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Does video help or hurt your coaching eye?!?!

There are so many amazing tools out there for coaches and athletes and when used appropriately can take jumping to the next level. However using any tool, no matter how great, inappropriately; like hammering in a screw, can cause more harm than good.

When coaching pole vault for the first time video is great. You can use it to slow down the jump and try and catch things that you didn’t see initially. And when you first start coaching the vault happens so quickly that you may need to watch video. But what happens when you rely on watching video after every single jump?

If you are actually recording the video yourself it becomes very difficult to watch the video in real time. Now you only ever watch the jump in video and most of the time in slow motion. What you’re missing out on is developing your eye as a coach. You aren’t watching the stride frequency and stride length development of the run. You aren’t watching the pole drop. You don’t watch the actual pole speed and how the swing speed matches up with the pole speed. Your coaching eye is something that can only be developed by actually watching the vault live and in real time. And you have to do it countless times.

Let me give you an analogy. Let’s say you have never driven a car with a manual transmission. I can explain it all you want. I can have you sit in a parked car and press on the clutch and go through the gear box. But until you actually drive that manual transmission you won’t get the rhythm, speed, timing or feel for it.

Watching video of jumps is great but I would have some one else record the video. Then watch the jump after practice or after a meet to make decisions on what aspect of the vault needs to be worked on for the next session. Now every once in a while you may want to reference a video during a meet when you stuck between two choices, like going up a pole or moving the standards back. But don’t become reliant on video. How would you make a decision if you miss recording a jump?

Another issue with video is that if you want to find something good in the jump you can find a frame that's good, and if you want to find something that's bad you can find a frame that's bad. As an example if you are looking at an athlete's cover position (called L position by some) they may hit a good cover position, but it may have happened too late. You want to be aware of the flow of the jump. Timing and speed of the jump is important and often as a coach you can be tricked into thinking an athlete achieved a good position, when in fact the athlete didn't move through the jump quickly enough. This is something a coach develops watching jumps in real time. Watching slow motion you may tend to micromanage an athlete's jump and focus on too many fine details that may not actually impact the pole speed and swing speed.

How does video impact the flow of a practice? If you video every practice jump and watch video with each athlete how long does that take? At Apex we have up to 10 athletes on a pit with a coach and we will do 30-45 minutes of warmups with running drills, planting drills, pole runs, jumping drills, and roll overs. Then athletes will jump for 75-90 minutes. Each athlete gets anywhere from 15-30 jumps. So for 10 athletes with 75 minutes and each jump taking 30 seconds that’s 15 jumps per athlete. If you watch video with each athlete you might end up going down to as little as 7 jumps for each athlete. Now you can only really handle 5 athletes if you want more jumps. Is this the best way to practice?

At the end of the day the more reps the faster athletes progress and the faster you develop your coaching eye. You can coach more athletes without video and use video more sparingly to identify an issue and then move on. As a coach you need to make decisions on the fly and keep the line moving. If the flow of practice is stopped every time someone takes a jump athletes end up just standing in line waiting. Keep it moving.

Should you video your athletes jumps? Yes! Can video help in planning and prepping practice, yes. Can video help you make a decision when you caught between two choices, yes. But don’t allow video to become a crutch and prevent you from developing you coaching eye!

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