Transitioning from American-Style vaulting to the 6.40 Model

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joeUCLApv
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Transitioning from American-Style vaulting to the 6.40 Model

Unread postby joeUCLApv » Sun Mar 20, 2011 1:34 pm

Who has successfully done it? Who is in the process of changing? What were/are some of your trials and tribulations? How did you overcome them?

One year ago I came to pvp and had my whole concept of vaulting turned upside down by this forum, especially Roman's Pole Vault Menifesto and his 6.40 model. I read through all 50+ pages, multiple other posts, and got a copy of BtoB2 as well. I just couldn't believe that for that past 18 years, everything I learned, everything I was taught, everything I knew to be right, and everything I have been teaching as a coach was completely opposite of what was discussed! Lock your left arm, take off slightly under, PUSH, rock-back, etc... is now keep your left arm bent?, free takeoff??, pull???, swing... I mean how can these two techniques be so far removed from each other?

I found myself battling myself for some time. On the one side, I am a very logical person and the Petrov/Bubka and 6.40 models discussed just made logical sense in terms of the physics of what was trying to be accomplished. I completely understood why, BUT my body and mind had experienced something completely different for so many years, so no matter how much I tried to just visualize myself doing a free takeoff with a bent left arm, I always over-bent the pole and would fly back towards the runway and break my leg or something =P My mind just could not do it. It took a couple months of reading, vizualizing, looking at pictures and videos to finally be able to complete a free takoff in my mind, and now I was excited.

That summer I went out with one of my vaulters (who for the past two years learned my style of vaulting), and my little brother, 14 (who had never touched a pole in his life, but was athletic and wanted to try). The idea was that we would all follow the drills in BtoB2 and learn the free takeoff, bent left arm, and swing vault! Jumping off the ground BEFORE the pole tip hits the back of the box?? crazy, but it worked! I can still remember the feeling of amazment I had the first time I ran from 3 lefts on a small pole, jumped with a free takeoff (against the will of my body) and bent the pole, not with my left arm, but with my top arm??!! insane!

Now, here is where my problem comes in, and I would love some help on how I might get over this hump with myself and my current vaulters... My little brother never vaulted before this time, and was never taught to take off under or to to lock his left arm, and so for him the free takoff was just how it was supposed to be. He could take off out and be a good 6" off the ground before his pole hit the box with no problems whatsoever. My other vaulter and I on the otherhand can do no such thing. After 18 years of taking off a foot under I am having an impossible time trying to take of "free" from anything more than a 3-left run. As soon as I go back to 4 or 5 lefts, let alone a full run, I just start running through =( I get to the last couple steps of my approach and then something inside me screams "THIS IS NOT RIGHT, STOP NOW!!!!". It's the visual ques that I relied on for so many years I think. They are stopping me from completing the attempt. Something inside me just feels off right before takeoff and so I just end up runnign through. If I force myself to jump against my gut feeling, I end up overstriding the last 2 steps and taking off slightly under anyways, and since I'm no longer pressing with my left arm this never turns out well =(

So, has anyone else gone through this transition? Did you have this porblem? how can I change my mindset to allow me to takeoff "free" from my farther runs?

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Re: Transitioning from American-Style vaulting to the 6.40 Model

Unread postby altius » Sun Mar 20, 2011 10:17 pm

A GREAT POST. Surprised this issue has not attracted more attention. The problem derives from the nature of skilled performance - which by definition is "automatic" - essentially non conscious behaviour - that has been 'over learned' through repetitive practice. That is its strength and its weakness - because while it gives you a repeatable performance even under pressure - it is difficult to alter = especially when you are responding to external cues. So while it is not too difficult to change technique in gymnastics or diving it becomes more difficult with golf and on up as the environment changes. So a tennis player who wants to change from a sliced backhand to a top spin back hand had better go out of competition for at least four months -otherwise regression to the old movement pattern will occur.

So in track and field it is easier to change technique in the shot or discus than in the vault. My experience is that - apart from being prepared to drop out of competition for a season - you need to change as much of your initial technique as possible -to convince the body it is learning a new skill and to avoid interference from the old patterns at take off -which is where your major problems are manifesting themselves. So alter/improve the way you set up at the start of the vault, your pole carry, hand positioning throughout, your first step, run up pattern and especially the plant. Do thousands of pre jump drills in a sand pit but - after a while - do 6 in the sand pit and 6 in the box and keep swapping to try and rebuild your model. The problem with the sand pit is that there are no pad wedges as cues and often this is what you are responding to as you take off under. It would help if I could see film of your present technique - you may already be doing all of the above elements perfectly - which creates a problem.

This is one of the reasons many young athletes do not progress technically as they move from one coach to another in the US system - even when they meet a coach who understands the Petrov model they often have to waste time trying to eliminate the old learning - and it is not easy.

