Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Why I'm Confused by UCLA's Crowdfunding Campaign

Watch the video for yourself

This level of fluff might fly with wealthy donors in L.a. L.a. Land, but we, the gymternet, are smarter than this. When things don't add up, we notice, and we respond. Let's break this down… 

A few key sentences from the video that make you go, "Huh?"

All right, let's establish the thesis of this video. Essentially, UCLA "wants to win an NCAA Championship and bring another one home to Westwood."

How are they going to do that? By practicing on podium all year.

Right now, they're practicing on mats… on top of concrete! Yes, this is truly an outrage! 

What team does that?

Oh, wait, right… Pretty much everyone, including the 2014 World Champions…

Really, just stop to think about UCLA's plight for a second. They are complaining about the fact that there is concrete flooring in their gym – UNDER the mats. #FirstWorldProbz

Do you hear Simone Biles asking the world to build podiums for her? If Simone Biles – mind you, a future Bruin and a gymnast who is more accomplished than anyone on the UCLA gymnastics team – can train on a regular gym floor, I think that UCLA can manage.

Oh, and if you're worried that the UCLA gymnasts might step onto concrete and get hurt, I hear that panel mats are pretty cheap. If you can't spring for panel mats, foam does wonders, too. That's what most gyms do.

Side note: I love that they keep talking about "risers." But none of their footage actually comes from the NCAA Championships. Thus, none of their footage actually comes from podium meets.

Anyway, the video goes on to tell us that the UCLA team will be able to raise the trampoline. Like, why? I thought that they wanted risers so that they could be more competitive at Championships? When did trampoline become an NCAA event?

Anyway, what's going to be the end result of this podium training? Not just NCAA Championships! Oh, no! They are going to expand their fan base by training on podiums!

If podiums are the silver bullet for expanding fan bases, I want podiums in every men's NCAA gym!

So… Yeah… Clearly, there are a lot of logical flaws in this video. They didn't spend enough time on the ideation of this video. Some people can forgive that. I can't. I hate to say it, but when something is completely illogical, it makes me very, very skeptical.

You know, I'm willing to give UCLA the benefit of the doubt. Honestly, I am. But before I can donate, I need to have some questions answered.

The Questions That Remain Unanswered

1. Why isn't your athletics department covering this expense? I know enough about how university budgets work to know that the money should come from your athletics department.

2. What is the timeline for this project? You never mention this in your video. When can we expect results? Your webpage says it will start in the summer of 2015, but when will it be completed?

3. How will we know that our money is going to risers and not to sequins on leotards? You are a public university. You have to disclose financial information. It's your obligation to your tax payers, and I actually reside in the state of California. So, it is your obligation to me to disclose this information. For instance, it is no secret that Miss Val made $162,469.00 in 2013. I'd expect the same kind of transparency from your fundraising efforts.

4. In that vein, what happens to the donations if you do not reach $150,000? With Kickstarter campaigns, all the money is returned to the donors. Where will the money go if you fall short of $150k?

5. What's the real reason that you are doing this campaign? Gymnastics fans know that "winning championships by training on podiums" is a B.S. premise.

I think that your social media director gave me one heck of a hint today:

This is a safety issue, isn't it? Chris alludes to it in the video, and your social media director admitted it on Twitter.

So, what's really going on?

Did your insurance costs go up this year?

Is the insurance company upset because your athletes have had ACL tears and Achilles tears?

Did a rec gymnast get hurt because they fell on the concrete floors or tripped on a mat because something wasn't level?

Heck, is your the concrete base of your gym floor level?

All those issues seem much more plausible than this notion that training on risers = National Championships.

And you know what? I'd be more willing to donate if you leveled with me. (Get the pun there?)

I get it. I get it. I might not be the target audience of your video. But you know what's an easy way to alienate your loyal gymnastics supporters? By making false promises.

Gymnastics fans will remember this moment for a long time. If you don't win an NCAA Championship as a team before Simone Biles arrives at UCLA, the gymternet will mock your podiums for a very, very, very long time. Mark my words.

6. Finally, why? Really, why should we contribute to your podiums? Aren't there more pressing issues in the world of gymnastics? Say, donating to the Ukrainian Gymnastics Federation or trying to save men's NCAA gymnastics – a cause that should be near and dear to the heart of Chris Waller.

Maybe the gymternet is not skeptical like I am, but the video didn't leave me with a desire to donate. It left me scratching my head, going, WHAT THE FUCHS-BRAUSE did I just watch?


  1. Yes, thank you. I thought the same thing. Also, I thought "hmm, so if you train on podiums all season for only a handful of comps that are actually on podiums, won't that actually mess with your ability to do well in the run up to the podium meets. I mean, because you are used to training on podiums then go on hard concrete floor in most meets?"

  2. I don't get the part where they say that putting in a podium will make everything "level". If all equipment, including trampolines and whatnot, is getting raised onto the podium, won't the surface still be as "uneven" as before?

    I get that training on a podium is probably better on the gymnasts' joints than training on concrete. Even just going from equipment on concrete to equipment on a gymnasium floor, you can tell the difference. There is more "give" to the floor. But they didn't present it as a safety issue. They presented it as a way to make it easier to win a National title. Why not present it as a safety issue that in turn can help them stay healthier and give them a better chance to win a National title?

  3. One interesting side note. The UCLA gym in the 1980s was on risers, something like a podium. They had 3 different levels in the gym: floor, resi-pit, foam-pit.

    I loved it.

    If I built my own gym, I'd use the old UCLA pit system.

  4. Thank you for calling them out! All of your points were spot on, so I really have nothing to add. I've been in this sport over 40 years-the sad thing is how many people will buy this bullcrap while those of us savvy in the real world of gymnastics will not. That's why I'm glad there are people like you to speak up:)

  5. I think asking their fans to donate $250K for a podium is the biggest load of BS. They compete on podium one meet per year! The cost of the podium is over half of the total budget! What a waste of money! I guess maybe they can justify it since the majority of the cash for this particular item will be coming from donations and not from the school? In any case, training on a podium is not going to make you a national champion. I think they want to have a podium in their training gym just to say they have one when no one else does.

  6. I was told that Val is doing this as she thinks by having a podium always set up, she will suddenly be used by usag as a training site, like a ranch of the west. Saving them money. Stupid, delusional. This will not help their under performing seasons. The problem why they are not winning nationals is more about coaching then it is about not competing on a podium. They get the best recruits and have no problem recruiting, it seems that everyone wants to go there, but I scratch my head as they always always under perform. What they need is new coaching personnel.

  7. This is purely about aesthetics since they do not have the money or space to build a new gym like other top programs. Its not about a podium, its not about safety, its about the look of a new gym.

    1. The gym looks fine to me. It looks better than most gyms actually as it has a nice high ceiling with no exposed insulation or beams. Most gyms have exposed internal structure that just looks like a big shed/warehouse. Who's going to see it anyway? It doesn't appear to have much of a audience area. They don't host comps in there do they? Serious gymnasts won't care about the aesthetics of the interior.

  8. Would they be the only NCAA gymnastics team using a podium for everyday? The U of U photos don't look like there's anything of the sort. I was just looking at a video of some training at the Gators' Ted Crom Center and it doesn't look "special". If any, which teams do have a podium set-up?

  9. Dr. Uncle Tim, we miss you!

  10. great post :) its inspired :)

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