Missing the pit

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Re: Missing the pit

Unread postby Tim McMichael » Thu Nov 19, 2009 1:49 pm

It really should not matter that much where your pole hits in the box. There is no way that one factor can be responsible for launching off to the right far enough to miss the pit. In my experience, anything that turns the hips to the right or angles the body to the right during takeoff will cause the swing to go in that direction. This can be caused by the imbalances in the plant that I talked about earlier, or it can be cause by driving the lead knee to the right instead of straight in. This kind of problem will cause the pole to angle to the right. This is not, however, the problem with Roth's vaults.

For practical purposes you can look at the shins as the steering wheel of the body. Wherever they are pointed, the body is going to go. In the case of the videos of Roth, the problems are obvious in the middle and top of the vault. The pole finishes where it should; it is not angled to the right. It's his body that separates from the pole and begins to drift. My analysis is that his swing and tuck put him in a position from which he separates from the pole as he extends. He actually angles hard to the right at the very top of the vault and then he turns and pushes his body off the pit. The fact that he throws his head back makes it impossible for him to tell that any of this is happening.

My prescription for fixing this problem is to first work on a run, takeoff and swing that does not necessitate a tuck. Then break the bad habit of throwing the head back. This, however, would require a lot of short run jumps with a very low grip on a very stiff pole with the standards buried as far back as possible. Early on with my athletes I set their training up like this. I try to make it impossible to clear the bar without a proper swing and a top end that takes them deep into the center of the pit. I might work with an athlete on this for months with a grip a foot lower than they are capable of, and the bar two feet lower than their PR.

It seems to me, just from these few jumps, that Roth is relying on speed and grip height alone to get the job done. This is a trap that talented athletes fall into because they can grip high without adequate form. There is a built in limitation to this method. The distance an athlete pushes off is one of the most consistent aspects of their jump. If you want to know how high someone is capable of jumping on a given day, find out what their maximum push off is and how high they are gripping. Push off does not increase during the course of a meet, or even a season. It is easy to grip over 16'. It is very, very hard to push off more than 3'.

From a 14 step run, your push off should be within about 4" of what you can do from a long run. This makes it easy to calculate your possibilities. If you are gripping 15' from 14 steps and jumping 17', you should be able to raise your grip about 6" from an 18 or 20 step run and push off 4" farther. This means that you are capable of clearing 17' 10". That is the limit of your potential at that moment, and raising your grip and over bending the pole will not help. This means that the only way to jump 18' or better is to learn to push off farther from your short run. In my prime I could consistently clear 18' from my 14 step run with a 15' grip, which put my potential at 18' 10" and anyone who saw my last attempt at 18'10.5 at the '89 NCAA meet can tell you that that is exactly as high as I could go.

It is my opinion that most talented vaulters would do much better learning efficiency from a short run rather than trying to raise their grip. If you are gripping 16'5" and jumping 18' that is bad news for you. In this case, what is the plan for jumping higher? Are you going to grip 17'5" to make 19'? Something has to change, and grip height is not the answer. I know this appears to be a digression from the subject of missing the pit, but I think that if an athlete would learn decent stiff pole technique and then to jump high with a low grip, the habits that make vaulting potentially deadly to talented athletes would never show up in the first place.
Last edited by Tim McMichael on Thu Nov 19, 2009 2:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Missing the pit

Unread postby rainbowgirl28 » Thu Nov 19, 2009 2:41 pm

In fairness to Scott, that's footage of him when he was in high school in 2005. He has improved and become quite a bit safer since attending UW. Here is video of him jumping 18' two years later in 2007: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zX_cbGb_0Tw I don't have more recent footage, but he has pushed the PR even higher since then.

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Re: Missing the pit

Unread postby KirkB » Thu Nov 19, 2009 2:43 pm

Tim McMichael wrote: It really should not matter that much where your pole hits in the box. There is no way that one factor can be responsible for launching off to the right far enough to miss the pit.

Tim, perhaps you have never felt this sensation? If you had, then you wouldn't say this. I have felt it ... not very often but ... perhaps in one jump per 100 (or less) ... and the only solution is to bail. Otherwise, you're going to land on the standard ... which I did once. I'm left-handed, and I ALWAYS aimed for the left side of the box ... to allow more room for my big bend.