Note that the young athletes shown in btb all began with this model - although they are not perfect they do give an idea of what can be achieved by ordinary kids who are started off correctly.

let me see some film to see if things can be improved.
Its what you learn after you know it all that counts. John Wooden

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Re: Transitioning from American-Style vaulting to the 6.40 Model

Unread postby superpipe » Mon Mar 21, 2011 10:49 am

I know Altius is not a fan of slide box, but as long as the coach and athlete are aware of the "blocking" that can happen, both can make sure the plant and take-off are high with open shoulders that allows the initial "shock" of the slide box to drive the hands overhead and allow the chest to move in correctly instead of trying to "push" the slide box at take-off and essentially "block".

With that statement out of the way, I truely feel slide box drills from full approach runs ( need to progress there, not start there ) can be extremely valuable for helping vaulters learn and feel comfortable with a free take-off and learn the correct approach run to get them there. You need that "true to life" visual cue of the plant box to be there so you can get comfortable with the new take-off point that allows a free take-off. Start with a light slide box. I highly recommend the one designed by Manson and Huffman ( http://www.everythingtrackandfield.com/ ... ryID_E_221 ). You can add rubber aerobic dumbbells to the back to add weight as you get better and more comfortable. This allows the "shock" to be closer to real life of the cemented plant box. You get great feedback from hitting the slide box. You can feel when your vertical jump was week, your body position was not strong or you didn't finish a full take-off and hit a full pre-stretch. Because the box slides away, it really allows you those baby steps to get confident with longer poles from longer approach runs you just can't do with the sand pit. Poles runs on the track with a towel don't provide that "true to life" visual cue or the real mental cue of that cemented plant box that forces natural "steering" to occur if you're not quite right. Pole runs without a slide box are great for a multitude of things, but they will definitely not translate to ultimate confidence on the real runway with a cemented plant box. The visual cue of the plant box vs. your position on the runway is HUGE for confidence. I don't know anything better than slide box that helps to get vaulters that take-off under back out to the free take-off spot and learn to confidently jump there.

Again, you must be aware of the "blocking" that is so easy to get sucked into doing with slide box drills. You're not trying to "push" the slide box.
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Re: Transitioning from American-Style vaulting to the 6.40 Model

Unread postby VaultPurple » Mon Mar 21, 2011 11:27 am

I still do not get why people say taking off under and a straight left arm is "American". I have never once seen a coach instruct an athlete to take off under. They always try and be on but some coaches do not believe a few inches under really matters that much, so its not worth stressing over. But there are probably more vaulters in France and Germany that have the straight bottom arm than in America.

But as far as taking off with a free take off comfortably. That is your bodies natural will to survive response. Your body wants to get as close to the mat as possible so unless you train yourself otherwise you will over stride to be under.

One of best things I found is just putting a towel or something on runway and trying to long jump from behind it. I have a girl that always takes off 9' no matter where she runs from. But she needs to take off at like 10'8. In warm ups at meet I put a T-Shirt at 10'6 and she takes off from 10'8 and blows straight through the pole. This also goes with other natural reflexes that do not want you to step on anything.

Another drill I did that helped one guy push his step from 10' to 12' was vaulting off of a 6 inch wooden box. This not only made him shorten his step so he would not miss the box, but it forced him to actually jump.

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Re: Transitioning from American-Style vaulting to the 6.40 Model

Unread postby joeUCLApv » Wed Mar 23, 2011 6:16 pm

Some good explanation and advice. I was afraid it wasn't going to be as easy as moving my step back a foot and simply taking off further out then I have been. I'm sure I'm not the first person to try to change their fundamental style of vaulting. I had hoped to get others to chime in with what their toughest parts of the change were, if not I can at least be the guinea pig =) The technique, I understand, and the changes, I can make. It's the internal struggle, the battle with the subconcious mind for control that intrigues me the most about this. Everything except for the free takeoff is/was easy to implement. I believe the problem that most who try this will have is that you have already taught your mind/body how to defy it's natural will to survive a specific way. You are no longer a blank slate. You now require twice as much effort to 1. put your body in danger, and 2. do it in a way that is against what your body already nows as fact to survive!

A small vicotry came yesterday, although I wonder if it is simply a band-aid for the true underlying problem, or if the problem is not necessarily underlying, but can be sidestepped? I placed a white shirt down at my "free" takeoff point and succeeded to jump over it from my 5 step =) It gave me a completely new focus point during my approach, and so those cues that tell me I'm too far out and to stop didn't come into play. Although this isn't a permanant solution (I can't place a shirt on the runway during competition), I wonder if the contecpt ins't more of an economical solution for people to make this transition then having to learn a completely new skill? The shirt was a distraction from the normal cues in the vault (the box, mats, runway). By focusing on the shirt I was able to ignore those specific cues that I have developed over the years that would let me know my step is on or not. Now I think it would be best, with Alan's case, where these cues be relearned and redeveloped to support a new skilled performance of a free takeoff, but I wonder if that is absolutely necessary.

