these young women to believe that

they can fly. I told somebody today, you know, not everybody will fly at the same

altitude, but I want them to believe that they can fly. And so, my job, and my staff’s job,

is to instill that confidence, and that trust, and that belief, and that discipline, because

[inaudible] is hard work. You don’t just wake up one day and say, “Hey, I’m going to do

this.” It takes discipline and hard work but I think when you get young women to that

point like Kaylan Earls and Lindsey Cheek, Mary Beth Box, who’s such a great story for

me, um, and Brittany Rogers. Right now those four have just been consistently better and

better on beam and I think Kiera Brown is a freshman, is really finding her place. And

you’re right. We have great freshmen that have had nerves and will just continue to work

and ready to be amazing by the time they’re done with their career at Georgia.

 

JESSICA: And I wonder if, I know you’ve talked about this at length, so if you are like

“Oh my God. I cannot talk about this one more time.” But I wonder if you

 

DANNA: [LAUGHS]

 

JESSICA: Seriously, it’s totally okay. But I wonder if you, you know, did you have to

draw upon your own teachings when you arrived at Georgia and there was just this, you

know, complete cultural shift? And you know, you could see when you watched on TV

that there was the team was just not there with you. And you know, everything turned

around and you guys had that breaking point, but did you have to dig down and find those

own, your own lessons about being positive and believing that this could, you know,

change? Was it a, did that happen for you?

 

DANNA: Well, um, that’s a, that’s a good question. You know all I know is that

everyday I show up still, um I did it in California. I did it Nebraska. Did it my first day at

Georgia and every day still show up and my ultimate goal is to be consistent and

absolutely to instill confidence and belief in these young women. Um, and that takes it

takes time. So last year coming in we knew as a staff it would be about relationships. We

knew that it was important to show those young women, even though they didn’t know

us, they weren’t excited about the change. And we understood that. We all knew that

going in. It wasn’t about us coming in and sort of cleaning house and very firm and

making all of these changes. It was about us coming in and showing those young women

that we absolutely love what we do and we absolutely love the opportunity to be able to

work with them. And we were absolutely going to give every single thing we had every

day. And we wanted what was best for them as people, as gymnasts, for the program of

Georgia Gymnastics. And I think we just, every day would come in with that and

sometimes it would take a staff member, you know, Phillip Ogletree reminding me, or

Jay Hogue reminding Phillip, or me reminding one of them that “Hey this is our mission.

This is our goal. This is where we’re going,” so that we all stayed on that same page all

year. And eventually it just took time and we knew that. It just took time and so people

have asked me, “What was that turning point?” I don’t really know, because it was

different for every athlete. And I will say that even some came back this summer and we

still had work to do to get over the hump. But, when you love what you do, when you

absolutely believe in your vision, in your mission, and it’s just part of who you are it

doesn’t feel like a job. It doesn’t feel like it’s hard. It’s just part of this is who you are.

And so I believe that is absolutely the case for both Jay, Jay Hogue and Phil Ogletree and

for myself. So I don’t know if that answers your question but it really just, it was just a

process, and we knew that’s what it was going to be. And eventually everybody came

around and realized we absolutely adore that team from last year. We adore the team

from this year. We have goals and we’re just going to keep working until we reach them.

 

JESSICA: It is, it’s interesting to hear that there was no specific turning point, because I

always imagine that there was one point that you know, someone, if it was a coach or a

gymnast or whatever, just burst into tears, threw themselves on the ground…

 

DANNA: No.

 

JESSICA: and was like “Ahh!” and um maybe that’s just how I would have handled it.

 

DANNA: Yeah there wasn’t. I told the girls early on that drama is just not my thing. I

don’t love drama. I know it is part of life but we are certainly not going to look to create

  1. So they, they very quickly would come if it was a hard day or if they would struggling

and say, “I know you don’t like tears in the gym but I’m really struggling with this.”

