Pole Vault Blog will provide you with continuous insight into the technical, physical, and mental aspects of pole vault that will help you vault higher and safer.
This pole vault camp is a three day version of the Gold Camp.
What happens at the Winter Pole Vault Camp?
While coaching at the university level I would often sit down with athletes and evaluate their season and our training program. During a session with one of our heptathletes I placed some responsibility for her failing to win the Big 12 heptathlon on the training program. Her immediate response was that the program was great. She followed that remark with four reasons why she was responsible for her second place finish. After a rather lengthy discussion with her, I reflected back on similar discussions with other very successful athletes and it dawned on me why they were so successful. They were not only willing to accept responsibility for their success by working hard but were just as willing to admit and accept responsibility for their failures. Of all the attitude characteristics mentioned in the attitude foundation, responsibility is the cornerstone of that foundation. Responsibility both aids to stabilize the other attitude characteristics and empowers the athlete. It empowers the athlete to find alternative forms of training when other sources are not available. It motivates them to elevate their level of concentration without the insistence of their coach. Responsibility is usually why certain athletes are first to arrive at practice and the last to leave. It impels athletes to notify their coach when they are likely to be late or absent. Responsibility causes athletes to evaluate the shortcomings in their practice sessions and to seek ways to avoid those problems in the future. Finally, the personally responsible athlete never resorts to making excuses for poor performances. They learn from their failures then find solutions. Many athletes give in to the temptation of shifting the blame. Making excuses for failure is an athlete’s way of relieving the negative feelings associated with a poor performance. Making excuses, however, creates a mentally weak athlete that is quick to give up when negative circumstances arise. Unfortunately it is the parents, peers or even coaches that unintentionally teach the athlete to rely on making excuses. In their efforts to consol the athlete they shift the responsibility to circumstances, weather, teammates or coaches. This enabling gesture may actually teach a young athlete to make excuses. Rather than searching for excuses the athletes should review the positives then find areas in their performance where they need to improve. The athletes should then spend their time developing those skills. “If it is to be it is up to me”.
Some athletes are described as having a positive attitude as though there is a single attitude. Success in athletics actually relies on a set of attitudes. An attitude is a habit of thinking when you are in a specific situation. The athlete’s habit of thinking in a certain situation will determine how he/she will respond. The response may have a positive or negative effect on his/her performance or training. While at the University of Kansas I asked 18 of my athletes to list reasons why they or other athletes would rather not participate in various training sessions or compete in a variety of competitive situations. The excuses for avoiding these various situations were then placed into separate categories. We found six categories. Each category had similar reasons for wanting to avoid various situations. One category might require the athlete to sacrifice something they enjoy. Another category involved having to endure the pain associated with a specific type of workout. These categories involved situations that required: 1) making sacrifices, 2) taking risks, 3) enduring physical or mental discomfort, 4) holding themselves responsible, 5) making changes in technique or training routine, and 6) competitiveness. Each of the above categories corresponds with a specific attitude. 1) The willingness to make sacrifices demonstrates an athlete’s level of dedication. 2) The willingness to take risks by working outside of their comfort zone or risking failure requires courage. 3) The willingness to endure the pain associated with training, injury, or the frustration of failure shows determination. 4) The willingness to hold themselves responsible is simply the attitude of responsibility. 5) The willingness to make changes in training or technique reveals the athletes spirit of learning or coachability. 6) The willingness to embrace a competitive situation is simply competitiveness.For each of the 6 attitudes there is a positive extreme and a negative extreme. The extreme in either direction can present problems. An athlete can be so coachable that he/she takes suggestions from everyone that offers advice, causing confusion and frustration. On the other hand, the athlete may disregard anyone’s advice and rely totally on their own ideas. If an athlete has an obsessive level of determination he/she may push some themselves to go beyond what their body is ready to handle. In some cases, an athlete may possess a good balance for the other five attitudes but doesn’t have the courage to step out of his/her technical comfort zone. In some events one weak trait could offset the strength of the others. One of my collegiate vaulters demonstrated a strong willingness to make sacrifices in many areas except in the area of his diet. He was strong, fast and a good technician but he maintained a weight that was around 10 to 15 pounds over his ideal competitive weight. Eventually he found the resolve to change his dietary habits. His performances improved and played a big part in his winning the NCAA Championship. How’s Your Foundation?
M Principle (move efficiently)
A good training program will have a good balance of training the physical skills, technical skills, and mental skills. During certain stages of an athlete’s career one form of training may take preference over the others. When an athlete is training certain physical skills such as strength, speed, or endurance he/she is trying to put his/her musculature in better position to create greater force with less fatigue. When the athlete works on technical skills the attempt is to place the body in better position to use that force more efficiently. If they are working on mental skills they are trying to put the mind in better position to influence both physical and technical training, as well as, competitive performances. In all stages of an athlete’s career the efficiency of movement plays a vital role in the continued success of the athlete. Technical training is normally geared to the specific skills of the event itself, where as movement efficiency is geared towards all movement. The athlete should develop a conscientious attitude about all manners of movements (walking, jogging, sprinting, jumping, throwing, lifting weights, doing plyometrics, tumbling, etc.) A prime example might be when an athlete jogs during the warm up. A lazy attitude towards the jogging motion is a poor use of time and effort. It takes very little effort to focus on hip position, posture, and an emphasis on a modified lining action. This not only makes warm up more specific but puts the athlete in a good technical mindset for practice. When doing drills the athlete should have a good understanding of how it applies to the event and the most efficient way to execute the drill. A move efficient attitude when lifting weights will allow the athlete to get more out of the training session and could aid in avoiding senseless training related injuries. My conviction has always been; “If you put the body in the right position and give it the right cue it will do whatever you want it to.”
