Pole Speed and Speed of the Jump
Pole speed is how quickly an athlete’s pole passes through vertical. Pole speed is a very good indicator of how well you can translate your runway speed into the jump. The athlete that can generate the most pole speed can grip higher than an athlete that does not generate good pole speed. The speed of the jump is how quickly an athlete can complete their jump, this is the moment the athlete leaves the ground to the moment they clear the bar. The faster the speed of the jump the more efficient or the more that an athlete can clear above their handgrip.
When coaching athletes you have to monitor the pole speed and the speed of the jump and continue to improve both. What many people don’t realize is that often athletes are capable of generating good pole speed when doing just a take off drill, but then when they need to swing they lose pole speed and often have to grip lower when doing a full jump.
One way to see how well these two factors are working together is by isolating them and having athletes do just take off, no swing. Watch for the pole speed the athletes can generate. Now you can cue things that will help pole speed: run, jump, plant, etc. Once you find a grip that is not too easy for the athlete, or too hard you can add a long swing. When doing this I tend allow the athlete to have a grip that is a blow through and create a jump for distance instead of height. Once the athlete adds a swing, does the pole speed slow down, stay the same or speed up. If they have a long swing and accelerate the swing with their bottom arm by pulling their hips past their hands the pole speed should accelerate.
However if the pole speed slows down once the swing is added you need to figure out what is causing the loss of speed. They could perhaps be changing their jumping mechanics to swing. Athletes often try to lean forward at take off when they swing instead of staying tall. As soon as you make them aware of this, they become conscience of what they are doing and correct it. Another problem is if the athlete pushes against the pole. The push will actually cause the athlete to lean back in the swing, which will slow the pole speed and prevent his or her center of gravity, their hips, from getting past their hands.
Some people may disagree with what I am describing about the bottom arm, but I implore people to watch their athletes do take off only. Watch the pole speed carefully. Then have them swing. If your athlete’s pole speed slows down, you must try and figure out what is slowing down the pole speed. The pole speed established with take off should be the same if not better once you add a swing.
Some people jump high because they have a great take off and can grip high, others have a very fast efficient jump. If you look at each aspect separately as a coach you can figure out what the focus should be in training depending on what an athlete is deficient in, pole speed or speed of the jump. If an athlete has poor pole speed working on pole carry, running mechanics, planting, and jumping are in need. Also improving your speed and jumping ability will help. If you are lacking speed of the jump you must see what delays they have in their jump and eliminate them. As far as training you might want the athlete to work on their upper body strength.