I’d say, “Okay well let’s talk it through. Um, okay let’s finish the workout and we’ll

go in the office and we’ll sit down and spend thirty minutes talking it through. I think,

I think that consistency and that sort of this is just the way we’re going to do it helped

them be able to come in and do their job and not get sticky with emotions. Because they

were emotional it was hard. So maybe that’s why there wasn’t that one moment. I think

maybe the girls could tell you, “This was the moment for me. This was the moment for

me.” Maybe for each of them there would be a different moment, but for us as a staff it

was just the entire year of us continuing to work and believe. And you know showing up

on the floor at Super-Six I think the girls, and I think we all finally really felt together.

Um, but I would not say before that. You know we worked hard. I felt like there were

connections that I felt we still had to keep working and so we did.

 

JESSICA: And, you know, Suzanne Yoculan, Jay was there of course, but Suzanne

Yoculan was just a huge influence on the program, built the program. And a lot of people

have wondered if she ever, if she just totally took herself out and let you do your thing, or

if she has ever talked to you, given you advice…

 

DANNA: Oh yeah.

 

JESSICA: She has?

 

DANNA: She, yeah absolutely. And I think, I think she would totally take herself out, but

I absolutely we speak on a regular basis. We meet on a regular basis. She did. She built

that program from nothing. I mean it was in the 80’s, you know there was a team there.

They were good. Never won a championship. She took that team from a couple hundred

people in the stands, if that, to what it is today. And I, I don’t know how anybody in their right mind can’t just, um, want to know all of that and soak it in. I want to know the battles that she’s fought. I want to know the struggles. I want to know what didn’t work for her, but that she tried so that I have a frame of reference for every facet of that program. And she developed and was very, very good about instilling confidence in her athletes. They won five in a row and ten total. That doesn’t happen without those young women believing that they were capable of whatever was set in front of them and so I think that there are so many things that she developed and she became just a genius at her craft. And she’s brilliant and she’s sharp. And all of those things I certainly will never claim nor that I claim that I know it all. I want to know, what did she do? What battles did she fight? When she was clicking, what made it easy? When she wasn’t…when they hadn’t won a championship in five years, why? What was the difference? What did she find? You know, I want to know all of that. So I ask her. And she’s, you know, she’s just been very helpful for me, especially with the community of Athens. That’s important. Gymnastics is tremendously important. It’s a huge piece of the Athens community, and even in the Atlanta community, and that’s something absolutely my obligation and my honor to continue to grow and be a part of and make sure that Georgia Gymnastics stays in the forefront of everybody’s minds. She didn’t do all that work for it to drop. So I want to know what ideas does she have? What does she see that’s different? What, you know, who could she introduce me to to help me keep this going? Those are all things that I absolutely want to know and I’m very thankful that she’s willing to share them with me, because it has made this transition for me much, much easier.

 

JESSICA: So do you feel, this is what we’re going [LAUGHS], you know, in Suzanne’s book she talks about how she built up the rivalry with Alabama…

 

DANNA: Yes.

 

JESSICA: and the different tactics she used like, um, like starting to wear the like the evening gowns to the meets and stuff like that…

 

DANNA: Yeah.

 

JESSICA: and so we’re not going to see you in an evening gown though, right? You’re

 

going to keep to your normal…

 

DANNA: No. No.

 

JESSICA: You’re going to… [LAUGHS]

 

DANNA: Yeah. No, no no. I can’t do that and I think people, I, I’ve got this a lot and I still do, “Oh Suzanne Yoculan- big shoes to fill.” And I always say, “My shoes are a size seven and a half and that is the only shoe I can wear.

 

JESSICA: [LAUGHS]

 

DANNA: I’m me and I have to be me and the great thing about Suzanne is that she understands that as well. Umm, you know, I have my personality, who I am, what’s comfortable for me, and umm, in some ways it’s very different than, than what Suzanne did and that is okay. And I’m very comfortable with that. Ultimately we have the same goal- obviously to continue to win championships at Georgia and to continue to keep that legacy and that tradition and that history growing. But I cannot do it acting as though I’m Suzanne. I’m not, and so I’ll do things my way. You know it’s rare that I wear heels, although I have fans that want me to wear heels.

 

JESSICA: [LAUGHS]

 

DANNA: I tell them I’ll work on it, but for me it’s about the athletes on the floor. It’s about the work that they’ve put in and I want them to shine. I don’t want to be, although I’m the face of the program, and I understand that, when it’s on the floor it’s the athletes. I want them to receive all the credit and all the glory and all the fame that’s due them so I’ll be in the back in my black slacks and my sweater [LAUGHS], and my sensible shoes, and that’s good.

