Peaking at the big meets

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kmonty51
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Peaking at the big meets

Unread postby kmonty51 » Sat May 31, 2014 2:26 am

How do you prepare vaulters for competition at big meets...the ones where you qualify for state, nationals, etc., or you go home...and what is your decision making process while coaching in these meets? A brief history...switched to coaching pole vault 8 years ago after some fairly successful years coaching horizontal jumps and hurdlers, and CC in the Fall. I always prided myself on coaching athletes who peaked at just the right time. With virtually no experience coaching pole vault, I dug in...went to camps (Skyjumpers, Alan Launder's, some local), asked questions of experienced coaches, including those on this forum, watched tons of film, etc. etc. I think that, though I still have a lot to learn, I've come a very long way. BUT...despite coaching kids to school record heights, conference championships, and so on, I just can't seem to help these kids get over the hump at sectionals to qualify for our state meet. For the second year in a row, and three of four years, I've coached kids who were seeded in the top three at sectionals (top 3 qualify) only to have them fail to qualify. With one possible exception, I feel it's coaching mistakes that bring these results. Example: A young lady who came in tonight the #2 seed at 10'6...at 10'3 she blows through on her first jump on a 12/125 (she weighs 112)...I move the standards from 24 to 27, and move her back on her approach (she was about 18 inches under)...she blows through again...I consider putting her on a 12/130 which she has only had one jump on previously (the 125 was her big pole)...decide to lower her grip an inch and move the standards to 30...blows through again...meet over, better luck next year! I'm kicking myself for not putting her on the 130, but more importantly, how do I become a better "big meet" coach?Is it as simple as I need to pay my dues yet, i.e., need more experience,or am I missing something obvious,...? Clearly, I'm venting frustrations here tonight, but I really do want to hear what others have to say.
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Re: Peaking at the big meets

Unread postby AVC Coach » Sat May 31, 2014 7:53 am

kmonty51 wrote:How do you prepare vaulters for competition at big meets...the ones where you qualify for state, nationals, etc., or you go home...and what is your decision making process while coaching in these meets? A brief history...switched to coaching pole vault 8 years ago after some fairly successful years coaching horizontal jumps and hurdlers, and CC in the Fall. I always prided myself on coaching athletes who peaked at just the right time. With virtually no experience coaching pole vault, I dug in...went to camps (Skyjumpers, Alan Launder's, some local), asked questions of experienced coaches, including those on this forum, watched tons of film, etc. etc. I think that, though I still have a lot to learn, I've come a very long way. BUT...despite coaching kids to school record heights, conference championships, and so on, I just can't seem to help these kids get over the hump at sectionals to qualify for our state meet. For the second year in a row, and three of four years, I've coached kids who were seeded in the top three at sectionals (top 3 qualify) only to have them fail to qualify. With one possible exception, I feel it's coaching mistakes that bring these results. Example: A young lady who came in tonight the #2 seed at 10'6...at 10'3 she blows through on her first jump on a 12/125 (she weighs 112)...I move the standards from 24 to 27, and move her back on her approach (she was about 18 inches under)...she blows through again...I consider putting her on a 12/130 which she has only had one jump on previously (the 125 was her big pole)...decide to lower her grip an inch and move the standards to 30...blows through again...meet over, better luck next year! I'm kicking myself for not putting her on the 130, but more importantly, how do I become a better "big meet" coach?Is it as simple as I need to pay my dues yet, i.e., need more experience,or am I missing something obvious,...? Clearly, I'm venting frustrations here tonight, but I really do want to hear what others have to say.



Consistency and simplicity are the keys in any meet, especially the big meets. Here are a few of guidelines I use:

1. Know what poles the athlete can use to clear bars with the standards buried. (easy to know when to go up poles)
2. Know where their mid mark is and get them there asap during warm-up.
3. Always count on them giving you their best effort and make your decisions accordingly (especially in big meets when adrenaline is high)
4. Be confident in your decisions. Your athletes are counting on you.
5. Watch the vault in real time and not on a tiny video screen (slow-mo is nice but doesn't allow you to see, feel or hear tempo)
6. Make minor adjustments (a big meet is not the time to re-learn the pole vault and simple cues go a long way)
7. If it aint broke, don't fix it (who cares if their mid was a little off if they just made the bar by 2 feet)
8. One bar at a time! You can't make that big bar until you at least make this one.

Obviously knowing your athlete and how they will respond in various conditions (ie: wind, weather, 3rd attempts) is crucial if you want to win. Don't worry so much when it's time to go up poles. It doesn't matter how much your athlete weighs or what the rating on the pole is. If it's time to go up, it's time to go up.