With a new focus point, it became a new approach. One then wouldn't have to change everything, especially if they had already developed a solid setup, run, and pole carry. But is this feasable? When the shirt is removed, are there any other focus points that can be utilized? I guess my question to everyone is, what do you focus on during your approach? the box (I think this is mine)? the mats (This is unreliable as this heavily depends on who's mats you are jumping on)? Or is there pretty much only one set of cues, maybe its the combination of these, that is used in the vault, and therefore your reaction to them must be changed, instead of simply picking a new one to focus on?

Doing pole runs, even with a slide box, is great to make sure you are running proper and hitting your marks. And true, with the box you might get some good feedback as to wether you had good position at takeoff or not, but I think there is something more to it than that. I and my vaulters can do pole runs til we're blue in the face, steps are spot on, takeoff is tall and free, but put us in front of a set of mats and it's a different story. I believe it was touched on in the last post. The body's natural will to survive is not in play with a slide box. Using the box as a visual cue for 18 years, and my mind/body learning that if it takes off on/under, allowing the pole to contact that box while I'm still secure on the ground, it will survive, I'm not going to covince it otherwise by practicing free takeoffs with a box that will move. That association can't be made, because no matter how much I tell my subconcious mind it's the same, my subconcious knows the difference between a cemented box and a slide box. It's been vaulting for 18 years, I'm not going to fool it.

Unlearning that association of the approach cues and being on/under can only be achieved by re-writing your memory through however much repitition of the new skill it takes for your body to remap that association under the same circumstances. But my thought here is that what if there is another way? Instead of reusing your old viusal cue, like the box, since that is taken already, what if you pick a new one? One that hasn't been associated with taking off on/under? In my case, I had never used an object on the track at my takeoff point before, so it was very easy to tell myself..."I want to jump from there". My subconcious had no argument, it had no reference point in memory, there was no internal struggle as I ran down the runway. Focusing on the shirt, my mind no longer cared about the box and what it knows is the correct visual distance for takeoff, it wanted to take off from the shirt. And it did. I still plan on doing pre-jump drills til I puke, but I definitely want to test this hypothesis. I wonder if this would prove to be a useful suggestion to coachs in our country who are faced with young athletes who have this vaulting style and visual cues already engrained? Instead of wasting time unlearning an association, pick a new visual cue and move forward from there.

I'll try to get some film of the progression up as soon as possible.

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Re: Transitioning from American-Style vaulting to the 6.40 Model

Unread postby superpipe » Wed Mar 23, 2011 7:33 pm

joeUCLApv wrote:I and my vaulters can do pole runs til we're blue in the face, steps are spot on, takeoff is tall and free, but put us in front of a set of mats and it's a different story.


Exactly why I stated to add weight to the slide box. Trust me, you can add enough weight that the "shock" will become, for all intense purposes, the real thing compared to a cemented box. You obviously haven't added enough weight at all. When you start adding some good weight, you better be good at holding full take-offs otherwise you'll end up on your back.
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Re: Transitioning from American-Style vaulting to the 6.40 Model

Unread postby altius » Wed Mar 23, 2011 11:46 pm

joeUCLApv wrote:
I and my vaulters can do pole runs til we're blue in the face, steps are spot on, takeoff is tall and free, but put us in front of a set of mats and it's a different story.

I would still like to see film of your vaulters - my experience suggests that many folk who feel they have got it sorted are still half a step or more late with the plant =and that will make a free take off impossible.
Its what you learn after you know it all that counts. John Wooden

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Re: Transitioning from American-Style vaulting to the 6.40 Model

Unread postby tsorenson » Thu Mar 24, 2011 11:03 am

JoeUCLApv,
I have undergone a similar transition, although I haven't used a t-shirt (yet). I like the idea but might use a handkerchief or red ribbon so that I don't get my feet caught up in it. Your analysis of focus point seems logical. Looking forward to trying it!

I am in my 3rd season of focusing on a free takeoff, and I can consistently take off freely from 5 or 6 lefts, but often overstride from 7 and end up under. I do a lot of pole runs from 8 with the hopes of eventually getting back further. I don't use sliding boxes very often, because they seem to make me block out. The key to doing it right seems to be the pole drop.

On pole runs, you can feel the difference when you drop the pole freely so that you don't feel its weight through the takeoff and you are able to maintain posture, accelerate, and jump up without slowing down. In fact, if you drop/plant the pole properly you are almost forced to quicken your feet at takeoff. That I believe is the key to the free takeoff (like Alan stated), not just jumping from further out. I like to try to do the 20/20 drill, and then at the end, drop and plant. It's hard to move the hands fast enough to keep up with your feet at that pace, but that's what we're striving for.

I also agree with your self-preservation analysis. Good luck in your transition!

Tom


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