 

JESSICA: Being true to yourself is an excellent lesson…

 

DANNA: Yes.

 

JESSICA: to embody for your athletes so we definitely appreciate that. So let’s talk about what’s happening with vault scoring because the gymternet, as we call it, is outraged, outraged, every week we get letters about Lindsey Cheek and links to her videos, and every week we talk about how she does a per-fect Yurchenko full, sticks it, sticks it so much that she stands there, she can wave, she like makes a point of it for like ten seconds…

 

DANNA: [LAUGHS]

 

JESSICA: before she turns to the judges like, “Hello! I did it again!” Still no ten! What is happening?

 

DANNA: Yeah.

 

JESSICA: And can we as fans do anything? Do we need to write some letters? What can we do?

 

DANNA: Oh my goodness. Well I have to be very careful because I’m really not allowed to talk about officiating, um or judging. So I certainly don’t want to get myself in trouble. I will tell you that she can perform what seems like the same vault week in and week out and you’re right, she stands there and holds that landing. So you know our goal is, and you know what, I think we have a huge group of incredible vaulters. Chelsea Davis- she starts our lineup off. I feel like that athlete is powerful and strong and sticks it every time. And we’ve got Brittany and Brandie who just keep getting better with their form and their shape on the one and a half and finding that landing. And although we have some young faces- oh and Cat Hires- hello!- huge vault. We have a young face or two that kind of comes in and out in Ashlyn or in Lauren Johnson or in Morgan Reynolds. We have a huge team of vaulters and she is one of those. We’re just going to keep working. We’re just going to keep working. Cheek’s going to keep sticking that vault. Chels is going to keep sticking that vault. We’re going to keep working on those, the dynamic, the height, the landings, all of those things, and lord willing it will come when it’s supposed to come. But you know we’re not going to do anything different, especially, with Cheek. She’s just flat out amazing. She’s flat out amazing. And, uh, yeah, I’m gonna say, I gotta steer clear of what they should do, or what you should do. I’m just happy that the fans see that vault as big as we see it, because we’re blown away. And you know what? She vaults like that every day in practice. So, uh, it’s not a shock. It’s not a shock to us. Lord willing that time will come at some point and certainly she deserves it. We’ll be waiting for it when it’s there [LAUGHS].

 

JESSICA: Awesome. Well I’m glad, I’m impressed that she hasn’t gotten in her own head about getting a ten. Like she does the same vault every time. Sometimes when people know they can do it then they’re trying so hard every time and then the consistency goes away, and that she does that every time, it’s just I love it.

 

DANNA: She, yeah absolutely, and you know what, we, she and I talk about that. We talk about keeping her head out of the clouds, so to speak, and same with the bar lineup. They’re number one in the country. Three girls ranked in the top five. We talk about that, keep your, keep your head out of the clouds. It doesn’t matter where you’re ranked. What matters is the way that you train every day and the way that you show up to compete everyday. And if your head is distracted with, um, trying to live up to last week’s performances or trying to, um, be perfect, or trying to live up to that expectation, of what other people might be saying about you, it’s a distraction. It doesn’t matter what it is. It’s a distraction. So stay on cue, simple, the things that you need to do, technically, uh to compete free, and we’ve talked a lot about that lately because this team is loaded with potential and we’re getting to the point where they’re understanding what that means to compete free and just leave it all out on the floor. So Cheek and I talk about that on a regular basis. Just keep your mind clean and do the little things that you need to do. Nothing else matters. Your outside conversations don’t matter. Parents, fans, it’s great that they support you, but you just keep your head clear and focused on this one skill, this one turn, this one meet, and she’s done an amazing job doing that. And we’ll continue to have that conversation, because I don’t want to wait to not have it and have it get in her head, because you’re right, those perfectionist athletes they get a standard and then nothing else is good enough. And so I just want her to say, “You know what? 9.95 is okay. I’m okay with that. I’m okay with a 9.925. You just stay in your moment and keep doing what you’re doing.”

