Issue #2 - 2012

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Jan Johnson's Pole Vault Safety and Technique News Letter - Issue #2 - 2012

Sky Jumpers Vertical Sports Club
Pole Vault Safety Certification Board
Atascadero, California

Proposed Safe Landing Zone Rule
Experimental Contest #1

Event: Illinois Pole Vault Coaches Association / Sky Jumpers Vertical Sports Club Winter Pole Vault Camp –
Maine South HS, Park Ridge, Illinois - February 19, 2012

This years contest was conducted using an experimental safe landing zone rule. It employed a box marked in chalk on the top pad; 15' wide by 14'6" deep measured from 6" behind the zero line. The contest was conducted on a landing mat that was 21'6" wide by 16'10" deep behind the strike plate. See photo below:

During the course of the contest the members of the Illinois pole vault coaches association and the officials made very close observations regarding dangerous vaults and landing positions and locations on the pads.


A total of seven vaults during the contest were cited with cautions and recorded into the score sheet. A caution was only cited if the vaulter touched or went beyond the safe landing zone perimeter upon first contact with the landing pads.


Below: Actual score sheet of our experimental contest

Note that a "c" was placed next to contestants name on the score sheet each time a caution was issued.

Chad (see line #2) would have been eliminated on the basis of either the 2 or 3 infractions rule. Two of his misses and one of his makes were cautions. Later Chad went on to PR at 14'6". However, by all accounts Chad was bringing danger to himself.



· Great attention was brought to where and how vaulters landed. Both coaches and vaulters were acutely aware that they must land within the safe zone to complete a successful attempt.

· Standard placement setters seemed to have perfect position to call fouls (yellow caution flags). The standard place setter on the right side was a complete novice and he had no trouble making the safety line calls.

· Some members of the IPVC association thought that the box could have been slightly wider. Others liked the size as it was.

· Several jumps were observed where the vaulter rolled back wards after his or her first impact but did not touch the safety zone line.

· Several vaulters were observed bailing out and just making it into the safety zone box. These vaults were not cited with a caution.

· Two vaults were cited with cautions when the vaulter bailed out and landed either in front of or on the front caution line (6" behind zero).

· One jump was observed where the vaulter landed immediately next to the standard base pads with feet on the caution line it was cited with a caution flag.

· The ultimate winner of the contest was cited with 3 cautions, how ever he was not eliminated from this particular contest. However he was dangerously traveling to the side on many of his vaults. On his winning vault he landed correctly in the middle of the pads.

· The head official was able to call the order, keep the score board and watch the landings on every vault of the contest.

· The enforcement of this rule did not slow the contest down in any way

· Only one competitor would have been eliminated based on too many unsafe jumps, interestingly, he was the eventual winner and he was vaulting unsafe.

· It was a unanimous opinion of the participating members of the Illinois PV coaches association that all jumps charged with caution flags were dangerous.

· During the course of the contest the landing pad moved back from 3" behind the zero line to nearly 9" back.


Below: Scatter diagram of the locations of unsafe vaults which were issued a caution.


*The 15' wide safe zone is 12" wider that the original one at SJVSC.

*Some committee members felt the Maine South one could have been slightly wider.

*All committee members felt that the 14'6 depth was good.

*Some committee members felt that the vaulter should have to land entirely inside of the safety zone for a fair jump.

*One committee member who had been a volleyball coach for 20 years said that in HS volleyball team members are the line judges but the head official can over ride any call.

*It was also noted that in volley ball the entire ball must land outside the line for the ball to be out of play.

*Several committee members reminded us that in the throws the implement must land within a prescribed sector.

*Additionally in the LJ and the TJ the athlete must land with in the prescribed landing pit area.

*Much discussion centered on if the entire body needed to land with in the zone and if arms legs or hands outside of the zone be counted as a foul.

* Two highly active Illinois HS officials both said that what ever the rule is it needs to be worded in such a way that it is "cut and dried" for simple and easy enforcement: "making a difficult to enforce rule that involves too much interpretation and will be a problem"

* A highly prominent HS coach from Green bay, Wisconsin said that the rule should only apply to warm ups and that if "a vaulter does not demonstrate safe technique in warm ups he/she should not be allowed to continue." Another coach


said some vaulters could simply "avoid warm ups to avoid disqualification."

* A prominent official noted that many times score keepers are very busy during warm ups and will not have time to pay sufficient attention to landing locations during the warm ups.

