Pole Vaulting: Teaching it Right
by Buzz Andrews
Pole vaulting is a step by step process that must be learned correctly from the beginning. I have seen too many bad habits formed early that are almost impossible to correct. So, I am putting this article together for other coaches to use as a guide for teaching the pole vault correctly from the beginning.
Let me say now that I have seen a million hours of pole vaulting and no two
vaulters jump the same, so remember that when you are watching film of world
class vaulters, they may or may not look like the athlete you are coaching.
Take in to consideration height, speed, and strength of the athlete when
making your coaching decisions. The
following 3 steps must happen before any vaulter can vault above his or her
handhold. Let’s get started.
one: Hit your takeoff mark consistently
If the vaulter can't hit their takeoff mark with consistently they can't
vault. The takeoff foot should be just inside the back hand at takeoff.
I refer to the hands as back (top) and front (bottom) because I have a
left handed vaulter to coach. The
first thing to do is practice the run. The
main idea is for their last three steps to be the fastest and quickest.
You need to see the athlete gain speed through the end of the run and not
slow down at the plant.
The run is not over when the athlete hits his takeoff mark.
They must run through the last step and long jump into the pit in order
to have a good swing and bend larger poles.
This is done by leading with the lead foot, holding the toe upward and
keeping the thigh parallel with the
Step two: Plant the pole correctly
The objective is to bend the pole past 90 degrees (top of pole must be at least horizontal with the runway with both hands at least level with the runway while you are still on the ground.) The longer the pole the easier this becomes so don’t expect this too soon especially with short poles.
The jumper must let the pole do most of the work, so bend it and let it throw you over the bar. The bigger the pole the more throw you will get at the top. The ideal position of the hands at your plant should have their front hand higher than their back hand. This can only be accomplished when they bend the pole over 90 degrees.
So how is this done?
First of all, they must have their front hand above their head in the 12 noon position and their back hand in the 2:00 position at takeoff. To do this they do not push out with the front hand. They simply keep the pole away from them as they run under the pole while planting. The vaulter’s forward momentum will force the body forward as the pole hits the box. The trick here is to keep the body upright (with the head and chest in a vertical alignment) and not let the hips swing forward at this point and get into a horizontal position too fast which will kill their swing later.
How is this done?
They must drive their lead knee (holding the toe up so it won’t drop
downward at takeoff) toward the pit while keeping the takeoff leg dragging and
straight with that toe pointed down Holding the takeoff leg back will stop the hips from flying
upward and will aid the swing/ rockback momentum later and allow the jumper to
penetrate much deeper into the pit.
Head position at this point should have the eyes focused on the box and then
look slightly under the front hand throughout the swing.
Do not throw the head back to get upside down.
Getting upside down is accomplished by swinging the takeoff leg straight
until the body gets almost horizontal with the runway.
Keeping the body straight and not bending at the waist too soon is very
hard to do correctly. Coaching
point: Look for the head and
chest to be lined up directly below the front hand in a straight line downward.
Beginner: One step plant.
Stand behind the vaulter at the box and have them take one step back. Athlete will stand with both feet together.
A right handed vaulter will take a step with their left foot and throw
their right knee up and hold it in the air as they jump off their left foot into
the air. Place your hands under their shoulder blades and on the count of three
have them long jump into the pit. You
will move forward with them and let them back down gently to the runway where
they started. You will use a soft pole that they can bend easy for this
drill. This shows the beginner just
how to run under the front hand. And what a pole bend feels like.
Note: Do not push the athlete at the waist ( this will cause the
athlete’s hips to fly forward which is exactly what you do not want to happen
in this drill.
One step vault. Set up
the same way as the one step plant but the coach stands at the back of the box
in front of the athlete and pulls the athlete into the pit by pulling the pole
forward into the pit. So the coach
is bending the pole for the athlete. They
are just hanging on with their feet in the proper position and they land in the
pit as the coach pulls hard on the pole on their feet.
This gives them the sensation of the bend while vaulting.