 

JESSICA: Let’s talk about the floor line up for a minute. I am so impressed with the difficulty. A lot of times we’ve talked about how some of the schools are really going above and beyond to show what they can do and try to push those scores up, and especially Brandie Jay. What is your determination with deciding what, how consistent they have to be in order to push that level of difficulty on floor?

 

DANNA: That’s a good question. We feel like a balance is really important. I know early on when we had that crazy schedule at the beginning of the year we really, we took, we didn’t do anything that was very difficult. We only did double backs and very simple tumbling for the most part, because we knew we were going to have five meets in fifteen days and it just didn’t make sense to kill them and pound them right off the bat. So you know, there’s, with Brandie in particular, she spends a lot of time on Trak. She spends a lot of time doing some basics, even just double backs, because for her the full out is not difficult. For her it’s being consistent with the way that she takes off and being patient. So I don’t worry about the full out. I really, Phil spends a lot of time working with her on the technical side of what’s in front of the full out, because like everything else, when she does that correct, the full out just happens. Consistency, you know, they need to be able to nail it in the gym and they need to be very confident in the gym. Not necessarily going on the floor every time, but going up high or even on the Trak, just consistently doing the take off the correct way. And I’m really proud of our floor lineup. I’m proud of Phil and Cassidy and just the way the time and the attention and the detail that they’ve spent on floor, because certainly we started out with much easier tumbling and we’ve progressed to a good balance I think, with Brittany Rogers doing the double Arabian and Brandie doing the full out, um you know the other tumbling is very high. Mary Beth Box and Cat Hires, essentially double pike and double tuck and combination tumbling pass, but through the roof. Like literally Mary Beth and Cat drop down from the sky and into their landings. And that’s impressive in and of itself. So I think we do have a good balance there, and I’m excited about our floor lineup. I’m excited about what they’ve been doing. Kaylan Earls too, that little one just lights it up. You know she comes out there and she just puts a smile on everybody’s face and so, I’m excited about where this floor team has, is going, and what we’ve come through so far. No question they’ve busted their tails throughout the year to get more consistent, to get more powerful, and to get more confident. I mean, I think the confidence was lacking on floor, but they’re in a great place right now, and I just see them taking off and flying through the rest of the season.

 

JESSICA: You know coming from Berkeley to the south, you know there’s a stereotype that religion plays a greater role in your daily life in the south than in other parts of the country. And you notice when we watch the meets in the SEC that the team will pray together, that both teams will come to the center of the floor and pray afterwards, and that gymnasts just tend to be in their interviews as well. And traditionally at Georgia they’ve been more vocal about their religion and their lives and you know, it can be a big part of a team ambiance I guess I would say. So as a coach, you know in the past there’s been, like when there was the interview with Kat Ding and she talked about how she kind of felt ostracized as you know being someone who wasn’t a religious person on the team. How do you manage kind of the balance on the team if you have a gymnast who is very vocal about their religion? Maybe they want to text Bible verses to other gymnasts or they’re someone who wants to maintain their, their own…

 

DANNA: Beliefs

 

JESSICA: separateness from them? Yeah.

 

DANNA: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s a great question. We, my view and my culture, my faith is incredibly important to me, but I don’t feel that it’s my place to shove it down anybody else’s throat. If they have questions and they want to talk about it I am more than happy to dive into it. But, we, I believe and I teach and we embrace a culture that accepts people for who they are and you know not everybody is going to come with that same view. It is a part of, you’re right, the south tends to be more, um, based in their faith, um, but you know not everybody’s going to come with that same view or that same faith or having grown up going to church, um and you know that’s fine. We, I want our team and our culture is that we accept everybody for who they are. We love everybody for who they are. They don’t want four of the same coaches. I don’t want seventeen of the same athletes. I want people who think for themselves, who stand up for what they believe, if they have questions that they have the confidence and the courage to ask them and realize that sometimes we agree to disagree and that’s okay. That is totally okay, but at the end of the day we are a team and we love each other, and we fight for each other, and we work hard for each other. And a lot of times, you know, people’s faith plays a huge role in that. For me it’s huge. I mean it just is. I have athletes on the team where that’s not the case. I love them the same. I love them the same. I want to back them the same. I want them to feel like they can fly the same as somebody who maybe shares my faith. Does that make sense?

