Tips and advice from those who know
Does the popularity of soccer in Mexico kill the interest in
gymnastics for boys? Yeah, I think so. Out of 10 boys, 10
are in soccer [laughs].
Through his success with 20-year-old Elsa Garcia at Regio Club
in Monterrey, Barraza is generally seen as the coaching face of
Mexican gymnastics. But he is quick to dispel that myth and
credit his large gym staff, which includes wife Teresa Lopez. The
affable coach recently spoke with IG Editor Dwight Normile about
his coaching philosophy and the future of Mexican gymnastics.
Gymnastics is a small sport in Mexico, and you are up
against great odds when competing with countries such
as the U.S. and China. What gives you the most satisfaction? The biggest satisfaction is that we have a nice program
and a nice staff. And the whole staff has the same goal: We
love our country and we love our sport, and we want to
express and show that we are here.
Explain your coaching philosophy.
As you know, some years ago, [the
age of] gymnasts changed after Nadia
(in 1976). And in recent years, the
best gymnasts are between 18 and
23—most of them. This is one of the
reasons we are ‘cooking slow.’ But
there are more reasons. One of them
is that we don’t have that many gymnasts, so we have to be very safe
about their [training] program.
Elsa Garcia is a good example of
that, isn’t she? How did it feel
when she won the Longines Prize
for Elegance at the 2009 Worlds?
Elsa’s a good example, Marisela
(Cantú) is a good example. [Her
award] was very nice for the club, for the program, because
Elsa is like, at this moment, the highest step for everybody in
the program [and] a nice example for the little ones.
Is gymnastics shown on television very often in Mexico?
Yes, but from the United States, not from Mexico [laughs]. We
see more gymnastics from the
United States than Mexican gymnas-
tics. We have ESPN, so we see some
competitions from universities
(NCAA) and some internationals. …
When they show something about
Mexican gymnastics, it’s usually just
on a news program, like 10 seconds.
That’s why Elsa’s very important in
Mexico, because she caught the
media like nobody in the past, and
it’s good for the sport. We have had
a lot of good gymnasts—Denisse
Lopez, Brenda Magaña—but Elsa
has something and the media know
her and she’s good with the media.
Barraza and Garcia at the 2009 London Worlds
What is the potential of the junior program in Mexico?
We competed in Brazil some months ago, and [Karla Salazar]
was the highest scorer for Mexico, and with that score we won
a place in the Youth Olympics this year in Singapore. But we
haven’t decided who [will go]. …Karla is a very nice promise,
but we have at least six kids like her, so they are going to support Elsa and Marisela for the Central American Games
(Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, in July). I hope we perform well,
because this competition deserves the best effort from everybody.
What is Elsa Garcia’s schedule
for the coming year, and how is
her travel funded? The schedule for Elsa starts [with] the
American Cup, and then the Central American Games, and we
have a trial for the Pacific Rim Championships in Australia.
Some of the kids belong to a national program … [which
oversees all] sports in Mexico, so that’s why Elsa can travel.
CONADE is the name. They give the support.
Can Elsa continue to improve? You won’t believe this, but
London (2009 World Championships) was her first competition
after 12, 13 months. She did well. She could have done better,
but she didn’t do what she is capable of doing. She’s preparing
new skills, especially on floor and on beam, and she’s trying to
get perfection in all of her routines.
What kind of a trend is Mexican gymnastics on now?
Upward, downward? Elsa opened a big door, and now I think
a lot of kids are going through that door. I think she inspired a
lot of gymnasts, but we don’t have that many clubs or gymnasts.
Are you satisfied with the new scoring system, with separate marks for difficulty and execution? You know, I try not
to think too much about judging. Otherwise, I will go crazy
[smiles]. So we enjoy [gymnastics] and we let the judges and the
FIG do whatever they want.