We Are All Mental

Pole vault is an exceptionally unique and mental sport. No really it’s seriously mental, we’re all crazy. Then again you’d have to be at least a little bit crazy to voluntarily fling yourself through the air on a fiberglass pole. With the end goal of seeing who can get the farthest away from the ground. A friend of mine once said that pole vaulting is combining 20 things and executing all of them in a matter of seconds. Which seems like it would be a fairly strenuous if not impossible task of the mind.

The vault begins before you ever leave the ground. The first part is mostly prep; I set my feet on my mark, find my grip on my pole, extend my hands above my head to mimic take-off, bring my hands back down and lift the pole, tilt my hips up, pull my abs in tight, shoulders back, chest up. The next part is the approach; it starts with a step and lean back, and then it’s seven strides at full speed. I count every time my left foot hits the ground to keep track of my placement; one… stay tall, two… stay tall, three… stay tall, four… let gravity drop the pole, five… start to lift, six… pole to ear, seven… extend fully and jump. The last step takes place in the air, the trick here is not rushing. You have to wait for the pole to bend and only then can you use it to its full potential. This is combined with the momentum from your back leg to create a pendulum and invert your body before the pole begins to unbend. Then uncurl the legs and shoot yourself upwards as the pole uncoils flipping over and turning around in the process. The last part is the easiest, all you have left to do is fall. For those of you keeping track that’s 23 or 24 things depending on how you count them so they weren’t far off with 20.

The secret about pole vault is it actually isn’t possible to remember everything each time you jump. You’re actually likely to do far worse if you attempt it. Instead you have to work on it one piece at a time and then rely on your mind and body to remember the rest without you telling it expressly what to do. The secret to the perfect vault is that it’s done with barely a thought. Somewhere between setting your feet on the mark and taking off down the runway you have to clear your mind of everything else and just go. It’s very mental just not in the traditional sense. You have to train your mind and body in each piece and the when the time comes clear your head and trust yourself.

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