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How to Find Pole Vaulters

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If you’re looking for pole vaulters on your team, or you think you might like to try the pole vault yourself, check out some advice from former world record-holder Stacy Dragila, who currently coaches pole vaulters herself.
What should coaches look for in pole vaulters?

“I think there’s a lot of different types of pole vaulters. But I like a kid that just likes to work hard. Obviously, you want to have some skills – some sprint mechanics, obviously. I get a lot of gymnasts, but we always have to work on the sprint mechanics. I always know that they’re strong, and as soon as they get on the pole they pretty much don’t have a problem. But it’s the run that we have to work on. So it’s not always looking for that gymnast. We all want that tall kid, like a 6-foot tall kid that’s 165 pounds. But that doesn’t mean he’s going to be a great vaulter. I think there’s something inside you that also drives you. And, the event is a little bit of a daredevil event, so you have to have some guts to be able to plant a pole, running very quickly. So it’s a lot of character, I think. And just the willingness to work. If they’re willing to work, then I think you can actually mold an athlete. So that’s where I’ve found a lot of my success, is kids that want to come to practice every day and want to learn and trust in my system. And then I have some kids that are just really strong that think they already know what to do. I think they’re just a detriment to themselves because they’re not willing to open up and learn new techniques and things.”

What can young athletes do to prepare themselves for the pole vault?

“Just be a monkey – swing on some bars. You’ve got to have some upper-body strength, and core strength. We talk about that all the time. If he is a long jumper or a hurdler, I think those attributes, those aggressive events really translate over to the pole vault runway. ... I just think that there’s a lot of girls out there that could be very good. A lot of them either go to the sprints or the jumps. I actually ran into a couple of girls at Boise State that said, ‘We want to try it.’ And I said, ‘Oh my gosh, this would be awesome.’ Some of those kids come from inner cities and they just don’t have the equipment and they probably don’t even have the event accessible to them. So it was always my dream to go have a clinic there and do some recruiting. But it’s always funny because they’re the ones that are terrified of doing it. But I say, ‘It’s not like you’re grabbing a pole at the very end and you’re running from 150 feet. You’re going to start seven steps out, or 7 feet out, and you’re going to hold (the pole) really low and you’re just going to step into the pit.’ They had no concept that there were all these segments along the way that actually end in this long approach.”

Do some kids take to the pole vault really quickly, or does it always take time?

“Some kids get it really quickly, and it’s typically a gymnast background, because they understand what to do in the air, men and women. And some of the guys that are just naturally talented athletes get it, because they have the upper-body strength and they’re just a little bit more mature in their body. And then you have the younger athletes that don’t get it, but want to try and they’re all left-legged. But as you progress with them over the year they get better and they get better. And the next year they’re a little bit better. Those are fun to work with, too, because you really see them come along. Where you see some of these other athletes, they’re really successful, really quick. But they might plateau as well. So it’s fun to work with an array of athletes, I think.”

Read more about the pole vault:
Olympic champion Tracy Dragila Talks Pole Vault Training
Pole Vault Technique, Part 1
Pole Vault Technique, Part 2

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