Categorized | Elite, Featured, Men's Gymnastics

Brett McClure Addresses Media After World Team Selection

Posted on 28 August 2017 by admin

The following is a transcript of a press conference with Men’s High Performance Director Brett McClure.  The press conference was held at the Honda Center (Anaheim, CA), just hours after the Selection Committee announced the 2017 World Team last Sunday (August 21).  This is a compilation of questions submitted by various media reporters.  

Who is on the team for HB?

Well, we have a world team camp coming up in a couple weeks (September 5th through September 10th at the USOTC in Colorado Springs) and we will basically be able to finalize our lineups once we get out to camp. Right now, we have a couple ideas. There are a few guys that are doing pretty well. Sam obviously, coming back from an Achilles rupture – very very impressive in such a short amount of time for him to do what he did. Marvin had a great performance on HB as well, and we could have a couple other guys in the hunt on that event, but just like any other event we will have to finalize that as we get closer to world championships.

Do you know what the time frame is for Sam Mikulak in terms of dismount? He had to use the extra landing pad (at the P & G Championships)?

Yes, this was part of the process to land on an 8 inch mat this week. In the next week and a half or so, we will start pulling that away and start landing on hard surface again, and he won’t have that 0.5 deduction anymore. So, it’s pretty quick.

Is Sam expected to do events other than PH or HB?

So far these are the only two events he has been training since coming back from the injury. Some of the other events – we all know he is very good at PB – but it’s hard to train that over a hard surface when you are in a boot, or a shoe, or heavily taped. At least with HB you can go over the pit a little bit easier, which was why he was able to do what he did.

Even though Marvin Kimble won two events, he was incredibly inconsistent. You have talked a lot about consistency being the key. How do you reconcile that?

He chose to do the all-around during an individual events world championship selection year, and I commend his efforts there because he is trying to put together all six events. But other guys chose not to do the all-around, more specifically from day one to day two and just focus on their best events. In Marvin’s case, he was able to put together three solid events, so if he chose just to do those events, you would not have seen the falls, so it kind of makes it a little murky, but he executed on the events he’s best at.

With a lot of new faces on this team, what is your level of optimism for success?

In Montreal? Anything can happen. With individual worlds, if you make it into finals, then you’re giving yourself a chance regardless of start value. I was able to make an event final at individual worlds in 2002 in Hungary. I did not have the highest difficulty. In fact, out of the 10.0 system, I was at a 9.9 start value and basically everybody counted me out. I was able to sneak in there and I think a lot of these guys can put themselves in a similar position, go out there and hit a good routine and see where you end up. I think we have a lot of potential to have multiple guys make it to finals.

How much consideration did you give to taking a second all-arounder versus maybe like a Marvin or somebody else who’s got just a couple of events?

A lot. I considered it quite a bit. Looking to the future, which is a four-man team obviously you are going to need four all-arounders, because it’s four up, three count in prelims, and what does that team look like versus an individual worlds? So, we played out multiple scenarios with one all-arounder, two all-arounders, even four all-arounders. But do we want to cut ourselves short right now? Early in the quad, we want as big of a pool to work with as possible, so we are not ready to trim anything down just yet. And so that’s why we wanted to take an opportunity to get as many guys as we can experience.

On media day, one of the words that came up a lot from the guys we interviewed was hit percentage. So, when some people see that Marvin had such a low hit percentage, do you think that will be less than encouraging to some people?

Well, that was in the all-around, yeah so it could be discouraging for, let’s say, a team event. But his hit percentage was pretty good on the three events – (PH, SR, HB) so you go and do that math, then that’s great, we are still applying that mentality that you’ve got to absolutely hit.

When you make the decision to go all-around versus specialist, how much do you look at the international scores to see if there are some weak spots we can pick off?

Absolutely. I have all the international results for the past six months from World Cup events, All Japan Championships, NHK, the Asian Games, European Championships. I’ve compiled the top ten athletes on each event, and we compare start values plus final scores and see where our guys are because I am collecting a lot of data and statistical analysis and see where our potential is on certain events versus the rest of the world, so that definitely plays a big role with the selection committee when figuring out different teams.

How much of the selection is computer driven and how much is human judgement?

Well, we look at the numbers first, they really don’t lie. Performance, ability, and potential to see if you can even contend for certain things. And so that plays a huge role. And you talk about consistency – are you going to be able to execute at that high level under pressure? Those are things we are still figuring out right now as the first year after the Olympic Games and it’s a brand-new group of guys and we are trying to give everybody a clean slate and start right now. The work starts right now with this world championship.

There is still another level (of difficulty) that Yul Moldauer needs to get to if he wants to be in that upper tier on the world level.  What kind of expectations to you set for him?

