When examining my philosophy for coaching Pole Vault I realized it is not very different than those in my general life. The three primary areas revolve around safety, enjoyment and personal improvement. By focusing on these things I feel I am able to better the sport for future jumpers. Through structured organized practices, athletes work to develop the skills required to pole vault safely.
Having vaulted in high school before many of the recent changes in pole vault safety, I quickly became an advocate of safety due to near misses in my career. Things such as small pits or poor conditions I often ignored while jumping in high school and my early years of college are now reasons to forgo jumping. Looking back I did most if not all of the things I insist my athletes never do.
Today I foster a safe environment by focusing on the basic skills required to achieve a safe vault. Drill progression is not taught until the foundation for the next sequence is securely laid. These drills are reviewed every time an athlete jumps with me in order to reinforce the good habits that have been developed. Throughout my coaching career I am proud to say no athlete has encountered an injury in a vaulting related incident at any practice, camp, clinic or meet.
The primary reason I coach is enjoyment. The travel costs, vacation time used to attend track meets, and personal time devoted demands a love for the sport. No matter what is going on, being at a practice, meet, camp or clinic puts me in a great mood. This mood becomes contagious to my athletes and we end up having a great time, working hard to be better at a sport we all love.
During practices, I am careful to point out the cues and hints which signal technical errors to my athletes. My experience has shown this not only helps the athlete take ownership for their skill progression, but also enables them to coach each other and then teach other athletes the progressions we use. It is very encouraging to see my athletes helping jumpers from other teams by demonstrating beginning drills, educating others on safe jumping techniques or sharing the cues and hints I have taught them. During skill progression we spend a good deal of time discussing upcoming technique and areas to focus on to achieve improvement. These discussions happen in a vast variety of ways, through e-mail, phone, hanging out on the pit resting or while traveling to meets. Despite these many different communication means, the underlying theme is a candid discussion of individual progression and goals. These discussion are not limited to just my goals for their pole vaulting performances, but also the goals surrounding more important aspects of each athletes life.
By combining these three priorities into my coaching style, I have had great success and enjoyment. Many athletes I have worked with for extended period has remained in contact with me and has gone on to give back to the sport in some fashion. More importantly, each athlete has thanked me, and expressed their enjoyment of the sport. That to me is more important than any single individual achievement.