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Pole Vault Basics Simplifying the Coaching Of a Seemingly Complex Event

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Grandpa Bell, 92

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For any vaulter coming down the runway, try to get 3 things correct: Right run Right pole Right grip

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Difficulties Right run –Most difficult in terms of consistency Right pole –Most difficult in terms of finances Right grip –Most difficult in terms of preparation

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As a coach, what should I be watching as my athletes vault?

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So let’s address … 1The run or approach Teach the pole vault progressively Start = 0 steps –Rock back step and onto the front pad –If athlete is struggling with balance issues, etc. during 0 steps, you will have much bigger problems down the road

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Then, move to a 2-step approach Then, a 4-step approach Then, a 6-step approach, etc. Move athletes back 2 steps at a time as they show competency at each approach Do not feel rushed to move them back before they are ready A solid rule of thumb: If vaulters have good technique and form, # steps = height of bar they can clear

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Newman Vaulters PR’s

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Earl Bell’s Height-Step Progressions

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So what do I look for during the run? The mid mark (coach’s checkmark) 6 steps out from takeoff Watching the takeoff foot will NOT give you the info you need This is due to athlete tracking

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18-step approach

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Why is the mid mark better? Example: –First meet of the season for your vaulter –Vaulter feeling pretty jazzed –First time he comes down the runway, he is 1’ over his mid mark –Guess where he takes off from though? –Probably very close to his usual takeoff mark –Again this is due to athlete tracking and automatic adjustments he has made –If using mid mark, move him back 1’

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So how do I know where to even put my vaulter on the runway? Determine his or her “magic number” With pole, have vaulter plant in the box Turn him or her around Should be somewhere between 7” – 10” Run a reverse approach backwards down the runway Long enough for coach to catch the 10 th step Take this number and divide by 5 = magic number!

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Magic Number Represents distance covered by vaulter for 2 steps of the approach Eample: –When athlete runs back, you catch his 10 th step at 55’ –55 ÷ 5 = 11 –For this athlete 11 is his magic number –2 steps = 11’, 4 steps = 22’, 6 steps = 33’, 8 steps = 44’, 10 steps = 55’, etc. –(2 steps often requires a bit more room = 12’)

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One final thought about approaches … If your athletes do NOT know their numbers, they are NOT ready for competition. Please, do NOT come to a meet and put your athlete in a situation where they are running backwards down the runway during warm-ups. Slows down everything.

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Now, let’s address … 2. The pole Every coach has a complete rack of 40-50 poles all in perfect series … right?

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Newman’s pole lineup

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My two cents … Financially, acquiring the poles you need is very difficult What makes things even worse when trying to get your vaulter on the right pole is the weight-rating rule This rule is scientifically flawed “Energy in = energy out” All about the formula for kinetic energy

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KE = ½mv 2 Velocity (speed) is far more important of a factor in the pole vault than mass (weight) There is no way a slower, but heavier vaulter should be on a pole at his or her weight This is also particularly true early in the season when your athletes are still developing Now, we have a different safety issue (despite this rule’s attempt to keep vaulting safe)

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When buying new poles … I know this presentation is suppose to make coaching the vault simpler … BUT, if buying new poles, you don’t want to make some classic errors. So … as a coach, you need to pay attention to flex numbers. So … what’s a flex number?

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At the manufacturing company … Just after a pole is made, it is placed in a rack that looks something like this:

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Once the flex number is determined… The smaller the flex number, the stiffer the pole with a heavier weight rating. The larger the flex number, the softer the pole with a lighter weight rating. For example, for 12’ poles: 30.1 – 32.0 = 110 lb. 28.1 – 30.0 = 120 lb. 26.1 – 28.0 = 130 lb. 24.1 – 26.0 = 140 lb.

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Suggestion: Find a dealer who will discuss flex numbers when it’s time to order a new pole. It would be a shame to waste $400-$500. Flex #’s usually at the bottom of the pole, sometimes at the top. Look for a # with a decimal point.

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Now, let’s address… 3. The grip Especially in terms of safety, the right grip on the pole is just as important as the right run and the right pole. Again, I know this presentation is suppose to simplify your coaching … So, while the following is a lot of work up front, it will make your coaching easier throughout the rest of the season.

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Tape all your poles Always wrap from the bottom to the top No more than 2 layers of tape Apply tape at ~ 45° angle Continue to cover ½ of previous layer as you go

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Then, mark all your poles Use a tape measure Use 1 inch increments Write marks on the upward facing side of the pole as the pole naturally bends downward

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And so, after every workout …

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Standard coaching adjustments: Now, let’s assume all is great with the approach. Make adjustments with your vaulter based on: 1.The action of the pole 2.Penetration into the pit

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Possibility #1 Poor penetration with lots of pole bend? Answer = Lower grip

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Possibility #2 Poor penetration with no pole bend? Answer = Smaller pole

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Possibility #3 Lots of penetration with lots of pole bend? Answer = Bigger pole

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Possibility #4 Lots of penetration with no pole bend? Answer = Raise grip

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Final thoughts The 2 most important factors in determining just how high any particular vaulter will jump: 1.Speed 2.Height of plant

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Final thoughts Emphasize with your athletes pole speed and pole rotation – move to vertical as quickly as possible. Whether at practice or at meets, do NOT allow athletes to set poles flat on the ground/floor. Spikes! NEVER allow vaulters to land on their feet in the pit!!!!

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Final thoughts Avoid the temptation to move the standards forward in order to compensate for a lack of penetration. Remember … this event is the pole VAULT, not the pole BEND. Thank you!

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For copies of this presentation: www.coachzell.org Click on “Pole Vault Basics”

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