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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Cal males’s gymnastics sixth-years Darren Wong and Miles Lee exemplify true management

Most individuals don’t proceed sports activities past highschool, fewer go on to compete on the Division I degree, and subsequent to none get the chance to do it for six years. Darren Wong and Miles Lee each seized the chance to return to UC Berkeley for a fifth, and now sixth, yr to compete for the gymnastics staff.

Once I first began planning this story, I used to be going to give attention to the truth that they had been each sixth-year worldwide college students; Darren is from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and Yu-Chen “Miles” Lee is from Taipei, Taiwan. As I started writing, I spotted there was a way more essential story that wanted to be instructed.

After a mixed 12 years on the staff and some too many accidents, the factor that stood out essentially the most about Darren and Miles was their management. They joined Cal in fall 2018 as freshmen and can depart in 2024 not as named captains however skilled leaders who’re coaching the subsequent technology of Bears and solidifying the way forward for Cal males’s gymnastics… and males’s gymnastics within the NCAA. 

I sat down with Cal Head Coach JT Okada and Affiliate Head Coach Bryan Del Castillo to be taught extra about their relationship with Darren and Miles. Talking on their recruitment, Okada knew that they each had a great deal of expertise and self-discipline that may show to be helpful for the staff. Okada talked about that Cal has a wealthy historical past of worldwide gymnastics, and Darren and Miles becoming a member of the staff would additional this legacy.

Darren was a former Canadian Nationwide Staff member, and Okada would see him round at Nationwide Staff camps. Paired with the truth that Darren’s outdated membership teammate, Aaron Mah, was a profitable Cal Bear, Okada noticed “what a superb match [Darren] can be on the staff.” Whereas Darren was a extra conventional worldwide pupil, Okada talked about that he didn’t understand Miles was from Taiwan till later within the recruitment course of. He all the time knew Miles as a California gymnast, seeing him at varied camps and clinics in California rising up. What stood out to Okada was Miles’ exhausting work and self-discipline. 

Darren’s collegiate journey was unconventional to say the least. After a robust rookie season, the COVID-19 pandemic, adopted by poorly-timed accidents, shortly consumed his profession. He tore each of his Achilles and his ACL over the subsequent three years. As a substitute of accepting defeat, Darren took a step again and used his expertise and gymnastics experience to information his teammates from the sidelines.

Senior and present captain of the staff Noah Newfeld mentioned, “Darren has quite a lot of knowledge; he’s seen the highs and lows of gymnastics.” Newfeld spoke to the various conversations he and Darren had out and in of the gymnasium, speaking for hours about character and analyzing what it means to be a pacesetter. Expressing the utmost gratitude, Newfeld says, “Darren’s an enormous affect on me rising right into a management function. It was the numerous late nights and deep conversations that helped me be taught and develop.” Darren was not ready to encourage his teammates together with his gymnastics, so he used his phrases and information of the game as an alternative.

When requested about what sort of legacy he desires to depart, Darren mentioned, “I need to be seen as a pacesetter, a mentor, and most significantly a superb gymnast; somebody who labored exhausting and was a useful resource for others.” In response to the staff, Darren is greater than a teammate, “He’s a pacesetter, a mentor, and a 3rd coach.”

Del Castillo mentioned considered one of Darren’s strengths is how he communicates with the fellows on the staff. “We don’t hear what the conversations are about, however we hear how impactful they’re and we are able to see how these conversations change the staff’s mindset for the higher.”

Darren had each proper to stroll away from gymnastics, however the sport and his teammates had been too essential to him.

Senior David Rauchwerger referred to as Darren a “superhero”, saying he’s “probably the most mentally robust gymnasts I’ve ever met. [He] sat on the sideline for 3 years and watched his teammates do the game he loves. It needed to be mentally taxing… it’s wonderful to see his dedication and motivation to proceed preventing.”