It’s a process. Right now, his execution score is right there at the top in the world. He’s averaging just barely over a point (of deductions) on execution on each event and not a lot of athletes are doing that. Other athletes may have three, four points higher in difficulty but they are averaging 1.5 – 1.6 in execution (deductions) and you start doing the math and it’s like OK, who’s going to be better that day? Right now, Yul is honing in on consistency and really trying to a great job all around, period and be the rock on the team and show everybody else that he can out there under any circumstance and hit. I think the difficulty is just going to come in time, as he starts to gain more and more confidence and more experience. You will start to see a systematic progression, maybe it’s one tenth here, two tenths over there. It’s not going to be three points in one year. If you say you want three points in start value to be added by 2020, you are going to break it down as finely as you possibly can. What is that equal to?  It’s about 0.25 per event over the next two years. That’s how we are trying to look at this, not just for Yul but for all the guys on the national team. Where do we want to be in four years and how are we going to get there? And it’s really a sit-down conversation with each coach, and that athlete and talk about those things and how we are going to be able to accomplish that.

Regarding the Junior program, between now and Dec 31st 2018, how many international events do you anticipate participating in?

Our Jr. program director, Dusty Ritter is in charge right now of the international assignments, but typically we try to get at least two to three international assignments in any year for the junior program, and right now that could increase. We are sending a couple guys to Yokahoma Japan in a month. We are really excited about that opportunity. We will just have to see how that plays out, but as international assignments come on it is absolutely a priority to get these young guys out there and competing against the rest of the world.

What will make you happy in terms of a world performance? Do you have a number of medals, finals, hit percentage you want to achieve?

Definitely you want to execute what you plan on doing. That will be our main focus. Whatever happens as far as making finals, or making medals or any of that stuff, that’s kind of out of our control. We just have to focus on our job. I think we have potential to make at least five finals, or maybe more. We have to see how that plays out. I think it’s a good goal to have in mind to really focus on your job and hit percentage.

For Donnell Whittenburg, if he makes the ring event finals, will he perform his triple pike (Whittenburg) dismount?

It’s definitely a possibility. We have to look at the numbers. The Whittenburg is such a spectacular dismount, but it’s also very very risky. There is a reason why it’s valued so high – no one else in the world has done it. We will have to see. He has a very clean laid out double double too that maybe he can stick more often, but again we will have to see how the world team camp goes and play it by ear.

Are there any possible changes in line ups after the training camp? When will the final decision on lineups be made?

Absolutely. There could be some changes in the line ups. The whole purpose of this camp is to find out where everybody is and test them both mentally and physically before we make our final decisions in the line ups. Some guys could not make any lineups. We have no idea. We might all of a sudden have multiple all arounders. There is a lot that can happen in six weeks. I’m going to prepare the guys like they are going to do everything and we will start to trim back as we get closer to the competition.

Will there be a judging panel for competitions at training camp?

Absolutely. We have a few officials that have been selected to go world championships and they will be invited to the world team camp, and will be provided the opportunity to judge the whole team and provide feedback and and see where each individual is.

When you look back at the last two quads and know that you have a fresh start and can implement new processes, what are some of the things you want to change about the program?

I definitely want to pick up the intensity at the national team camp level. I feel like our guys could benefit from being in a more stressful environment more frequently so we can start to practice our mental process and every other process on a more frequent basis, so we can fine tune and really look at that last two to five percent that it takes to change fifth place to on the podium. Because all of you know how crazy gymnastics is, especially on the men’s side. It is very, very competitive. A tenth here or there can mean a world of difference.

Have you considered changing the selection process to be more in line with what the rest of the world (and the U.S. women) do – naming a training squad at their nationals and narrowing down to the final team at the last minute?

Yes, there have been a lot of discussions on how to select teams. Constantly. Right now, we select earlier than most just so we can get the team together – build that team camaraderie and atmosphere and get to know each other. We don’t train together as much as the girls’ team. The men are older, some have children, some have jobs, have to take care of their families. It’s a whole different sport and expectation level. We are continuously trying to improve that process to create that type of atmosphere. If we can figure that out, maybe we can start pushing back that selection process a little bit later and closer to the competition. Right now, this is the system that works well for us and we will continue to evaluate it moving forward.

Is it a little bit easier to adjust the environment of the camps when you have so many new guys in there? When the new coach comes in and you have a bunch of old guys on the team, when you try to change it up sometimes it doesn’t go so well.

I know exactly what you are talking about. I have done it – going over to UC Berkeley and taking over that program and trying to change a team culture – or anything. It is definitely a little bit easier when you have a new group of people to work with, because everybody is new and everybody is kind of figuring things out. Implementing change becomes a bit easier and everybody is ready to buy in. This team is young and definitely impressionable and they are a 100%. What I am most thankful for is our leadership from the two veterans (Sam Mikulak and Alex Naddour). They have done a phenomenal job of telling the younger guys that we do need to make some changes and this is the direction we need to be going, and giving that little extra comfort level or faith in the new way that we are doing things. It’s exciting to see and it’s really bringing the team together.

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1 Comments For This Post

  1. Dave Says:

    Marvin hit only one event both days: Rings. He had a significant error on high bar, costing him 4 tenths SV, on day 1 and fell on pommel horse. That’s a dismal hit percentage, even if only talking about the three events McClure specifies.

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