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Suddenly everyone's a pole vault coach

I've spent a good part of the last three weeks competing in or travelling to or being present athletics at events designated with the title "World". I'm reasonably content with my results, except for the bits I'm not happy with. And this note is reflecting on the not quite so good bits, . . . . . And I have an opinion, about how much Heathside should help me, its other multi-eventers and athletes in general for the good of the SAL team.

It has taken me almost 10 years to become as bad as I am today at athletics,(see the illustrations below) which is made up of running, jumping and throwing. My first decathlon entry on The Power of 10 was in 2009 when I scored 4417 points. I've plotted my progression in points since then. You'll see that the actual score in red matches very closely the formula  score = 4417 + ((Age - 57)  * 203) so I expect to pass 7,000 points when I'm 71.

Over these three weeks I and Ivan have posted our results on Facebook and both received essentially the same comment about our vaulting "Good stuff. But please spend the winter sorting out your technique at the top." and "Well done Adrien! ... and work on your PV". Utterly fair comment in both cases, and both sources utterly unimpeachable, and not to be ignored. But my question is, how? Heathside does not have a pole vault coach. Heathside does not have a pole vault bed that one or two people can easily use for a short time. And it's winter, and Heathside does not have a gym where vault like activities can be undertaken, the ceiling is only just high enough to do a chin up. So, is the answer  , go elsewhere? As it happens, the state of Heathside Pole Vaulting is pretty good this season, with the two men decathletes both getting over 3m at some point, Gokce still improving and a second woman vaulter reliably available. I'm not sure who is coming up behind them nor what the plans are for the future.

What about the high jump? 

You can see from the picture some of the things that are wrong with my high jump. The dowager's hump doesn't help, and the very bad habit of looking back to see if my feet are still with me seriously limits the height I can achieve with my bum, and a picture of take off shows my right arm reaching down when it should be reaching up. Now Heathside doesn't have a high jump coach. If it did I would love to work with her to reliably eliminate these problems, reliably. There was a season when I jumped 10cm higher than I do now, but without the coaching reminders provided by a critical eye,  technique deteriorates. That season came at the end of a winter during which I went to Allianz Park every Wednesday for specialist high jump coaching. Yes , the solution once again is go elsewhere. Unless we can get a coach, or set up some sort of self help scheme among the athletes. 

Long jump

Again my posture lets me down, but there is good news in this event. I asked Mark Lawrence for advice before the summer season started. I asked for an improvement to technique so that I could reliably jump 4 metres, and only once this season have I not made it (and that was 3.99m), a huge improvement over 2017. On one occasion this year I threatened 4.50m. I think I'd like to go back and ask for reliably threatening 4.50m. The Heathside team has three good competitors for the men, one of whom is under 20. On the women's team there is an U20 and a couple of vets.


The hurdles obviously inspire fear in me. Colin Jackson used to barely clear them, with the top of one thigh, the underside of the other  and all the precious belongings in between brushing against the wooden rung. I, by contrast, leave a lot of clearance. Given that the hurdles are 84cm it may be my hurdling is higher than my high jump. Comments over the years from Heathside coaches have helped me enormously to improve my technique, even to this limited extent, but more still needs to be done. Almost in a vacuum as far as Heathside goes. Again the men's team has its two decathletes, and me, although one new name did pop up once. The women's team gets by passably well, but then women's hurdles are set far too low. in the name of equality they should demand higher. What I need here is a dismantling of my fear, to be replaced with confidence. Who is going to do that for me? Where have all the young men gone?

Shot Putt

I putt my best ever shot in a multi-event in Malaga at 9m 20cm. In a sequence that went 6m odd, 7m odd and then the miracle putt. My shot putt technique has been through the dismantling and putting back together process by Greg Richards at Highgate, whom I paid for private lessons. Prior to that tuition I'd read about the unwinding process from the ankles up, but until Greg physically prevented me releasing the shot before all that had happened I didn't properly understand what it meant. Now i understand, and I can, sometimes, quite unpredictably achieve a good putt. And now I understand the principle I can get a lot closer to applying it to javelin and discus. Heathside does not have a throws coach. Would athlete self help work?

Discus and Javelin

Long throws are not my forte. Heathside does not have a throws coach. Would athlete self help work?

I did tolerably well at running, which Heathside's speciality, with its rollercoaster, its Saturday morning, and Sunday and Tuesday and Thursday sessions and Wenesday. All aimed at running. And cross country. Not technique, just running. Which is one of my worries about the Parkrun. People are rewarded for doing something repeatedly and often. Not well and better. A club like Heathside has a responsibility to help people do things well and better. At present it seems to me that much of the effort is devoted simply to running often, with the sprint groups actually spending time on technique. 

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