* A highly successful Illinois HS coach said that "by first warning and then eliminating participants from pole vaulting competitions represents a form of behavior modification that the sport badly needs. Over gripping is the root cause of the vast majority of unsafe jumps.

* It was unanimously agreed that over gripping and over bending the pole was first and foremost the cause of most unsafe vaults.

* Another well known HS coach said that: "The HS weight rule is a pain in the ass and does nothing for safety. I hate soccer, but this is a good idea, it puts more focus on control and reduces wildness"

* Another coach said that: "this rule would be far more effective than the HS weight rule or providing additional padding around the perimeter because it gets at the heart of the problem, we can't keep growing the size of the landing pads to accommodate those who choose to put them selves at risk, best of all it costs nothing"


Suggested wording for safe landing zone rules

During the course of competition, In the completion of a pole vault jump, the vaulter must land so that upon first contact of his or her entire body including head, arms, hands, legs and feet must be within a 15' wide x 14.5" caution zone box clearly marked on top of the landing surface. It is suggested that the box is marked using 2-3" wide lines of a contrasting color, so that the inside dimensions of the zone meet the 15'x14'6" standard safety zone dimensions. The size of the safety zone area shall be standard for all landing pads. The front edge of the safety zone be between 3 and 9" behind the zero line as defined by the top of the strike plate at the back of the planting box. It is suggest that standard placement and cross bar personnel should participate as front line observers and confer with the head official. The head official will have final approval of any cautions entered on to the score card.


Vaulters who do not land within this area will be awarded a yellow caution flag; the score keeper shall make a record of all caution flags on the score board. A maximum of two caution flags are allowed during the course of a contest with elimination from the contest on the third. The vaulters best height cleared will be used as his/her final mark.


Cautions shall also be used as the final method of resolving ties when scoring a vaulting contest.


Three consecutive misses will remain as the other way the vaulter may be eliminated from a contest.

Examples of dangerous vaults which would result in caution flags

* Any vaulter landing on or in front of the front edge of the safety line nearest the plant box.


* Any vaulter landing where first contact with the pads is touching any portion of the safety zone lines, with any body part.


* All vaulters landing in the plant box.


* All vaulter landings upon the standard base padding.


* All hand slips resulting in landings in or around the plant box area, where the vaulter makes contact in front of, or on the front line of the safety zone.


Note: Back rolls and or tumbles after first contact with the pads will not be cautioned.

Jim J --2/23 Comments:

Gives the official(s) the authority to remove a competitor rather than the cringing that we all do when we see this!Using the body rather than trunk and head clears any questions about where the points of a foul should start Questions line "Was it the inside or outside of the shoulder that hit the line?" won't need to be debated.
Using the inside of the rectangle as the 15'x14'6" will allow the 3" line to be a clear, highlighted offence rather than watching for the mark outside of the boundary
Rule additions: As with the foul call for a vault and if this were to be given during competition - "in an attempt" should be added to the phrasing so the vaulter won't be penalized for being outside the zone when trying to stop.

- The jumper will need to come to a controlled completion state (sitting, lying or standing) of the jump so as to end the need to watch the boundary

If, by chance, there is a tie for 1st (total misses and misses at the last height) and the caution rule eliminates all the competitors, what will be done?



Jan Johnson 2/23 revisions


Revisions to original document added. Revisions are noted in red and bold

Jan Johnson 2/25 comments

I also need you all to send me as note regarding why the HS weight rule is bad for pole vaulting and does not impact safety as it was intended.

It will become part of my proposal to the NFHS.

2/26 comments from Jim J


Following the rules upon successful trial and clearance of the bar, I disagree with charging the third caution as a miss. If the athlete did successfully clear the height, he/she should be awarded that height.

2/26 comments from Tim J:

You might want to phrase that line about "the third caution will eliminate the vaulter from the competition" say the vaulter clears the height but lands on the line for the third caution. Does the third caution also count as a miss? you would almost need it to count as 3 misses at the height so you could easily factor it in for tie breaking .


2/26 comment from Chris S

Hmmmmm that would pretty much make the caution idea a mute point since it would eliminate the penalty since you are now saying that the caution only counts on first or second attemps and thirds if its a miss which would eliminate the vaulter anyway. It would work opposit of the intended purpose of the rule to reward a vaulter for taking a greater risk in a third attempt knowing he would not be penalized if he cleared the hight and hit the caution line for the third time


2/26 comment from Jan Johnson

The jumper would receive the height on the score sheet, but, since he/she received the third, will no longer be allowed to compete at the next height.