You didn't mention anything about Scott's takeoff point being on the right side of the runway. What do you say about that? :confused:

Tim McMichael wrote: It is my opinion that most talented vaulters would do much better learning efficiency from a short run rather than trying to raise their grip. If you are gripping 16'5" and jumping 18' that is bad news for you. In this case, what is the plan for jumping higher? Are you going to grip 17'5" to make 19'? Something has to change, and grip height is not the answer. I know this appears to be a digression from the subject of missing the pit, but I think that if an athlete would learn decent stiff pole technique and then to jump high with a low grip, the habits that make vaulting potentially deadly to talented athletes would never show up in the first place.
:yes:

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Re: Missing the pit

Unread postby Tim McMichael » Thu Nov 19, 2009 8:15 pm

rainbowgirl28 wrote:In fairness to Scott, that's footage of him when he was in high school in 2005. He has improved and become quite a bit safer since attending UW. Here is video of him jumping 18' two years later in 2007: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zX_cbGb_0Tw I don't have more recent footage, but he has pushed the PR even higher since then.


Yep, my bad. When I look at those jumps I see an amazing talent in danger, and I just got carried away thinking about it. It's not cool to critique someone's technique when they have not asked you to do it. So if Scott is reading this, I apologize. I honestly did not realize I had crossed that line till I read this post.

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Re: Missing the pit

Unread postby KirkB » Thu Nov 19, 2009 9:22 pm

Tim McMichael wrote: Yep, my bad. ... I honestly did not realize I had crossed that line till I read this post.

I don't think you need to apologize, Tim. I think when someone does something in public (like PV in a beach or street vault), and then when someone posts the vid on youtube, they're fair game for CONSTRUCTIVE comment. I think people need to be careful how they word their criticism ... and critique ONLY their technique. But I can't see how Scott would mind being an example (albeit a bad example at Clovis) of how important safety is in our sport.

In the 18-1 vid that RG just posted of Scott, I see that he veered widely to the right on one attempt, and wisely bailed! :yes:

I hope you don't mind answering my question now about your opinion of Scott's takeoff point. ;)

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Re: Missing the pit

Unread postby rainbowgirl28 » Fri Nov 20, 2009 12:51 am

Tim McMichael wrote:Yep, my bad. When I look at those jumps I see an amazing talent in danger, and I just got carried away thinking about it. It's not cool to critique someone's technique when they have not asked you to do it. So if Scott is reading this, I apologize. I honestly did not realize I had crossed that line till I read this post.


It's not that big of a deal, I just wanted to make sure people knew that he is now a safer and higher vaulter :)

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Re: Missing the pit

Unread postby Divalent » Sun Nov 22, 2009 2:53 pm

KirkB wrote: ...This is a good example of where the DANGER can be determined by an official based on the landing spot rather than based on the "4-foot bar" clearance rule that was proposed by Divalent here ... viewtopic.php?f=47&t=18706. It's hard to tell for sure, but he may very well have been CLOSE to 2 feet of center as he cleared the bar.


the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMRIDXvFZwU

No, it's not hard to tell: his head quite clearly crosses over the bar about 1 - 1.5 ft from the end. (try pausing it as he goes over). An easy call for a well positioned official, as he crossed 3-4 ft outside the center 4ft of the bar. Not that it matters, he knocked the bar off (although just barely: a 6 inch lower bar and he might have cleared it).

But in any event the "4ft" (or 5 ft, or even 6 ft) rule is not primarily intended to cover this sort of situation at this level of competition (there is always a risk something can go wrong on any given attempt, even for the best elite vaulters). The hope was that such a rule would penalize kids with consistantly dangerous technique at a much earlier stage in their career, and to get them out of the competition before they advance to higher heights. As long as the rules don't allow an official to remove a kid for consistently dangerous technique, at least let the rules not reward these kids for clearing a bar with a riskly vault.

[And to repeat my comment from the thread you linked to, I'd favor both rules (land in the box *and* clear the central 4 ft) but think the 4 ft one would be easier to enforce and would not impose a financial burden on schools to get a pit cover with a box on it (NFHS rules don't currently require a "coaches box" on the pit, so a lot of schools would have to pay for a new cover to comply with that rule; A $4 can of spray paint is all that would be needed to mark the crossbar.)]

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Re: Missing the pit

Unread postby KirkB » Sun Nov 22, 2009 3:37 pm

Divalent, I agree that I found it hard to tell how wide of center he was when he cleared it PRIMARILY becuz there wasn't any spray paint on the bar to indicate the 4-foot zone.

