Why Pole Vault?
When friends and co-workers hear that you pole vault they always ask why. Why spend your free time pole vaulting instead of catching the big game and eating pizza. Why not just relax? What made you choose pole vaulting over other sports? Well there are plenty of reasons why but probably not the ones everyone usually brings up. If we are talking about high school aged athletes people talk about pole vaulting so they can score points and be contributing members of the track team, maybe even get a scholarship. I don’t want to negate those reasons and they have their merits, but Pole Vaulting has so much more to give and can be valuable to more than just the high school athlete.
When new clients come to the club, they are often high school athletes and the athlete or parent often ask me the age range at my club. Often, they are shocked when I say the range is from 12 years of age all the way up to 63. How do we end up working with such a wide range of ages? Obviously the 63-year-old athlete is no longer looking for that scholarship to college. So why do my youth athletes and adults keep coming in? What exactly are we providing for them?
For starters I think what we provide at our club is an amazing community of athletes that is anchored by a culture of progress, growth, discipline, and teamwork. That culture and community is inspiring. People often come in and when I mention our vaulting and lifting records many are often surprised and a little intimidated. However, they are immediately encouraged not only by the coaches and me, but from fellow athletes in practice who may well have their name on the record board now but started from scratch like the new athlete that is trying out the pole vault for the first time. New Adult clients are encouraged by other adult clients about the journey they are about to embark on. And that journey includes more than the physical but let’s start there.
Regardless if the client is young or old fitness can always be improved. Pull ups, because of the importance of upper body strength and specifically the lats become of major importance for the vaulter. And what is amazing about the pull up is that you have to have enough muscle mass to be able to do pull ups, especially weighted pull ups like our current record of 160-lbs for male athletes and 80 lbs for female athletes, but you can’t get too big. The pole vault and pull ups really keep you check. We have had young athletes come in incapable of body weight pull ups, and leave being able to do pull ups with 50% plus of their body added.(example a 130lbs athlete doing weighted pull ups with 65lbs) We also do lower body lifts like squats and deadlifts, and of course the bench press. With older clients we get them back in shape after years of missing out on workouts. We get them stronger, faster, and more agile, through the event of pole vault which is a natural motivator. Most people don’t enjoy working out if we are honest, but pole vault is so enjoyable. You get to fly through the air, it is thrilling. And in short time the athlete realizes that the better shape they get into the higher they jump and the more fun and thrilling practices get. This leads them onto their fitness journey and even opens the pathway to better nutrition as well.
The comradery between members is also a great motivator and gets people coming back to practice. Knowing you around other people who are motivated and driven by the sport of pole vault keeps you inspired. Once you get to practice and see others pushing the limits and putting themselves to the test, you want to become a part of it. No matter what your goal is, setting a school record, making a college team, setting a new age record in your 40’s, everyone is working together to push one another. And if you haven’t achieved your goal yet, all you need to do is watch someone at practice who is where you want to be. What do their drills look like? What do their high bar drills look like? What are their lifting numbers? You can see the blueprint to your goals right in front of you. I often take note to myself during practices seeing different generations of athletes helping one another. You see the masters athlete (30+ years old) helping the youth athlete, the college athlete helping the masters athlete, and the recent college grads helping the high school athletes. Regardless of age, and even personal bests, skill mastery decides the pecking order. Someone may be older and jump higher, but if someone has mastered a skill, you want that person’s help. You learn to keep your ego in check. Seeing all these age groups interacting with one another in the common goal of self- improvement motivates me. It motivates me to provide more to my clients. It motivates me to do more for the pole vault community as a whole.
Finally, what the pole vault does for you mentally is the most important. What often starts out as a curiosity, turns into something much bigger. The discipline and focus needed to learn a technical sport like pole vault is very high. Understanding the various movements, becoming aware of the timing needed, keeping track of the numbers, and the discovering the connection between physical ability and technical proficiency is mentally challenging. The variables you must juggle at all times keep you in check. Through the desire to learn the vault you end up having to keep track of your grips, poles, steps, and all the technical cues. And that’s is just the specific vault information. Then the strength and conditioning becomes important. You learn how to get stronger and faster, but it requires you to push yourself to do things you may have not thought were possible. I have seen athletes, of all ages, come in and initially look a little lost, but the vault does not allow for that. It requires you to be mentally sharper. Keeping track of all the variables, learning more drills and exercises, dealing with the ups and downs makes someone more aware, more conscience, more thoughtful. You have to eventually accept that if there is a goal you aren’t reaching you have to figure out what is missing, and it will require more effort. Again, you must check your ego at the door. You have to figure out what wrinkle must be added to your plan. Learning to set goals, but more importantly make a plan to reach those goals and make alterations to those plans as obstacles arise are not only important in the pole vault, but in life as well.
The soft skills of discipline, work ethic, teamwork, dealing with adversity, and sacrifice are the skills that are often forged at Apex Vaulting but lead to lifetime success. Those skills can be applied at school, at work, and in relationships. The pole vault is a very enjoyable sport. But that isn’t why you pole vault. You pole vault to continue your personal growth and development. If you listen closely, the pole vault can teach you so much you need to know, not just in the vault, but in life.