2/26 from Tim G 10:02

Interesting question for clarification, Tim. We've discussed the possibility of one or two accumulated "cautions" being a third tie breaking criteria after previous height misses and total misses, but it's been my sense that a final caution (whether determined to be a total of two or three) results in automatic elimination. Perhaps we have not clearly stated whether "elimination" means a complete forfeiture or whether attempts up to that point will be scored.

Nevertheless, a third or final caution would count as a miss (good point, Tim, if vaulter is scored up to that point.) Or does elimination mean, "out of the competition" or should it?

2/26 from Tim J 10:11

I remember back in the ancient times when the pole passed under the bar counted as a miss. Pretty agreegess rule but it was cut and dried no caution no if ands or buts if it was on the first second or third attempt.


2/26 Tim G 10:40

Yes, interesting that landing outside the zone is not such a foul as to constitute a failed attempt. If a caution is not a miss then Tim's point stands as regards Jim's rare hypothetical of a tie breaking jump off. Risking a third caution while clearing a final height could result in a risk averse victory.


2/26 from Tim J 10:58

I could go along with this concept. Not so agreeges but still gets the point across.


The jumper would receive the height on the score sheet, but, since he/she received the third, will no longer be allowed to compete at the next height.


2/26 From Jan Johnson 11:05 & 11:32

The precedence in track and field has already been set in the throws and the LJ and TJ. The athlete or the implement must land in the sector or the zone. Additionally in the throws, the athlete must exit under control from the rear of the ring.

I think in the PV for the rule to have its desired effect it will have to be strictly enforced. We cant give people a pass just because its third attempt.

Our goal is to set a president to get people jumping more under control. ie grip the pole lower, jump on a more appropriate pole and so on.

Patrick Sheridan - Elmwood Park H.S. Pole Vault
Hi Jan,

I have worked your camp at Maine South for most of the last decade and have had my mind blown by the IHSA's insanity when it comes to pole vault rules. I received this reply (below with parts highlighted) from Ron McGraw, Illinois' head honcho on Track and Field regarding IL's recommendation of 4' of padding around the entire pit after I emailed him expressing concern over vault being cancelled/postponed quite often for indoor. I need advice on what to do to keep this event alive here/everywhere. IL is setting a dangerously addictive precedent.

4' is virtually impossible at the vast majority of indoor facilities, let alone a good percentage of the outdoor ones. I feel like Custer here, but is this an all hands on deck thing or will we let indoor pass (good luck padding lanes 1-3, and the shot area at IWU for indoor state) and move to the same problem in outdoors and then again next year? The real question is: is it practical and is it safer.

The fact that he says 4' is IL's interpretation is still arbitrary. Why not 5' or 3'? Where's the data/rationale at this being a perfect spot? The 'box/zone' idea you have (2 and 'through' OR 'more than 1 and you're done') addresses this quite nicely.

So we need to pad the entire building because common sense says: falls = ouch, so padding everywhere! Why aren't the pits 30' in every direction? Basically, McGraw is saying the NFHS being fine with pits being the present size is wrong? Is he the pioneer in tracks being padded? The runway is still not 'yielding'...I know I am being dramatic, but this is not the desired effect he mentions - thinking about safety is not the lesson of this rule, it is about the state covering their butts and allowing bad vaulting/coaching to continue. 4' from the back corner of a pit = bigger problems than why wasn't an extra pad there.
High jump does not cover around their pit, and most kids skip right off of it...
WWJD - What Would Jan Do? His idea of not expanding pits, laying padding where feasible (sides of back pits, behind back pits) and making vaulters jump safely should be the point. A freak accident can occur at 4'6" of padding as much as 4'.

Sorry to bug you, but I am hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. I fear extinction...
Always raise the bar,

Pat, Thanks so much for your note. In my opinion we can't increase the size of the landing pads. They are as large as can be afforded and fit into our facilities. Additionally many places will not have room for perimeter padding. Clearly the 2 or 300 Chicago area schools who have indoor vaulting are at risk because the space is probably not available for perimeter padding at most of them.

We simply need to remove the weight rule and encourage people to land in the middle of the pit and penalize them if they do not.