But I think another reason why it was hard to tell was becuz of the camera angle. In the original thread, someone noted that fans in the stands would have a tough time seeing the vaulter's head in relation to the zone painted on the bar - again due to a poor viewing angle.

I agree that the best (perhaps the only?) viewing angle for an official to see an infraction is by standing on the runway ... either behind him as he starts his run, or by walking onto the runway after the vaulter has passed him. As noted by someone else, this puts an extra burden on the official to be sure to position himself in the right spot, and to be sure to watch for the infraction in the split second that it happens. If he forgets to do this, the opportunity is lost.

Not so if the vaulter lands outside the PLZ. Without even paying much attention, ANY official standing ANYWHERE will be immediately SEE the danger of someone landing outside it ... double-checking that he didn't miss anything ... and then make the call. The reason this works better is becuz the athlete is in his landing position in the pit for MORE than a split second. And since the fans will also be able to see the landing clearly ... from any angle ... there will be less disputes from fans, parents, and coaches.

Anyway, I think we've already hashed over all these pros and cons, so there's probably not too much point in repeating ourselves ... I'm sorry I've repeated so much here that I already said in the original thread.

But I DO have a suggestion. If it's true that the PLZ (coaches box) doesn't have to be marked according to NFHS rules, then they should make that a rule! I'm surprised that it's NOT already a rule! Sure, it may cost "more than a can of spray paint" to mark the PLZ, but I think it's worth it. After all, why even TALK about a PLZ if you can't SEE it? :confused:

You can't put a price on safety!

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Re: Missing the pit

Unread postby Tim McMichael » Sun Nov 22, 2009 3:45 pm

In the 18-1 vid that RG just posted of Scott, I see that he veered widely to the right on one attempt, and wisely bailed!


Notice how far angled to the right his lead knee and trail leg are on that jump. I can't think of a better illustration of how the direction the shins are facing influences the trajectory of the jump.

As for running down the right side of the runway. I used to do this to actually keep from fading right. If I felt I had a tendency toward clearing the right side of the bar I would run down the extreme right edge of the runway and then angle back toward the center from six steps out. This ensured that I would drive my knee either right down the center, or slightly to the left of the box, which put me over the center of the bar. If, however, someone runs down the right, and stays there all the way through the takeoff, and then drives the knee to the right - Look out.

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Re: Missing the pit

Unread postby bel142 » Sun Nov 29, 2009 12:57 pm

I'm curious... Tim, do you believe that the shin placement is the key there or that shin torsion (left or right) is influenced by the hip placement, and the shin is an easy way to identify it?

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Re: Missing the pit

Unread postby Tim McMichael » Sun Nov 29, 2009 8:36 pm

It is just one of those practical things that I have never really thought through. I was having trouble with finding the middle of the pit during a practice when Dean Dial just mentioned this to me as a kind of matter-of-principle. I never really questioned it, but I immediately found it to be true. Just off of the top of my head, I would say that at takeoff the shins direct the hips. If I drive my knee off to the right, the hips will be torqued in that direction, and the rest of me will follow. The influence of the weight of the lead leg blocking off at an angle is not insignificant, and it follows that the trail leg will swing through along that same line. Taken together, this can put a lot of mass and energy heading the wrong direction.

In terms of what happens after the vaulter leaves the ground, this gets complex in a hurry. Because the hands are fixed on the pole, their alignment is determined by its position throughout the jump and cannot be effectively altered. The shins, however, represent the opposite extremity, and due to the relative freedom of the hips, can be moved one way and another. I suppose you could focus on the knees or toes, but thinking about the shins brings the feel of the legs as one unit into play. Knees and toes are active joints and do a lot of other things besides point in a certain direction. The shins are passive and can only be directed by the articulation of the hips and waist. In terms of sequence, the shins lead and the hips and shoulders follow, but in terms of activation, the shoulders provide the anchor and the hips move the legs. At any rate, visual conception of the shins facing a certain direction unconsciously brings all the right muscle groups into play.

(I feel compelled to mention that Joe Dial's dad had almost no formal education at all and reasoned this stuff out for himself from first principles. He really was a genius.) :dazed:

I have also found this concept to be helpful when teaching beginners to turn over the bar. If they try to turn their shins to face the bar, the hips and shoulders inevitably follow.
Last edited by Tim McMichael on Tue Jan 19, 2010 12:43 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Missing the pit

Unread postby Barto » Sun Nov 29, 2009 11:01 pm

Dean taught me to turn by telling me to "watch your feet around the bar". Pretty close to keep your shins facing the bar.
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