Tips and advice from those who know
percentage of our aid out-of-state. We recognize that there are
great club coaches all over the
U.S. Talented walk-ons come to
Cal from everywhere.
Often touted as a technical guru of gymnastics, Weiner
continually produces athletes known for their artistry. The
former Temple gymnast is in his 19th year at California-
Berkeley, where he coached the Golden Bears to NCAA
titles in 1997 and ’98. At the 2009 Visa Championships, his
gymnasts grabbed three of the top six all-around spots.
A native of Philadelphia, Weiner, 60, recently shared his
valued insights with IG Editor Dwight Normile.
What are some of the most
common flaws in junior gymnasts that you see? And ones
that are difficult to correct?
Tight shoulders, poor handstands, bad roundoffs. Tight
shoulders, poor handstands, bad
Who were some of the coaches and gymnasts who influenced
you? When I was training, Kato, Kenmotsu, Kasamatsu. Then later,
as a young coach, Bilozerchev, Marinich and Li Ning. Now, so many:
Tomita, Uchimura, Teng Hai Bin, and most recently, Zhang Hong
Tao, to name a few. Most influential coaches: Lois Musgrave, Abie
Grossfeld, Yoichi Tomita, Mas Watanabe and Hideo Mizoguchi. I
would like to add that my teammates, especially Tom Gibbs and Fred
Turoff, have had a positive effect on the way I view gymnastics that
You are viewed as a coach who stresses basics and technique.
Is that how you were coached? Not really. My first gym was the
Germantown YMCA. We coached each other and, for the most part,
were clueless. We had huge fundamental gaps in our gymnastics.
Eventually, we were limited as to how far we could go.
Are you satisfied with the ne w Code of Points for the men? The
FIG kept saying it would reward execution, but the men’s Code,
more so than the women’s, still values difficulty quite a bit.
I am not happy with this Code of Points. Certainly, difficulty is important, but not at the expense of everything else. I don’t think this Code
creates enough separation for the gymnast who has excellent mechanics and body line.
Skills have been removed from the Code. In many cases beautiful
skills, like the Borkai on pommel horse, no longer exist.
There is no balance from event to event; some events score higher
than others. Floor and high bar have
connection bonus while the other
events do not. This affects the out-
come of both the team score and
the all-around. Why should some
events be more important than oth-
What valuable coaching fundamentals have you learned over
the years that you didn’t know when you started? The most
important thing I’ve learned is not to put limits on your student-athletes. Oftentimes guys have surprised me and become better gymnasts
than I thought they would.
but not at
Does Cal’s high academic standards limit who you can successfully recruit. It’s true, the University of California-Berkeley is one of
the world’s great universities. Young men who plan on coming to Cal
need to know they are going to be challenged both in the classroom
and in the gym. Nonetheless, the majority of kids doing well in gymnastics are good students. Our talent pool is larger than you might
Most people talk about gymnasts
getting burned out, but do you
experience burnout as a coach?
If so, how do you re-motivate
yourself? I have experienced
burnout. I went 10 years without a
vacation, and it was costly. I learned that I need to get away from the
gym and recharge my batteries. It needs to be said that my assistant,
Aaron Floyd, is a great coach. Having Aaron around affords me the
opportunity to take some time off.
What do you look for in a gymnast when you are recruiting?
We look for student-athletes with sound basics and good qualities. We
primarily recruit in California because most of our aid is in-state.
Fortunately for us, California is loaded with excellent boys’ programs
led by wonderful coaches. In fact, Region 1 has become arguably the
best region in the country for boys’ gymnastics. Without those guys we
would have a hard time. We do look outside California and spend a
What part of coaching gives you the biggest thrill? There are so
many things I love about being a coach: great workouts; watching your
guys have a great meet; seeing one of your guys who has been struggling for some time finally put it together. I think the biggest thrill is
knowing that, in most cases, the experience student-athletes enjoy at
the University of California has had a positive effect on their lives.
What is your ultimate goal as a coach? Some days my ultimate
goal is not to screw up. Other days my goals are more grandiose, I