Since pads were last enlarged in 2003 our catastrophic injury record shows 1 off the rear, one of the side and 14 in the box of legal sized landing systems. The situation can be easily remedied by padding the box and mandating that kids land in a required zone. Like Mike Fontana says: the rule needs to be cut and dried so that it is simple to enforce and not a judgment call.

Thanks for all you do, and the help you have given me and my group over the years


Steve White here, University of Minnesota

1-love the proposal

2-all good efforts need a slogan or a metaphor------in track and field the language needed here has already been invented-----a sector.

In other events, the performance only counts when completed in the sector. Vault needs a sector (the landing box you describe). I believe that not having a sector in vault should open up a discussion on the elimination of throwing sectors.

Thanks Jan

UofM Men's Pole Vault Coach


Wow ! Nicely said Mr White.

I totally agree with your. For example, if tomorrow someone threw the shot 85 feet but it landed out of the sector it would not count.


From: Tim Johnson
Subject: Re: safe landing zone threadI would NEVER go for continuation of the weight rule!!!!! I can ONLY go for this rule if it REPLACES the weight rule. The absolute worst case scenario would be to have both rules!!!!!!!!!!!!

On Mar 4, 2012 10:12 AM, "JAMES Lonergan" wrote:

I just received the thread about the Safe Landing Zone proposal. (What don't you guys like me anymore.) Being a couple weeks behind the curve, I tried to take all the comments and put them into a Word document. I had a hard time keeping of who said what when. I put line numbers in the document and tried to color everyone's comments. I also removed last names to protect the guilty. I probably messed up a couple of times, but if it helps--great!

Here are my thoughts on the issues--

  • I am in favor the Safe Landing Zone proposal. Maybe it should be called the Required Landing Zone. I do believe that the vaulter needs to come to rest. I am concerned about the kid whose feet or butt or shoulder or whatever lands inside the zone but then he bounces out of the zone and possibly off the pit. Last night, I watched the same guy from the from the 2/18/12 competition land twice on his feet or side in the zone but his twisting momentum carried him to far right edge of the pit. He was not in control when he first contacted the pit. Thankfully, he was jumping on pits which are larger than the rule minimum.
  • The demarcation lines of the landing zone should be 2" wide. The zone is measured from the inside boundaries of the lines.
  • I agree with Jim J from 2/23 (lines 144--149) about adding "in an attempt" and "jumper will need to be in a controlled state"
  • Regarding ties: I like the caution rule being a tie breaker before the jump-off rule is implemented. If both jumpers are eliminated due to the caution rule, then no jump-off occurs and the competition ends in a tie. The points are split.
  • I am in favor of 2 yellow flags and then a red. Philosophically, I like a one-flag-you're-done concept, but I don't believe we can do that to kids learning the event. A rule that limiting would find us eliminating the vault altogether. Upon a 3rd flag, the vaulter is out of the competition. If the bar was cleared on that attempt, the vaulter is given credit for the height. The 3rd flag should not count as a miss; therefore, it will not work against the vaulter in case of a tie-breaker. The 3rd flag is elimination from further compeition in the event, not a complete disqualification from the event.
  • I may not be reading Jan's comment on lines 215--219 correctly. In the throws and the sand, if a competitor fouls on attempt one and two, but marks on attempt 3, the 3rd attempt counts. The vault (and high jump) uses a bar to measure the performance, not a physical mark on the floor or sand. Therefore, we have 2 components to assess a vault: 1) whether or not the bar stayed up, and 2) whether or not the vaulter landed inside the safe landing zone. The 2 are separate. So, a vaulter could clear without a flag, clear with a flag, miss without a flag, miss with a flag. If a flag is given and it is the 3rd flag, the vaulter would be eliminated from the competition but the status of the bar (a make or miss) would still count. If it's the vaulter's 3rd flag but only the first miss at that height, too bad. He's done. As was said throughout the thread, it's more about landing safe and going high than simply going high.
  • For the weight rule, we get it, but way too many coaches and kids don't, and I don't believe they ever will. We've been around the vault a long time and we continue to see the same errors being made. It's like kids and cars. Cars have been around a long time, but teenagers continue to do stupid things behind the wheel. (Adults do, too, but let's stay focused on our audience.) I agree that poles are misapplied due solely to adhere to the rule. I do believe, however, that the long-term effect of the rule has been positive. To some extent, kids and coaches have had to learn how to vault on the proper pole. My fear about modifying the weight rule, and I do believe it could use some modification, is that kids will again go back to using poles that are way too soft and that bending a pole will become a focus rather than jumping a pole to vertical. This will result in the following: more kids jumping with the standards at the absolute bare minimum, landing in the box, getting shot off the pit, and broken poles. I would like to see the poles marked with different weights every foot, but I don't know if that is realistically manageable and it's more difficult for officials to monitor. What about, like wrestling, giving an allowance of some sort. For example, an athlete may use a pole rated by the manufacturer as no more than 10 lbs below their body weight. Of course, there is no concern for an athlete using a pole rated above his/her body weight.
  • Just to add another "ingredient" to this stew, how about proposing changing the minimum standard placement to 51cm (20 inches).