Don't let them hold too high. Try
to have a spotter behind pushing on their shoulders.
Intermediate: Short run plants. Have
the jumper use a short run of 6 to 8 strides and plant a soft pole and try to
get the pole to bend over 90 degrees. Focus
on the legs being in the proper position and the front hand higher than the back
hand. Ride the pole into the pit
and don't try to rock back at all
land on your feet. This should be done with a soft pole so it is not very
stressful for the vaulter to jump 25 - 40 times.
Vaulter: Full runs with just a
plant on a challenging pole. Try to
get it to bend over 90 degrees.
3: Get inverted (upside down)
The vaulter must get the hips above their shoulders in order to clear their
top hand hold. Notice I said hips
not feet. A couple of things
have to be done to allow this to happen. The
momentum of the takeoff leg swing must continue until your shin reaches the top
hand. Your front arm must flex
inward to allow the body to rotate back to the runway side of the vault.
They can not keep pushing with the front arm and rock back.
If they do this, they are simply pushing against the rockback action.
Both feet must be in the 1:00 position on top of the pole.
At this point you are rocked back.
the vaulter finds themselves in a V
with the feet up by their top hand and the hips below the shoulders,
they have bent at the waist too soon and moved their pivot point from
their shoulders to their waist. Doing
this will absolutely stop the rockback and leave the hips low when they try to
get off the pole. This makes it
impossible to invert upward and will always result in a flat flyaway from the
pole and a premature dropping of the feet over the bar.
The vaulter wants to get as close to the pole while upside down as possible
before they turn toward the bar. Imagine a two foot hoop attached at the top of the pole and
they are trying to get their hips through that hoop before clearing the bar.
They should keep their back to the bar as long as they can.
Do not rush the vault. Turning
too quickly will result in their feet dropping and not clearing the bar.
Pop up. Stand the pole straight up and have them reach as high as they can on it. Use this spot as the bottom hand hold. Then back them up about 20-30 feet and jog into the plant. Do not ask them to plant hard… they are stiff poling. Make sure their front arm elbow is on the vaulter side of the pole (right side for a right-hander). Swing upside down until the lead knee is on the runwway side of the pole and the trail leg is at the top of the pole. In this position they are fully rocked back.
If they do this correctly this will happen just as the pole is straight up. The key is to be in this position just as the pole is vertical. Hold this position and land in the pit on their back with their feet toward the back of the pit and head toward the runway.
Pop up and turn. Same as
pop up but turn as they are coming down and land on the belly in the pit looking
back down the runway.
Short Run rock backs. Use weak pole and short run (4 - 8 strides)
Do not have a strong plant for this drill.
Flex in quickly with the front arm (Coach make sure the elbow is on the
vaulter’s side of the pole- right side for a right hander) and try to put the
hips through an imaginary hoop at the top of the pole.
The key here is the athlete can do a bunch of these as opposed to full
runs. Also they are not worried
about steps or bending a big pole or clearing a height. They are only focusing
upon getting the hips above the
shoulders and through the hoop.
Kicking the bar off. Put
the bungee or bar up to a height just above what they can reach with their feet
on whatever pole they are on. Move
the standards forward to the runway side. This will make the vaulter shoot his feet through the hoop.
This isolates the drill to one objective….getting the hips up….Example: Have a 12’0” vaulter kick off 14’0 with his feet.
Ok, now…certainly this is not
everything one needs to know about the pole vault but if your vaulter’s will
master these things they will become quality vaulters. These
are just some thoughts of mine that I have picked up from other coaches and
Ø Clear your hand hold before you grip higher on the pole
Ø Don’t ever throw your head back
Ø The pit is there for you to land on make sure you do ( use correct pole, hand hold, plant etc.)
Ø The most important part of the vault is the plant….be aggressive… too late if you don’t
Ø Have patience it will all come together with 1000 more reps
Ø Oh yeah, girls can vault just like boys
You may wish to visit my Online Track Coach site at www.awsport.com.
Good Luck Vaulting!