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Q&A Session: Head Coach J.T. Okada, Cal Men’s Gymnastics

For the seventh-consecutive season, the No. 11 California men's gymnastics team qualified for the NCAA Championships, as announced by the NCAA Men's Gymnastics Committee on April 6. The NCAA Championships will be held on April 16 and 17 from Maturi Pavilion in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The Bears are coming off of a fourth-place showing at the MPSF Championships on April 3.

Please consider a gift to men’s gymnastics in the Roll On campaign to support exceptional student-athlete experiences. Thank you to everyone who has made gifts to the campaign to support your favorite programs and Cal initiatives.


Head coach J.T. Okada shares his insights on the team’s season.

What are you most proud about your team this season as they returned to competition during the pandemic?

“I am most proud that we have been able to go further than we were able to last season! We were two regular season and two postseason meets short of completing the 2019-2020 season and to have already gone further this year really is a great accomplishment.”

How have you seen the team progress this season as you head into the postseason?

I have seen the team members adapt to their various roles on the team by increasing their difficulty and execution on their events. Taking ownership of your events and routines is something that, as a young team, can be difficult to do especially with a shortened preseason like we've had.”

Your team gave a season-best effort against No. 1 Oklahoma. What impressed you about your team's performance and Yu-Chen Lee, who earned MPSF Gymnast of the Week after that meet?

To say Yu-Chen is a hard worker is actually an understatement. He is tireless in his pursuit of getting better day in and day out, and he's helped this team many times this season including in our regular-season best score. I'm again really impressed with how this team has adapted to challenges both individually and as a group.”

Talk about the leadership and growth of your team's top two all-arounders:

Noah Newfeld and Kyle Abe?

For Kyle, this has been a long time coming. As a junior, he's finally determined to not only be a contributor, but a leader on every event. This lands him in a leadership position as one of the team members pushing for all-around success. For Noah Newfeld, this is a glimpse of what he can build on in the coming years of his college career. Having already made many improvements from when he arrived at Cal, Noah is sure to grow in his leadership as he continues his journey through this experience.”

Your program had five Academic All-MPSF selections last season. How do you develop the academic part of your team's outstanding championship culture?

Simply put, we prioritize academics. We often speak about being a full-time student and then being a gymnast, and how we value the life successes you can have in the future over any immediate gymnastics success. This keeps us grounded and connected to the bigger picture.”

Without fans in the stands, how does the team get fired up to compete before a competition? Are there other challenges for your student-athletes performing at their peak with COVID restrictions in place?

“Anyone not competing at that moment are our fans, coaches included! We've recognized the difference of not having the same atmosphere as before and have quite literally practiced to replace the fans in the stands with cheers from our team corral. Yes there are many other challenges due to COVID protocols, but we don't dwell on the things out of our control. We focus on what is within our control and keep rolling on!”

The Cal Benefit Cup plays an important role in the team meeting its annual fund goals, but it was cancelled this year due to the pandemic. What are some of the funding priorities the Cal community will be supporting with a gift to the Roll On campaign to support men's gymnastics?

The Cal Benefit Cup is indeed our largest fundraiser and really helps sustain our team from year to year. For that reason, with the Roll On campaign we are hoping that many donors that usually donate to other sports, will also consider a donation to our team. This is an extremely grateful group of young men who have dedicated as much time and effort as any of the other sports at Cal, and for that we are asking for the wider donor community to donate to their experiences!”


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