 

JESSICA: Umm-hmm

 

DANNA: So I want everybody to be their own individual and be very comfortable in who they are, what they believe, why they believe it, or why they don’t believe it. And then our job as a team is to accept and love and embrace each other knowing that we’re all different, and that’s what makes us such a great team. That’s what makes, I think, [inaudible] that people are very different. They have different viewpoints. That should not be scary. That should not be scary. It should be, “Okay, explain to me why? Explain to me why? Okay. Well okay I understand that. I’m not going to say I agree with it but I understand that, okay.” It has to be a respect. Ultimately, there’s a respect, um, at the heart of everything else for who they are as a person and you know like I said what they believe and why they believe it. And again, at the end of the day, at the end of the year, at the end of a season, we’re united and we’re together as a family and as a team. You don’t always agree with your family, but you always love them and that’s the culture that I absolutely, I don’t think it can happen any other way. I don’t think it can be any other way.

 

JESSICA: Excellent. So we love a gymnastics love story, on this show.

 

DANNA: [LAUGHS]

 

JESSICA: We collect them, and we know that you have a gymnastics love story.

 

DANNA: I do.

 

JESSICA: Yes. So will you tell us how you met your husband and how he proposed?

 

DANNA: Oh yes, one of the best times of my life, best days of my life. Well people don’t, I don’t know that people really believe this, but I walked in as a freshman at ASU, which was just a great experience and a great spot for me. And of course growing up in the elite world, forty hours in the gym, never looked at boys, had zero interest, 88 was my focus and after that it was like okay I didn’t really know what I was going to do with my life, but I [LAUGHS] I was trying to figure it out. So I walked in ASU’s gym and there’s this guy and you know I’m like, “Hmm. Okay, that’s the one.” Literally saw him the first time, and he always [inaudible] me when I tell this story, he had maroon shorts and some tie-dye shirt and back then guys wore do-rags and he had a bandana tied around his hair. He was from the east coast-the furthest thing from Oklahoma, conservative, naïve, little girl that could possibly be. And I just saw him and went, “That’s it. That’s the one.” And then of course it was, we were friends through Fellowship of Christian Athletes and our coaches, you know not our coaches, but our teams were very close at that time the ASU men’s team and the ASU women’s team were very close. We did a lot of things together and we just became good friends. And then of course you know, three years later, through thicks and thins of dating and how that works, we were at our last meet together at UCLA and I had no idea [LAUGHS] no idea that he had been planning since December to ask me to marry him at the Gildemark’s invitational. And he had my mom in the stands. And he had asked my parents and all the right things of course, very sweet. And in front of 5,000 people he got down on his knee, but he didn’t know he was going to be allowed to do that until the very last second. Just chalking up for rings and Val, Miss Val, hadn’t been involved in the conversation at all, and finally somebody said, “Just go ask Miss Val if the guy from ASU can ask the girl from ASU to marry him,” because it was going on for weeks and he couldn’t get an answer. So Val said, “Well who is it? Who is it?” And he said, “Well it’s Danna Lister,” and she’s like, “Oh my gosh of course! Of course he can do it. Of course he can do it,” because Val and I have known each other for a very long time. And so anyway, he walks out onto the floor, he wasn’t supposed to get on the floor. He walks out to not the middle, but you know a good portion of the floor, pushed the envelope there, got down on his knee. My whole team is already crying and I’m looking in the stands going, “What’s going on?” I had no idea. And I turn around and there he is on his knee, and the rest is history, but yeah, I was totally blown away, totally shocked, and moved forever. He’s an amazing man and certainly as I say, my better half, 100%, always.

 

JESSICA: I love that story so much!

 

DANNA: [LAUGHS]

 

JESSICA: I love it!

 

DANNA: Yeah, it’s a very emotional moment for me because I just think I have been blessed with the absolute best man there is on the face of the earth, ever.

 

JESSICA: Ugh!

 

DANNA: He’s amazing.

 

JESSICA: And you can tell too, because I mean first of all, that is like an athlete’s dream to be, I mean so many girls have had that you know…

 

DANNA: I know.