The S Principle (Success Driven) The ability to accomplish a worthwhile goal requires an athlete to be driven (motivated) to succeed rather than being driven by success. Being driven to succeed would indicate that the athlete is driven toward a goal. Being driven by success, however, would infer that the accomplishment of a smaller goal is part of what drives the athlete toward the bigger goal. While it is a good idea to have smaller goals to keep you motivated, it sometimes takes longer than some athletes can endure. After a period of time without success some athletes lose interest and may even give up. In certain areas of the country, state, or city the competition in an event may be relatively weak. In this case, a good athlete will find success relatively easy thus will find it easy to stay motivated. If that athlete lived in another part of the state he/she might find success in competition more difficult and may lose his/her drive. As a collegiate coach, I often observed very talented freshman athletes struggle with maintaining their motivation when they faced the challenge of a much higher level of competition. In the process of recruiting high school athletes I would try to find out what kind of obstacles or setbacks they might have endured to reach their level of success. In one instance, I chose to pursue an athlete that vaulted two feet lower than one of the better vaulters in the country. Due to the fact that he had to drive around 100 miles to practice, his motivation to succeed was evident. My decision to pursue the athlete with the lesser performance paid off. He improved over two feet and earned All American honors his freshman year and went on to have a great collegiate career. All athletes must realize that pursuing a worthwhile goal will have it share of failures and frustrations. You may have to take a small step back in order to make that eventual big leap forward. Set small training goals that will bring you closer to the accomplishment of the bigger goal. Visualize your goals often with vivid images of everything that accompanies the achievement of that goal. View failures and setbacks as a test of your determination to succeed. Find the Drive
SMART Principles for Athletic Success
Success in any athletic endeavor requires the athlete to not only train hard but to train smart. The journey to success is often long and relies on many factors. Over the years, I have attempted to identify and organize those factors into an easy to understand formula. However, I found it far too difficult to explain. My efforts to simplify the formula came down to 5 major principles. It just happened that the letters S M A R T worked perfect as an acronym for the 5 principles. I will state each of the 5 principles and will expound on each in the weeks to come.The S stands for Success driven. This principle simply states that successful athletes are driven to succeed rather than being driven by success. There is a difference and it will be explained next week. The M stands for Move efficiently with speed, power and with less fatigue. The A refers to Attitude foundation, which indicates that there is a set of attitudes that influences the decisions the athlete makes on a daily basis and how he / she responds to the various situations in training and competition. The R stands for Responsibility. This principle demonstrates that athletes are empowered by taking responsibility. The T is for Training table which refers to the athlete’s nutritional habits.
Mental Preparation When preparing for the championship meet, the athlete’s mindset should be to out perform their competitor not get a new PR. When the athlete is intent on getting a new PR the motivational flame is often doused when the competitive conditions are not conducive. Such a let down sets up a poor performance. The athlete should go in to competition ready to adapt to all conditions in an effort to out perform his / her competitors. Hopefully the athlete is part of the small percentage of athletes that are totally engaged in the meet with no misgivings about the facilities, the wind, the officials, his competitors and his /her level of preparation. The athlete should take time to visualize the competition and should be sure to add in specific negatives situations. The visualization sessions should create vivid images that will draw upon the athletes emotions. By scripting the session the athlete should be ready to respond correctly to the negative situations. Repetitive visualization sessions will make the athlete more comfortable with the pressure of the championship competition and will aid in the competitors mental toughness.
Technical preparationThe championship phase of training is a time for fine tuning the technical aspects of the vault. Hopefully the plant and takeoff are functioning efficiently at this point of the season. If they are not, this is not the time to make major changes. Find parts of the vault that are easy to focus on and that easily duplicated during competition. This is a good time to tuning up the last 2 to 3 strides of the approach or the invert phase. High speed approaches with a sliding box is a great drill to tune up the approach. You may want to place a takeoff roll 4 to 6 inches in front of the takeoff point to encourage a quick rhythm at the end of the run. The coach and athlete can also set up imaginary competitive situations (opening height, 3rd attempts, PR, or winning vault) to rehearse the emotions and stress felt during competition. The vaulter can work on the invert by doing a variety of drills. This is a great time to focus on dropping the shoulders aggressively and using a strong close off action. The drills used can vary with partner ground drills to high bar or SI Device inverts. Doing short run jumps (landing deep in the pit) with a focus on the drop and close is a great way to transfer the drills to the vault.
In the next three to four weeks high school and collegiate athletes are preparing for championship performances. The entire season of training builds up to the final championship meet. In an effort to perform at his/her peak the athlete must be physically, technically, mentally, and emotionally prepared.
This week’s emphasis is physical preparation. Physical training during this time should be cycled in such a way that the athlete is rested and at his/her physical peak. The specific skills emphasized should be maximum sprinting speed, single leg takeoff power, the powerful swing up movements created by the shoulders and abdominals and an explosive pushoff action. The athlete should also strive to maintain the physical skills that serve as the foundation of those skills. Components such as maximum strength and speed endurance should be continued without placing undo stress on the athlete prior to the championship meet.