If you have coached the vault, you have received many “SOS” emails, texts, and phone calls.  Wether it be from a vaulter or parent, they roll in and you are left contemplating how best to serve them in their current state.  Sometimes, the best answer is short and sweet, but sometimes the coaching juices start flowing or, in my case a lot of times, I recall what it felt like to be in their situation as a vaulter and I realize that my struggles in this sport years ago can be used to help the next generation.

Instead of keeping these bits of pole vault tips and advice and for a single athlete to use, I thought there may be other athletes out there who may benefit from them as well.

The athlete in this case has struggled with believing that they are continually getting worse as time goes on.  They are in the proverbial “hole” and trying to dig themselves out, which every vaulter, even the best, will have to do at one time or another…This is the response to this pole vaulter’s SOS Message.  It is as follows…

I am so sorry you are going through this.  Feeling like this is a really tough thing for a young person to go through.  I went through it as well…I vaulted a foot and a half lower my freshman year in college than I did my senior year in high school, and then did not PR again until the end of my sophomore year in college.  It was almost two years between PR’s for me at that time. Then after college, I did not PR for another 2 years…VICIOUS SPORT!!!

I remember thinking those same things you are and became very disheartened.  Honestly there were two “quotes”, if you will, that helped me through that first time after having had a failed freshman year in college.  The second time (trying to PR after college) I’m not quite sure how I got through it without quitting.

The first quote was from my dad when I got back from Alabama my freshman year and began to dig myself out of the hole I was in.  He would walk into my room, flip the light on and say, “Wake up and put your feet on the floor!”.  This  really helped my tenacious mentality.  I remember thinking, if I just continue moving and staying in the process, it will happen, eventually.  It could be a long time from now, but by God I will keep swinging.  This event is like the stock market and is marked with super high highs, and just as low lows, unfortunately.  Many stock traders just say,” Nope…it’s too much.  I’m pulling my money out and taking the L”. Little did they know the THE NEXT DAY, that stock would start to trend up again and would eventually hit a record high.  There is a caveat though.  You can’t wake up every day thinking, “This is the day everything is going to turn around!”, or you will go NUTS!!!  You wake up and you trust that it is going to turn in your favor eventually, and you continue doing things that you know will help push you in the right direction.  The ultimate trick is to fall in love with those small tasks (the process) that you know will push you in the right direction, and then you end up doing those things not because you want something from them but because they are the things you love to do.  

The next one that helped with my mental state was, “Acceptance is the answer to all of my problems today”.  I had to come to complete acceptance of where I was at.  I remember coming to that point and thinking to myself, “Well Jake, you are much worse than you were in high school.  You are very far from where you once were, and you are in a hole that will take a while to get out of”.  It hurt for a second to admit that, but when I admitted it to myself, then accepted my current state as my new base line, I was able to start comparing my progress to that baseline and seeing that I was slowly getting better compared to where I was CURRENTLY at.  Now, if I would have continued to compare myself to what I previously had been, I would wake up every day and be miserable thinking about how much I had regressed and how much I currently suck. Soon after I would make a comparison to my “old self”, the feelings of depression, disappointment, and self pity would kick in…Then boom I would be sitting in my room crying about how much I hated pole vaulting but loved it all at the same time.  It got pretty confusing at times and there were a lot of times I just wanted to be done.  My weapon against that situation was ACCEPTANCE.  I would feel those feelings come on me daily, but I would say to myself that those feelings could be completely powerless if I accepted where I was and was happy and content with it.  “Acceptance is the answer to all of my problems today”.  A person who is comparing themselves to others or to their previous self is going to have a hard time making their way out of the situation they are in.

FYI….This feeling that you are feeling about pole vaulting will never go away, it will just switch from pole vaulting to another aspect of your life, so learning how to manage this will serve you well even after you hang your spikes up.  One day it will be something different, like your job, or your financial situation, or your physical condition (that’s the one I’m currently struggling with haha), etc.

Hang in there (NAME), and remember that you started pole vaulting because it was fun and you loved it.  There is almost always a correlation with having fun and being successful.  In my experience, my most profound moments in pole vaulting have not been winning championships and jumping personal bests, but when I was able to retake control of my mind, point it in the right direction, and then overcome a battle within myself.  Hope this helps!

RISE Higher.

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