 

JESSICA: that fantasy of like your final senior meet you know and you finish a routine and then he proposes.

 

DANNA: But he did!

 

JESSICA: And also you know he has, he’s a gymnast, he gets it. He’s moved with you to all these places, all these jobs. He’s so supportive, you know, it’s just great. It just, that just makes me so happy. Love it!

 

DANNA: And I have to say all of those decisions for him to move, I mean that was a family decision, and I told him when we left Nebraska like, you know I’m not going to take this job at Cal if you’re going to look at me in two years and say, “Oh my gosh. What did you do to this family?” You need to tell me to take this job. I almost want you to call up and tell the people that I’ll take it because…

 

JESSICA: Yep.

 

DANNA: because it had, it has to be a family. And although we’ve moved from our jobs his support has always been there, and I’ve always been willing to walk away from anything and everything if he didn’t feel like it was right. It’s just how much I trust his opinion and his outlook and his focus and he’s just very smart and he’s very sharp and he sees things from a perspective that enlightens me on a daily basis. So, I am truly, truly blessed, and I continue to be, because Georgia’s not, that’s not an easy place. There’s a lot going on. There’s a lot to do. There’s a lot of my time that is spent away from the family. And without him saying, “Nope. I love you. This is the right thing. You know, we’re here. When you get home from that next recruiting trip we’re here with the three kids. We’ll get dinner.” You know without him doing that I could never throw myself into this team, into this program, like I’ve been able to do, which you know, I love my family, and Georgia’s now an extended part of my family. So I’m incredibly thankful for him.

 

JESSICA: That’s awesome. I wondered, have you ever seen the videotape of the proposal? Do you have a copy?

 

DANNA: Yes.

 

JESSICA: You have? Okay good.

 

DANNA: Yes. It’s on YouTube. He actually asked me, “Hey can I put this on YouTube?”

 

JESSICA: Yay!

 

DANNA: He put it on YouTube.

 

JESSICA: Okay, I’m totally going to look it up, because I have a friend who just, I told him I was going to and he was like twelve or something at the time, and he was at that meet. Yeah, and he’s like…

 

DANNA: [LAUGHS] You’re kidding me?

 

JESSICA: No I’m serious. And I told him I was interviewing you and he was like, “Oh, you know I have a video of her proposal, right?” I was like, “What? What? No! I have never seen this!” So…

 

DANNA: Yeah it’s on YouTube, and it’s very sweet, and yeah it’s great.

 

JESSICA: Oh I’m totally going to find it so we can have people watch. I just love that story so much. Um, okay so I know we’re a little bit overtime here so I want to let you go, unless there’s anything else you want to discuss or get to?

 

DANNA: No, thank you so much for having me. I so enjoy the opportunity to talk about my team and how amazing they are and the support at Georgia Gymnastics is just phenomenal beyond anything I think I could have ever dreamed. So I always appreciate an opportunity to talk about how blessed I am and how fortunate I am and just how incredible this 2014 team is. The best is yet to come for this team. I’m really looking forward to our last two home meets and all we’ve got coming in post-season. It’s just it’s exciting. It’s an exciting time in the NCAA season so tell all your fans to stay on top of it. I know they love it, but those converts you were talking about, tell them the best part of the season is coming up right now.

 

JESSICA: Yes, and be sure to watch the Gymdog show as well.

 

DANNA: Yes!

 

JESSICA: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us, and congratulations at really turning this team around and bringing back the Georgia that we know and love. So thank you and just congratulations.

 

DANNA: Thank you Jessica. I appreciate it. It’s been a pleasure.

 

[SOUND BYTE]

 

JESSICA: Also, in case you’re not familiar with it, Georgia has their own web series called the Gymdog Show. We’ve linked to it, we’ve linked to all the episodes so far on our website and also on our YouTube channel. If you want to know more about Georgia and all of the U.S. and international elites and Olympians that are on the Georgia team definitely check out that show. You’ll get a real behind the scenes look at what it’s like to be an elite, an international elite, an Olympian, and then go and do college gymnastics in the United States. Be sure to turn in later this week for the recap of Jesolo and all of the NCAA Conference Championships. There were some shockers. Thanks so much for listening you guys. See you later this week!

 

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.”

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