18' 1" Olympic Trials 2008

18' 1" Olympic Trials 2008

Friday, January 6, 2012

A Simple Fix

Yesterday I had a wonderful back yard vault session at a friends place, followed by a short but sweet ring workout. I had a goal in mind during my jump session that can only be described as unorthodox. My goal was to grip to high on to big of a pole and get rejected from the pit multiple times until eventually forcing my way in and taking jumps where I barely make the mat. The main focus being that the poles felt too big, I felt uncomfortable and I forced myself to start and finish jumps regardless of the constant temptation to quit midway.
I was jumping from shorter approaches so the danger was minimal to nonexistent, but I must say, I just had a blast. It was so much fun, to fail, on purpose, then turn around and ultimately succeed with forced effort. It was a lesson I wouldn’t teach to many others, but I know it’s exactly what I need at the moment. The series of poles I have been traveling with are a bit odd. I have a 15’ 195lb, borrowed from Idaho State University which was once left behind by a former vaulter and friend, a 15’ 7” 190lb and 195lb on loan from one of my former athletes and good friend who in seasons to come will be one of the USA’s best, and from there on I have 16’5” length poles and above. So every time I make the switch from those 15’7”s to a 16’5”, the difference is more than I can handle. Even though it’s a logical change in flex number (stiffness rating) and grip height (the measurement of height where my top hand is placed on the pole), and I will most likely land safely in the pit, the change in poles makes me feel to far away and I tend to bail out of (or incomplete) jumps.
So I’m mending that problem. Sunday or Monday, I will perform the same session on even longer poles, with higher grips, from longer runs, and take it even further in the next session. It’s a much more primitive way of looking at such a complicated event which boasts hundreds of books, videos, articles, essays and theories revolving around different scientific and mathematical insights, but sometimes you need to just stop and realize, “your using a stick, to jump over another stick” and generally its not the guy with the biggest brain who takes home victory, it’s the guy with the biggest balls.  Calculated risk, some call it, I think we to often over calculate. Sometimes it’s easy to forget these simplicities, and I’m glad I’m taking a moment in training to remember.  


  1. Hi Paul,
    I remember from watching countless videos something Earl Bell said, .....confidence is everything in the pole vault, especially the last steps in your approach.., ..

    if you are confident you can get on bigger pole you will, and will jump higher. A Faster run, higher grip, bigger poles = higher bars.

    Mike Hochderffer

  2. He once told me to -watch video of as many different vaulters clearing 19' as you can. You'll notice that over the broad range of them one thing. It generally doesn't look pretty (or technically sound). In reality they were all fast strong guys who got it done on big poles and the jumps look ugly, but the bar stays up and that's all that matters.-
    You don't get style points in this sport. The bar stays up, or it falls down. If you can find a way to leave it up high, keep doing it, regardless of its artistic value.