I hope this helps.

Morry

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Re: Peaking at the big meets

Unread postby kmonty51 » Sat May 31, 2014 10:24 am

Thank you, Morry. I appreciate you taking the time to respond! I think I have to remember # 3 and 4 in particular, though my confidence is a bit shaken right now. I made a bad call, and it cost a girl a trip to the state meet. I think the lesson learned, however, is to be less fearful of moving to the next pole, even if the kid hasn't jumped on it before, if she's blowing through on the smaller pole. I never dreamt that we would have to bury the standards on the 125, much less have her blow through. This has been very humbling for me...probably poetic justice for someone who was a bit too cocky when coaching LJ, TJ and hurdles. Pole vault involves many more variables, and learning how to fit them into the equation correctly is more difficult (at least for me). I guess I just keep working to become that coach whose kids go up, instead of down, at big meets.
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Re: Peaking at the big meets

Unread postby KirkB » Sat May 31, 2014 4:28 pm

kmonty51 wrote: I think I have to remember # 3 and 4 in particular, though my confidence is a bit shaken right now. I made a bad call, and it cost a girl a trip to the state meet. ... I never dreamt that we would have to bury the standards on the 125, much less have her blow through. This has been very humbling for me...

One question that I have that pops up in reading your 2 posts here, Monty, is "Whose meet is this?"

In other words, who holds final accountability and responsibility for clearing the bar (and going to the state meet - or not)?

I think it's the athlete's - and not the coach's ultimate responsibility. You've coached them from the side of the runway all season long, but now you're sent to the bleachers (them's the rules). This should tell you something! The meet is for the athletes, and they win or lose on their athletic abilities THEMSELVES. That's not to say you shouldn't provide a BIT of advice from the bleachers (raise/lower grip; go up/down a pole), but the ultimate decision needs to be THEIRS - not YOURS. They need to own it.

I am aware of some situations (not saying this is your situation - but just in case it is) where the vaulter relied on the coach for every little detail. Steps in/out? Hit midmark? Move start of run in/out? Raise/lower grip? Switch poles? Move standards in/out? You name it.

BTW, you can eliminate one of these variables by insisting (in practice and in meets) that the vaulter ALWAYS keep the standards all the way back. This is a good rule of thumb from a safety point of view, as well as from a 'confidence' PoV and a practical PoV. The vaulter needs to be confident that they will land safely in the pit, so knowing that they have the right combination of pole weight and grip to easily land in the coach's box with standards at max achieves this.

But back to the woes of micro-coaching on meet day (even for very young, inexperienced vaulters that you THINK need micro-help) ...

What can happen in these situations is that the vaulter doesn't feel in control of THEIR vault. They just blindly (maybe even just to keep the peace with you - the authority figure) follow their coach's instructions - step by step. This is NOT the way it should work. You need to take off your 'detailed coaching' hat at least the day before the big meet, and switch to a sort of 'cheerleader' hat, just giving words of encouragement (but no detailed technical advice) on the day of the meet.

What this does is puts the onus on the athlete, so they come to the realization that it's all up to them. It's them against the bar!

What might be more difficult with PV compared to LJ or TJ or hurdles is that PV has so many more variables (and in the case of hurdles, so much more time between 'attempts'). You wouldn't even THINK of yelling technical advice to your hurdler between each hurdle, now would you!

The amount of time between hurdles (split seconds) compared to the amount of time between vaults (minutes), does NOT mean that you should break the athlete's concentration by interjecting your micro-advice! Believe it or not, the vaulter's brain is digesting what happened in their previous attempt and preparing for their next attempt the FULL TIME between jumps - and their concentration should NOT be broken! Unless they ASK for advice (which they should do sparingly).

This is a long way around saying that maybe the best PV coaches are the ones that are able to train their vaulters to think for themselves on the day of the meet - knowing that they will get an assuring nod (no more) from you in the bleachers when they ask for your advice on some MAJOR technical decision (such as grip or pole). If you've trained them well, that's all you should do (and all that you should NEED to do) on the day of the meet.

Just give them a reassuring nod. ;)

Kirk
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Re: Peaking at the big meets

Unread postby kmonty51 » Sat May 31, 2014 6:11 pm

Good advice, Kirk. Actually, I used to offer lots of technical advice during hurdle races...kids just couldn't hear a word I said! :( I do recognize I have to teach her to "coach herself" a bit more, and communicate with me a bit better. As one person said, we need to be able to "get into each other's heads" a little. I know that's not exactly what you're saying, but in both cases the message is that I need to let go a bit. Still, as I replay those last two blow throughs in my mind, it becomes so obvious that she was ready for the next pole. Again, I need to avoid letting this thread become a "poor me" discussion. The job now is to become a better big meet coach, with advice centering around two general themes: 1) Improved communication with more responsibility gradually handed to the vaulter; and 2) some technical preparation in the weeks and days leading up to the big meet. such as hip height and what poles can be used with standards buried (this has come up a few times).