sorry to be so wordy. Remember, I'm an English teacher; it's an occupational hazard.

Jim Lonergan

English Teacher, Sophomore Girls Volleyball Coach, Asst. Boys Track Coach--Jumps

Maine South HS

Hey Jan – I don't know if you even know who I am. I've written the curriculum for Washington State's coach certification program which I showed you a few years ago at Reno. I was also the one who shouted most loudly at first news of rule 743 that, rather than pole fussing, we ought to mandate safe landings in the center of the pit, with border stripes and caution flags, much like you recommend here. I even sent the full proposal and diagram to Bob Fraley who loved it and produced it in the vault publication that spring. So I like the idea, I commend the progress, but fear it will get a hair complicated. As written, and there are a few grammatical errors and or typos within, I think you need to send a picture of a nicely repainted pit cover and perhaps a second diagram of an overhead view of it in simple computer image. I'll also remind you of two reasons my idea got shot down back in 98 or whenever it was I tried to first make this happen. One, the federation was tenaciously closed to more feedback on rule 743, which made many people angry for all the new poles we'd have to buy, etc. Second, coaches said they feared unpaid and untrained officials would cower at the burden of more responsibility or liability if they misjudged a vault. Everyone sues everyone today, and booting a kid or deciding not to could make officials feel vulnerable to angry parents. This should be worded in such a way as to assure officials they are not gaining new burdens or liabilities.

Question – In the event that an athlete, with good awareness and instinct, aborts a vault he/she knows was off due to take-off point or whatever, does not swing, but leaves the ground and searches for a front bun for a safe landing spot on the feet, should this athlete get a warning card? They might say, "But that wasn't a vault! I deliberately aborted and landed short for safety. I accept my miss, but please don't count it as reckless." Are you good with flagging them on those too? I wouldn't want an unintended consequence of an athlete's never aborting a poor vault for fear of a flag. See what I mean?

That's about it. We all know dangerous vaulters can be spotted many jumps before they crash, and this rule gives us a shot at them before they go there. I believe no one should be free to vault outside of the safe center of the pit, and I care nothing about which pole they use to land there. I'm fully supportive if these concerns can be consoled. I welcome more visiting if you would like. I offer my service as word-smith if there are no English teachers among you.

See ya – Tim Reilly

Northwest Pole Vault Camps


Thanks for your comments.

    1. I agree with you're your comments regarding the difficulty of making rules changes.
    2. Yes I think that bail outs where the vaulter lands in front of the required zome should be flagged, but bail outs into the required zone should note.
    3. My officials group and I have all agreed (please note we have now tested this rule proposal at 4 events in the past 6 weeks), that it is very simple to enforce if we stick to a simple concept: Do not touch, or land beyond the boundary line on first impact with the pit with any portion of your body, hands or feet. Exit the pit from the front between the standards.
    4. Parents or coaches who become up set need to understand that we are only trying to improve the safety of those who participate.
    5. Why is it that during my time in the event some of us jumped as high 17' on pads only 13 feet across. Yet today we have 10 footers who can't hit a 20' wide pit?

Thanks, jj

rsogle wrote:
Hi Jan, This would be an interesting rule as a jumper makes a bar and an official says you didn't land in the square. It would really put the focus on safety and proper technique and prevent injuries. As Chris Smith has always said, all coaches should be certified. I remember a local meet where the girl jumped and the coach yelled to her, at her apex, "Now turn!". Nicola was lucky to have you and Chris train her, since she never had a real injury...other than shin splints. Hope all is well with you and family, Chris.

