Pole Vaulting


I’ve been coaching pole vaulting for longer than I can remember. I’ve coached very young children through Elite level vaulters. If there is one thing I could point at that needs to be eliminated in the vault it would be the running through. In all my years of coaching and teaching the vault, I can unequivocally say that I’ve learned three things. They are below.

If you run through you get worse.

  1. If you’re running through you get worse.
  2. If you take up a vault or drill and don’t finish it, you stay the same with no improvement.
  3. If you finish the vault or drill, regardless of how sketchy it may look or feel, you get better.

Yep. That’s pretty much all I know for sure. :^)

Now… How to prevent Run Throughs:

Important!!! Prevention is the Best Cure!!!

  1. It’s NOT mental! At least it didn’t start that way. Every vaulter I’ve ever known wants to finish a jump. Pole vaulting is fun. The last thing they want to do is run through, because that isn’t as much fun. Run throughs can start in a lot of ways. I’d say approach issues are the main problem. This can happen when the length of approach is not appropriate for the developmental level. And… things can be compounded when either the athlete or coach don’t recognize the problem early enough and fail to make the appropriate adjustments in distance in the approach.
  2. It is Mentality. When I coached competitively, we had a saying that perforated our team. It was the “Take it up Mentality”. What that meant was that running through was really not a part of our program. We just didn’t do it. Of course we weren’t stupid either. We made sure that our marks were accurate, and that we were dialed in both mentally and physically in our mission. We even went so far as to bring our own tape measure to competitions, to check the accuracy of the marks already on the pole vault runway. We were thorough, and 100% ready to get the job done. Sometimes we did. Sometimes we didn’t. But, if we didn’t, it wasn’t because were were running through, bailing out or not finishing. Heck, I think that our team was comparatively good to other team mainly because we trained and competed more efficiently by employing the “Take it up Mentality.”
  3. Transition to Plant the pole is jacked up. The athlete could be too far away, or too close, or just can’t plant the pole very well. Shorting the approach and working on the transition to plant is oftentimes the prescription to this sickness. Posture can also play a major role in running through. Too much forward lean or too much rear lean can make the transition to plant cumbersome, therefore causing a run through.
  4. Not enough Practice off the runway running with the pole. I am a huge advocate of doing pole run on the track, be it with a slide box or not. I know for a fact that this improves a vaulter’s ability to drop their pole tip appropriately, time up their transition to plant, and build the rhythm of their approach. I have 100% of the vaulters count their “lefts” or “rights” when doing pole run. I have them initiate planting the pole on the second to the last left, and jump up as their pole tip strikes the ground.

Methods for Recovering a Run Through Addict

  1. Start small and work your way up. Small pole, short approach, low grip.
  2. Pole Run on the Track. Count your lefts. When first learning to do pole run, run about 60%. Initiate plant on second to the last left/right. Jump up at take off. The pole tip should continually drop and should not stall or be help static in one position. On the second to the last left/right the pole tip should be no higher than the forehead of the vaulter. The pole tip drop, when done inappropriately (too high to late) can cause run throughs and is dangerous.
  3. Step up Vaulting. The vaulter starts at 2 lefts with an appropriate pole length, grip height and pole weight. The bar is low and the vaulter takes 5 attempts (usually all it takes) to attempt/clear the low bungee. The vaulter moves back to 3 lefts and the bungee is raised a foot. 5 more attempts and repeat until the vaulter is back at the desired number of lefts. The key is for the vaulter to run only about 60% of their top controllable speed, so the transition to plant can be smoothed out and an appropriate pole vault take off mark can be established.
  4. Pole Vaulting Games. I started using pole vaulting games like 10 in a row back in the 1980s. I used the games for fun, but I also used them as a means to strengthen the mentality of a vaulter. Games take the focus off the sometimes mundane parts of pole vaulting and pole vault training, and focus on fun and the vault as a whole. Just the opposite of the run through which is characterized by too much of a focus on one single thing and having zero fun.
  5. The best way to prevent run throughs is to avoid the things that can sometimes start them. Let me see… how many.

    • Not getting enough sleep
    • Not eating right
    • Not drinking right
    • Gaining weight


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