Thank you for the advice...it's much appreciated and will be implemented!
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Re: Peaking at the big meets

Unread postby AVC Coach » Sat May 31, 2014 10:13 pm

KirkB wrote:
kmonty51 wrote: I think I have to remember # 3 and 4 in particular, though my confidence is a bit shaken right now. I made a bad call, and it cost a girl a trip to the state meet. ... I never dreamt that we would have to bury the standards on the 125, much less have her blow through. This has been very humbling for me...

One question that I have that pops up in reading your 2 posts here, Monty, is "Whose meet is this?"

In other words, who holds final accountability and responsibility for clearing the bar (and going to the state meet - or not)?

I think it's the athlete's - and not the coach's ultimate responsibility. You've coached them from the side of the runway all season long, but now you're sent to the bleachers (them's the rules). This should tell you something! The meet is for the athletes, and they win or lose on their athletic abilities THEMSELVES. That's not to say you shouldn't provide a BIT of advice from the bleachers (raise/lower grip; go up/down a pole), but the ultimate decision needs to be THEIRS - not YOURS. They need to own it.

I am aware of some situations (not saying this is your situation - but just in case it is) where the vaulter relied on the coach for every little detail. Steps in/out? Hit midmark? Move start of run in/out? Raise/lower grip? Switch poles? Move standards in/out? You name it.

BTW, you can eliminate one of these variables by insisting (in practice and in meets) that the vaulter ALWAYS keep the standards all the way back. This is a good rule of thumb from a safety point of view, as well as from a 'confidence' PoV and a practical PoV. The vaulter needs to be confident that they will land safely in the pit, so knowing that they have the right combination of pole weight and grip to easily land in the coach's box with standards at max achieves this.

But back to the woes of micro-coaching on meet day (even for very young, inexperienced vaulters that you THINK need micro-help) ...

What can happen in these situations is that the vaulter doesn't feel in control of THEIR vault. They just blindly (maybe even just to keep the peace with you - the authority figure) follow their coach's instructions - step by step. This is NOT the way it should work. You need to take off your 'detailed coaching' hat at least the day before the big meet, and switch to a sort of 'cheerleader' hat, just giving words of encouragement (but no detailed technical advice) on the day of the meet.

What this does is puts the onus on the athlete, so they come to the realization that it's all up to them. It's them against the bar!

What might be more difficult with PV compared to LJ or TJ or hurdles is that PV has so many more variables (and in the case of hurdles, so much more time between 'attempts'). You wouldn't even THINK of yelling technical advice to your hurdler between each hurdle, now would you!

The amount of time between hurdles (split seconds) compared to the amount of time between vaults (minutes), does NOT mean that you should break the athlete's concentration by interjecting your micro-advice! Believe it or not, the vaulter's brain is digesting what happened in their previous attempt and preparing for their next attempt the FULL TIME between jumps - and their concentration should NOT be broken! Unless they ASK for advice (which they should do sparingly).

This is a long way around saying that maybe the best PV coaches are the ones that are able to train their vaulters to think for themselves on the day of the meet - knowing that they will get an assuring nod (no more) from you in the bleachers when they ask for your advice on some MAJOR technical decision (such as grip or pole). If you've trained them well, that's all you should do (and all that you should NEED to do) on the day of the meet.

Just give them a reassuring nod. ;)

Kirk


Kirk,

I think you're right about the athlete being the ultimate decider as to whether they succeed or not. However, when you're coaching young athletes, especially females, you have to be the catalyst that brews the beer. It doesn't matter how well they are trained, there's a little doubt in their minds that's compounded by momentary failure. And that's what it really is when they don't make that bar they should have made....failure. I believe that a good coach keeps that in mind and takes it upon his/her shoulders. Assess, calculate, fix. Confidence makes bars. Not all athletes are gifted with that inner voice that guides them when times are tough. You were, I was, several are... but the percentage is low. Keep the ultimate mold in mind but don't be afraid to bend a little to accommodate the less than ultimate.

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Re: Peaking at the big meets

Unread postby KirkB » Sun Jun 01, 2014 12:08 am

kmonty51 wrote:Good advice, Kirk. ...

Thank you for the advice...it's much appreciated and will be implemented!

