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Started by Kurt Riska, June 02, 2008, 02:21:57 AM

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Kurt Riska

while powerwashing the outside of my villa (bleaching the mold off the north side of my duplex), i had time to reflect on the time spent at d3 nationals in oshkosh.  there were many things i thought about...why they didn't use their other set of pits which would have provided more a tail wind, and therefore may have produced some better jumping was the first thing that popped to mind.  

the other thing that got me thinking was a jumper we were jumping with in the women's vault.  she was a good athlete, seemed to be coached well on technique, and had a very nice coach.  one thing seemed to be missing from the equation...class.  as most of the athletes were having difficulty with step and finishing jumps, she was having these difficulties as well.  instead of rationalizing and using the information that her coach gave, she would yell at her coach (or give a lot of attitude).  needless to say, she was getting a lot of attention from the other coaches...and not the good kind.

the ugliest part of this jumper's display happened when during competition.  while executing a very good jump, her coach yelled "yes" while she was over the bar.  for some reason, she took that as a reason to not finish her jump.  upon knocking the bar off, she started yelling at him (to be fair, not in a real loud tone) and told him it was his fault she knocked off the bar.  

the reason i'm relaying this memory is to remind jumpers and coaches that this attitude is not good for the sport or for the person executing these actions.  people who know me from college remember when i used to have a temper.  as i look back, i am ashamed.  

there is no reason why coaches should let their athletes act in this way.  this jumper's coach had some solid information, and was pretty good at cooling her down.  having said this, there is no reason her attitude should have gotten to that point.  

the rest of the field did a very good job at handling themselves during the conditions.  there were of course some letdowns, but these other jumpers were not poor sports.  matter of fact, the number one ranked athlete from northcentral was very composed after coming in having jumped over 13' and finishing with a jump under 12'.  she was obviously disappointed, but was there to cheer on her teammates.  that is class[8D]

i'm sorry for this being poorly written, i sell paint.

smith pole vault coach


Good points Kurt.  I see this at the high school level.  I am guessing the athletes outbursts are just their way of dealing with their situation so they don't look bad in front of others.  Although this may seem like a good idea at the time, your memory of the athlete is not that they just had an off day but more of how much of an A$$ they are by not being able to handle their emotions.  My recommendation: if you have a bad day and can't deal it in a polite manner, go far away and do what you need to do.
Chris Milton
Eden Prairie HS PV Coach


I think we all see this at competitions throughout the year.  I actually have my athletes sign a contract at the start of each season where I go through my expectations.  They are forbidden from behaving as you described if they want to compete for me.  The interesting part is, as soon as we've talked about it as a group, when they see others behaving badly at competitions they notice & it solidifies for them why I won't allow it.  They see how ridiculous it is to have a tantrum over pole vault; an event in which, even on your best day, you will end by failing 3 times in a row.  It is a certainty & it's pointless to have a tantrum over it.  Throwing poles, shoes, water bottles (Women's Big 10 meet this went a ways) and swearing just makes you look like a jerk, makes people really want to beat you, and does not help you vault higher.  The reason why I coach is to help young people mature into successful adults who can handle adversity, problem solve and come through on the other side having learned something useful.  I think our athletes want to vault more than they want to throw a pole & if we demand that they behave themselves or not vault, they'll behave.  Not only that, I think they want to be seen in a good light and sometimes just need a little guidance.  

My 2 cents.  We miss you Monkey.  When are you moving home?
Caroline White
U of MN Women's Pole Vault Coach

Directions to FDA, White's home

Flight Deck Athletics, Inc.
5701 Rhode Island Ave N
Crystal MN  55428

Kurt Riska

great idea.  i like the idea of instilling your expectations of attitude   in your athletes before they have the chance to embarrass themselves.  reinforcing this attitude with the contract is great.  this is a discussion which can be given the day after the safety talk (or if your athletes can retain information, the same day).  and you are correct that athletes will tend to notice traits (good or poor) at meets after they've been pointed out in practice.  

thanks for the discussion.




I had an athlete this year that was frustrated from time to time--and would default to propelling poles.

I told him that everyone struggles from time to time.  But a pole thrower always looks like an ass; never represents himself, the school, or the coach well; and potentially damages the poles--the same poles that will be entrusted with his life during following jumps.  These perspectives were met with modest improvements (poles were thrown onto the pit instead of the ground).

Later, after a few of these less-intense displays, Caroline suggested to the athlete that he throw the "source" of the problem around.  She then pointed out that the pole, being an inanimate object, was clearly not the source.  The athlete, understanding the lesson, then proceeded to throw himself onto the pit and thrash around resembling a grand-mal.  

We all had a pretty good laugh.  The poles were safe.  The mood lightened and the vaulting improved.

Nearly everyone is pretty good at handling success.  But as Caroline points out in her post above, our sport ALWAYS ends in three failures--in front of everyone.  Athletes must learn to handle public failure.  An athlete's composure at meets and practices should be grounded in the fact that tantrums are a mental distraction and delay the next PR.  The time spent raging is time not spent on solving the problem.

Athletes need to remember, especially when things are going rough, that the coach really wants to see the athlete succeed.  If the coach could get the athlete over a school record in one day--the coach would do it!  The coach wants to win too!  The coach is on the athlete's side.  Disrupting that relationship, especially in front of other coaches and vaulters, is not only disrespectful but also needlessly delays the next PR.  

There is a lot of information about how a coach is to keep the athlete in the right frame of mind.  I agree with almost all of it.  But there is little out there on how an athlete needs to keep the coach in the correct mind-set.  Upset, embarrassed coaches do not process vaults to the best of their abilities; proud, happy coaches do.    

--Focus.  Behave.  Every Jump.
--Help your teammates.  Thank your teammates.  Be of greater service to you teammates than they are to you.  Thank your coach.  Everyday.
--Clean up your camp site. Thank the officials.  Praise the competition that beat you.  Be humble to the competition that you beat.  Thank the bus-driver.  Every Meet.

We become our habits.  Excellence is not a trait; it is a choice.  Choose to make excellence your habit.(Aristotle)
Steve White
Flight Deck Athletics, owner
(763) 458-2932