La Jolla Athlete of the Week: Victor Joulin-Batejat takes a cerebral approach to gymnastics

Victor Joulin-Batejat is a gymnast at The Bishop’s School in La Jolla.

When it comes to training in the higher-level competitive gymnastics that Victor Joulin-Batejat has reached, the hardest part isn’t developing tremendous physical strength or committing to hours of practice. It’s building mental strength.

“It takes a lot of time to build that confidence,” said Victor, 14, a freshman at The Bishop’s School in La Jolla. “The physical training is just like any other sport. We do drills for the skills, and the strength training. There is a lot of buildup; our coaches don’t just throw us in the deep end. But every time, it just comes down to taking a breath and going for it.”

Before every event in which he participates, he has to think about all the little details needed to succeed. Pointing his toes. When to tuck during a floor routine.

“We are supposed to, before an event, think about all the components [of a routine] so we don’t forget,” he said. “We can have the skills, but the little things end up killing us. We take a lot of deep breaths because it can be nerve-wracking. We think about the little things and then try to keep our nerves down.

“Practicing is itself is a great way to keep our nerves down. Once we have a certain thing, our muscle memory takes over. That’s how we prepare and keep calm. If we are doing something we are used to, we don’t get nervous.”

Bishop's School freshman Victor Joulin-Batejat completes the rings event at a recent competition.

Boys compete in six gymnastics events: floor exercise, pommel horse, still rings, vault, parallel bars (or P-bars) and high bar.

While high bar is currently Victor’s favorite, he said he likes the overall variety that gymnastics offers.

“There aren’t many other sports that are like gymnastics,” he said. “The six events are all different and bring their own things to the table. They are varied. We might hold grudges against certain events because they are not what we’re good at, but we have the others.”

Victor’s favorite thing about the sport is that a gymnast “can’t cheat,” he said. “You have to hold yourself accountable for everything you do. Your performance relies on you. Our coach says, ‘What you put in, you get out.’ So if I put in the effort, I get the good scores.”

Victor was born in France and got into gymnastics after he and his family moved to North Carolina.

When he was 7, “I wanted to find a sport I could really get into. I tried baseball, soccer and your more traditional types. It wasn’t for me. My sister was doing cheerleading and they also did gymnastics in the same gym. That got me started.”

At age 9, Victor and his family moved to La Jolla and built on his competitive skills. Three years ago, he started training at and competing through Champion Gymnastics & Cheer in Santee.

JJ Ross, head coach and chief executive of Champion Gymnastics, said Victor is part of the reason the athletes who train there do well.

“We try to create a sense of family here, and he is the big brother to all of them,” Ross said. “There is no attitude that the big guys are cool and the little guys aren’t; the little ones can go right up to him and ask him questions or watch him and he welcomes it. He understands self-reliance and discipline and I respect what he can do athletically. But maybe even more so, I respect that he is an incredible friend to these kids, regardless of their age.”

Victor also is evolving physically from learning and committing to routines and building his own.

“He has excelled in compulsory-based gymnastics where everyone does the same thing,” Ross said. “He is getting out of that realm into articulating and understanding the sport so it has a science behind it. Victor can build his own routines and strives to be the best he can. Everyone has peaks and valleys and he always takes the highs and lows. It radiates from him naturally. He’s an old soul and a great one.”

Off the mat, Victor enjoys computer sciences, English and history.

“I’m one of those weird people that really likes school,” he said with a laugh. “I also really like programming and robotics.”

Victor is part of a new service club at The Bishop’s School called Youth.learn.programming, or YLP. The club works with students of elementary through high school ages. Victor teaches an introductory course in Python, a programming language, to fifth-graders.

“It’s something I enjoy in general, so it’s a fun experience getting to teach it,” he said. “I get to pass on those skills and give it to younger students. I love it when they really get something and can apply it. When they get excited about it, it’s a good feeling.”

Additionally, Victor has been active with the school’s robotics team. “I’ve taught him how to use two-dimensional design software to guide the laser cutter, and he made a plexiglass frame for a robot,” said Bishop’s teacher Marcus Jaiclin.

“He also participated in an international demonstration competition in simulated robot soccer, where he coded a goalie robot that was the most effective of any of the teams from our school. He’s shown a lot of intellectual curiosity and interest in robotics and wants to learn all the different aspects of how to build and program robots.”

La Jolla Athlete of the Week features athletes from all sports in high school (La Jolla High, The Bishop’s School, La Jolla Country Day School) and other local youth sports. We’re looking not only for the stars of competition but also for student-athletes who set an example for teamwork, academic achievement and/or community involvement. Please email your nominations, and a way to reach your nominees, to Editor Rob Vardon at