Your open-mindedness and willingness to learn from (sometimes bitter) experience tells me that you are already a good coach, and will become an even better one as time goes on.

Good luck!

AVC Coach wrote: ... I think you're right about the athlete being the ultimate decider as to whether they succeed or not. However, when you're coaching young athletes, especially females, you have to be the catalyst that brews the beer. It doesn't matter how well they are trained, there's a little doubt in their minds that's compounded by momentary failure. ...

I've never coached girls, so can't really comment on that - you may be right. But if we just focus on the personality, age and maturity of boys that vault, I get your point.

My advice was purposely high-level only, and I know that the younger the vaulter, the more they rely on the coach. But a point that I was thinking of (that I purposely left out to keep it short) was more to do with the PERSONALITY of the vaulter - rather than age or sex.

Every kid is different in how they respond to coaching. Some lap it up; some are very independent (to the point of ignoring the coach's advice); and some WILL BECOME OVER-RELIANT ON THE COACH MAKING ALL THE DECISIONS FOR THEM. It's this last category of kids that I'm concerned about. If the coach does all the thinking, then if he fails to clear the bar, he won't feel accountable. Instead, he will blame it on the coach.

We as coaches need to avoid this predicament. We need to put the responsibility where it belongs - on the athlete's shoulders. We're just (or we should be just) their servant leaders.

See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Servant_leadership. This is what I practice in my software project management role in my day job. It's also a good philosophy for coaching PV! :idea:

Kirk
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Re: Peaking at the big meets

Unread postby kmonty51 » Sun Jun 01, 2014 12:35 am

All these comments are spot on. There is no "one size fits all" in coaching, and that is especially true in pole vault. My goal is to be a complete pole vault coach, one who can adjust his coaching to the individual vaulter. I feel good about much of what our vaulters have accomplished over the last few years...school records and conference championships ain't nuthin' to sneeze at; however, there's another step to take that I'm struggling with. I'm not giving up, and advice from experienced coaches like you guys is very helpful. That's what I need right now...an online brainstorm, if you will. I've worked with kids a long time (I'm a 63 year old geezer), so I think I get what each of you is saying. It's good stuff! My job is to sort it all out and apply it in the right way for each kid. That was my intent when I started this thread, so please, keep the thoughts coming! And...thank you for the kind words. I know one thing for sure...I'm trying like a steer to get better!









that's what I'm looking for right now
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Re: Peaking at the big meets

Unread postby kmonty51 » Sun Jun 01, 2014 12:41 am

Kirk - I like the info. on servant leadership. having studied Administrative Leadership (Educational Administration) many years ago, we studied and discussed the Theory X and Theory Y philosophies of leadership extensively; servant leadership seems to be very compatible with the "kid comes first" approach to coaching that I, and most coaches, subscribe to.
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Re: Peaking at the big meets

Unread postby grandevaulter » Mon Jun 02, 2014 10:08 am

Let's revisit the blowing through the poles.

If you moved her up a pole during the competition and she still blew through, I think we could assume that her approach was faster than in the previous meets and/or she was under and getting a low pole bend. Would it be wise to ask her to adjust her approach speed down a couple of clicks?

Three misses go by quickly and if we can help our athletes make an adjustment, we must quickly indentify the problem and help them fix it. This is a great thread that we can learn a lot from. Thanks Monty!

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Re: Peaking at the big meets

Unread postby kmonty51 » Mon Jun 02, 2014 11:14 am

Good thought on being under, and yes, she was about 1 1/2 feet under her first attempt. That's why I didn't move her up a pole then...just told her to make the adjustment. In her case, I don't think asking her to adjust her approach speed would have been wise, as she is quite new to pole vault (2nd year, but only first year of taking it seriously) and her learning curve has been so steep. Having said that, being under wasn't the problem on the second blow through. In this case, I think one lesson is, as Morry said, "...when it's time to go up, it's time to go up".
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Re: Peaking at the big meets

Unread postby grandevaulter » Mon Jun 02, 2014 12:22 pm

35 years ago my team mate and good friend qualified for the State meet. He was a great always consistent, careful and clutch performer. Seeded 1st, he started at his normal starting height that would put him at five jumps to win.

He "no heighted". Four years of incredible dedication and preparation. Myself, an underclassman with little knowledge and poor technique could only watch.

My take on it. He had an adrenaline rush and ran out of his mind on the approach. Can the run up be controlled with more experienced young athletes. I saw several really good vaulters at the state meet blow through and be a foot or two under their p.r.s. I saw two poles snapped in warm ups. (one in half at the label and one in thirds).


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