Context is Key
Are straight pole drills are the best drills, and the key to jumping high. Maybe? It all depends on context. Are we discussing beginners, experts, what part of the season are we talking about? What weakness in the vault are we trying to address? When is your next meet? What are your personal goals? Knowing the context of a drill or progression is needed before we prescribe them to athletes.
We all tend to romanticize whatever we recently did to get a pr and tell the world that everyone should join us and do it too. We see this in the workout world, diet, business and really every facet of life. And here’s the important part, maybe for you, at that point in your development as a vaulter or the vaulter you were coaching, at that point of the season, that drill or progression was exactly what was needed. However is it the best drill for 5’ tall 100lb Sally that started last week, 6’3” 185 lbs Johnny who’s trying to be All-American in a week, or 56 year old Gertrude who’s coming back from a hip replacement? We need to do a better job in the pole vault community of providing context for the drills and practices we use.
Let’s go a step further, if you are randomly throwing drills into practice as a coach because they “worked for you” that really isn’t good enough. Do you know why the drills worked for you? What segment of the vault does the drill address? Is this what your vaulters need right now? Do all your vaulters even have the same weaknesses? Should drill work begin to be individualized at some point? These are all important questions that need to be addressed when selecting drills and really the goal or plan for a practice.
Start to think about context and what you would like to accomplish with athletes and what drills or progressions will help you get there. If you have a beginner doing straight pole drills, teaching them how to jump up and move the pole into the pit may be more important than doing a spotting drill with a pole that bends. And if you have an advanced vaulter perhaps a longer approach with a pole that bends doing just take off might be the key. Don’t fall in love with a drill, fall in love with what works for the athlete and your specific context.