When thinking about what it takes to be a pole vault coach most only see what happens on meet days and even that is often confusing because there are many coaches out there trying to sound smart and giving an over abundance of technical cues just to sound smart. So what does it take to be a pole vault coach? There are three pivotal roles a pole vault coach must take on and without understanding and doing each your coaching is incomplete.
The technical aspect of coaching is much like that of a martial arts instructor. A pole vault coach must instruct an athlete on all the different skills of running, jumping, pole carry and plant, as well as off the ground mechanics. And it is our job to make sure our athletes reach “black belt” levels of skill acquisition in all these disciplines. This is the work done at “pole vault practice.” And just as it takes about 10 years for a martial arts student to reach black belt levels, the same could be said of pole vaulters in all the skills that are required in pole vaulting.
The second hat we must wear as competent pole vault coaches is that of the Strength and Conditioning Coach. Even if you are lucky enough to have a Strength and Conditioning Coach at your high school or college you need to have an understanding of what your athletes are doing in their strength sessions. You need to know how those workouts effect them, how they benefit them and how they can gel with pole vault practice. You need to be able to work with and communicate with the Strength and Conditioning Coach, and the only way you can do that is if you have an understanding of some of the methods and practices that are used in strength and conditioning. You cannot expect a professional strength and conditioning coach to take you seriously if you don’t understand strength and conditioning yourself.
All too often I hear about Pole Vault Coaches who argue, dislike, or alienate the Strength and Conditioning coach and yet have no idea how Strength and Conditioning work to improve an athlete’s performance. If you are still that person that doesn’t want pole vaulter to lift because “they’ll get big and bulky” you aren’t exploring how to improve an athlete’s performance through improving their athleticism.
The most visible aspect of coaching the pole vault is meet day. Your athletes see you at every practice, but now you are at meet, officials, parents, and maybe most intimidating other coaches are now watching you. I often see coaches who are afraid to communicate at meets in fear that another coach may hear their coaching cue and judge them. Well I have never seen a NASCAR Crew Cheif that has ever cared what anyone else thinks on race day, and neither should you. The other critical factor with coaching on meet day is that you can’t teach technique. Your only job during the meet is adjusting variables. What are those variables? Grip, pole stiffness, step, and standards are the variables that must be managed during the meet. Any coaching cues during the meet should be kept to a minimum and should be simple; jump up, stay tall etc.
Now keep in mind each role a pole vault coach has, technique, strength and conditioning, and meet management play an important role. If we give each role an even importance that means each account for 33% of a coach’s result. If you ignore one role you lose 33% of your performance, if you ignore two, 66% of your job is being ignored. If you don’t think that’s a big deal just give me 33% of your salary then. Yea i figured you might think 33% is a big deal now. Be a complete coach, not two thirds.