Former UCLA gymnastics coach on why "you don't have to be a bully to win"

Valorie Kondos Field on the key to success

Former UCLA gymnastics head coach Valorie Kondos Field says she was "mortified" when her team confronted her about how she spoke to them. But afterward, she recognized that "you don't have to be a bully to win," she said on "CBS This Morning" Thursday.

During her 29-year coaching career at the University of California, Los Angeles, Kondos Field led the gymnastics team to 20 championships and seven national championships. She would often tell her team things like "go hard or go home," or "winners make adjustments, losers make excuses," or even make fun of their hair or weight.

"I thought I was funny," she said, but her team told her, "You know what, Miss Val, if we all showed up every day in a great place without the stresses of life, it would be one thing, but you never know what someone else is going through."

Kondos Field said she was "mortified" after the meeting with her team. "I was embarrassed," she said.

She also questioned how she was going to keep winning.

"Thank God I happened upon Coach (John) Wooden's definition of success," Kondos Field said. "He is hailed as the greatest coach that ever lived, and his definition of success is simply, success is peace of mind in knowing you've done your best. He never mentions winning."

Kondos Field changed her approach to coaching because of this. 

"I absolutely believe, and hopefully have proven at least in the later years of my coaching career, you don't have to be a bully to win," she said. "You don't have to demean people to win. You can build them up."  

She also gave a recent TED Talk on why winning doesn't always equal success. "Success for me shifted from only focusing on winning to developing my coaching philosophy which is developing champions in life through sport," she said in the talk in December 2019.

Asked on Thursday what parents can learn from her, Kondos Field said it's time to acknowledge some harsh statistics.

"There are more reports of depression and anxiety and stress and sadly suicide than ever before," she said.

Parents should "focus on the process and the experience and enjoy your child as a unique whole human being," not a "mini version of you and also not someone for your bragging rights," she added.