Tuesday, October 22

Gymnastics’ Ellette Craddock back in starting rotation


Coach Valorie Kondos Field said that getting Ellette Craddock back onto the competitive lineup involved a mental exercise to reinforce her convictions. (Tim Bradbury/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Coach Valorie Kondos Field said that getting Ellette Craddock back onto the competitive lineup involved a mental exercise to reinforce her convictions. (Tim Bradbury/Daily Bruin senior staff)


Redshirt sophomore Ellette Craddock has had a wobbly career on
balance beam.

Two years ago, she competed in just one meet for UCLA gymnastics. Last year, she tore a tendon in her finger and had to sit out the season. But at the start of this year, she made her way onto the team’s competitive rotation.

Consistency became a factor for the gymnast who didn’t have a solid foundation of competitive experience at the collegiate level to draw from. And it became an additional element she needed to balance whenever she had to stand four feet off the ground on top of a 3.9-inch-wide beam.

All it took was one rough patch. Trying to correct her mistakes led to a chain reaction of others, and it placed Craddock in a slump.

On Feb. 22, against Stanford, her name was once again nowhere to be found on UCLA’s rotation list – she had to earn her way back to the lineup one more time.

Coach Valorie Kondos Field knew that in order to get Craddock back on the right track, she had to start with changing the way Craddock thinks – Kondos Field took on the role of a psychologist.

“We had this talk. She thought I was a little bit crazy,” Kondos Field said. “I just started asking her exactly, ‘What do you believe?’”

The questions kept coming, one after another: What did Craddock believe in life? Did Craddock believe in evolution or creation? Her answers to those questions didn’t matter; the real significance was that she had answers.

Kondos Field wanted to reinforce Craddock’s beliefs, and through that, reinforce her ability to perform.

“That is her personality,” Kondos Field said. “She doesn’t really have a strong conviction about anything, and I believe that translates to her gymnastics.”

Ultimately, Kondos Field’s attempts to guide a change in Craddock’s cognition paid off. And just like that, Craddock brought a new attitude and swagger to Yates Gymnasium.

“Sometimes it seems very out there, to put it simply, but ultimately I understand the intentions of the team and what it means to be on this team and how to have a good attitude,” Craddock said. “I really had to step out of myself for a little bit and understand how are we going to get to national championships and have no regrets at the end of the season.”

Her improved performances on beam in practice were convincing enough to land her another go in the starting rotation on beam.

She was back to competing in full force in the Pac-12 championships in Berkeley and did it again in the NCAA regionals in Fayetteville, Ark.

“It was like a switch just came on,” said senior Olivia Courtney. “She’s a lot happier. She looked like she really wanted to do it, which made everyone really excited. That gave us all confidence that she should be competing, so she definitely earned her spot in the lineup.”

With NCAAs coming up on April 18, Craddock, now brimming with excitement, looks set to be a steady fixture for UCLA as she gets poised to compete in her first NCAA championship meet.

After all, Craddock didn’t go through the slump without learning anything.

“Everyone has a hard time here and there,” she said. “What you learn when you’re coming out of it is more important.”

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