One can solely think about the interior battles Darren fought to seek out his drive and to proceed to this present day. As a former teammate myself, I can attest to the function Darren performed on the staff. Should you ask him, he would most likely say it was nothing, however to the remainder of the staff, his knowledge, his experiences, and his presence is reassuring and provoking. 

Should you ask anybody who is aware of Miles Lee what sort of particular person he’s, they’ll inform you he’s the toughest working particular person they’ve ever met. Head Coach Okada mentioned, “By no means as soon as in six years have I [seen] Miles telephone it in.” Whether or not or not it’s observe, competitors, or rehab, Miles is locked in and offers it 100% each single time.

For the primary two-thirds of his profession, Miles led by instance, performing because the function mannequin and goal for the remainder of the staff. Newfeld talked concerning the “duo-type scenario” he and Miles had; each being all-arounders, the 2 would usually group up and hold one another accountable throughout coaching. Newfeld mentioned his favourite recollections with Miles had been “difficult one another to complete pre-meet and feeding off one another’s vitality and motivation in coaching each day.” 

Just like Darren, accidents managed the second half of Miles’ collegiate profession and compelled him to take his foot off the fuel pedal. Talking about this new function on the staff, Miles mentioned, “Accidents helped me be taught what being part of a staff is. I needed to be taught a brand new kind of management.”

Regardless of the obstacles Miles has confronted, he mentioned the silver lining is that, “Folks present you they care. I’m grateful as a result of this new function has proven me what an actual staff appears like.” He says this yr is his favourite, primarily as a result of he has realized lots and reworked as a gymnast and as an individual during the last six years, and he seems like he really is aware of what it means to be part of a staff and the way he can greatest contribute out and in of the gymnasium.

Rauchwerger mentioned it’s been inspiring to see Miles develop into this management function, admitting he obtained to see one other facet of him. “Miles is there each step of the way in which and is the largest cheerleader and has essentially the most outpouring assist for his brothers on the staff. His mentality is so inspirational, and I can’t wait to see him again on the ground this yr.”

Apart from his work ethic, my favourite factor about Miles once I was on the staff was his positivity and consciousness. He all the time made you are feeling heard and revered each out and in of the gymnasium, and he was all the time the primary one to select you up while you had been down. 

Darren and Miles share related mindsets of their sixth season. They’re most excited for what they name the “grind.” They’re wanting to get again on the market and provides it their all with their brothers.

Miles mentioned, “Darren and I’d discuss taking a sixth yr collectively lots… I do know what I’m able to, and I need to return to competing for Cal and being an important member of the staff. I don’t have any regrets in any respect – this resolution is about a lot greater than myself. I’m doing this for me, however I’m additionally doing this for the seniors who weren’t given the chance to return after COVID hit in 2020. I simply need to end sturdy.”

Darren and Miles are each wanting ahead to competing with one another one remaining time in addition to getting one remaining season with the staff.

Talking on the significance of the staff, Wong mentioned, “Gymnastics is a person sport, and being at Cal was the primary time that I actually skilled being on a staff. The fellows are my brothers, and we undergo hell collectively. It has been such a particular and life-changing expertise that taking a sixth yr was a no brainer for me.”

Darren and Miles’ tenacity and dedication to themselves and their staff is inspiring. Whereas each served as staff captain for a few seasons, they’re taking a step again this yr. Coach Okada mentioned, “Darren and Miles are taking the subsequent step when it comes to management. They’re each impactful with their perception and experiences, however they don’t must be out entrance anymore. They’re serving to to develop new leaders.”

There’s a sure degree of maturity that’s wanted to be glad about your experiences as a captain after which transition to work on empowering others and constructing a robust basis for years to return.

During the last six years, Darren and Miles have develop into nice leaders and even higher individuals. There’s not a doubt in my thoughts that the 2 will give it their all whereas dwelling within the current and soaking in each second of their remaining season.

On behalf of myself and the Cal males’s gymnastics program, Darren and Miles, thanks for all the things. 

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