Routte wrote:
Jan, I see the reasoning with your proposal, but I also see quite a few variables that would make it realistically hard to implement. Especially during the outdoor season with the weather we have in Ohio. I could go on, but I know you will probably get more responses for more learned PV coaches than I, a humble high school PV coach.

Thanks for the newsletter though.

Bob Crawford
Head Coach
Men's and Women's Track and Field
Tippecanoe High School


Are you getting this proposal endorsed by your section office and sent to the NFHS rules committee?

Donnie Nelson, NIAA

With a quick read you have the makings of a good safety first idea. Must a vaulter's body land completely in the zone? It was not clear to me. Is it your feeling that coaches do not emphasize the need to land in the center of the pad?

Dick Borkowski


Yes, we need to return landing in the center of the pads. We added the PLZ back in 2003 and it has had no effect. We started PVSCB for coaches certification in 2003 and it too has had no effect. I frankly think its time for some behavior modification .. Land in the middle of the pit and under control or be eliminated. All were trying to do is keep over grippers from hurting them selves.


Hi Jan - Not a bad idea, but perhaps it need to be "tweaked" a little. I don't really like the idea of an athlete getting a failed attempt if they make the bar and land out of the safety zone. No problem with the "flag" for the improper landing but she or he did make the jump. On the third flag you are done for the day, I like that! The other issue I have is having to exit out of the front of the pit between the standards. I'd be more comfortable with "must exit the pit in control". OK just my .02.
Hope all is well in Atascadero!


Define under control? Is a perfectly executed back roll extension off the side or the rear under control?


Thanks Jan.

We have a high school meet this Saturday. I will ask the coaches for this input.

Geoffrey Bradshaw

Cal State University Stanislaus

Thanks Brad, let me know the results.


fantastic......... full support
I will do this to make this safer! Great idea! 
Toni Carmichael
USA Track and Field Level 2 Jumps Coach

Not sure I agree with the awarding a miss if any part of the body lands outside the indicated lines. But, I do agree in a penalty system.
Great Stuff!
Claycomb, Michael - BCS

Jan –

While I appreciate this email, I am confused by this type of rule. Why penalize the jumper for a potentially dangerous jump? Placing tape markers on the pits doesn't prevent the jump in the first place and allow for safer jumps. The jump has been made and the danger already faced, the tape mark does not change that. It seems to me that coaches who routinely have this type of jumper and schools allowing kids to jump without coaches should be held accountable and potentially penalized, not the jumper who is just trying to participate in the sport. Most jumpers are learning the sport and mistakes will be made, especially with high school jumpers who only jump a few months out of the year and then to do so with inadequate or untrained coaches who do not know how to help correct this type of jump, this the problem – not the jumper!

If addressing safety is the main concern of this newsletter, I think a ruling enforcing all jumpers, regardless of their level of training, to wear helmets. This one action would increase the safety record of the sport dramatically and reduce the number of serious injuries.

Sharon McWilliams


Thanks for your note. In a future letter I address this issue of helmet use and several other forms of protective padding. However, for now let me just say the in our study they proved to be a very poor and expensive way to improve safety.


This is nice.

I would like to bring up changing the vaulter weight rule. I have worked with a lot of beginner vaulters, as you. I see much more danger in a vaulter trying to vault on a pole that is too heavy than one too light. That is a given. Serious accidents occur when landing short, hardly ever landing deep. A heavy slow girl can not jump, and bend, a pole above her weight without risking coming up short.....simple fact. In addition, for schools (like my kids high school) strapped for cash, a number of poles are not available. As you well know, gripping low on a pole rated "below" the vaulters weight will make the pole a stiffer pole for that low grip-- but the rules will not allow this as the pole stiffness is rated at a higher grip.

Any way to add some common sense to this problem before some girl gets hurt trying to vault on a pole too stiff???

Mike Hogan
40 year vaulter and coach

Doak Markley
West Virginia HS PV coach
30 yr PV coach

I am confused by the caution zone & the safe zone. I see them clearly on your photo, however, the rules described in your proposal refer only to the safe zone. In reading the proposal, I see no need for the caution zone ... unless a vaulter who lands once outside that zone is out of the competition.


I suggested years ago to other coaches in the Northwest, that the current "Coaches Box" or "Safe Zone" that is painted on all new pits, should have a 3 strikes and your out rule.


I would be in favor of a high school rule that stated if a vaulter lands 3 times outside of the "Safe Zone" he/she is done vaulting in that competition. I would add the athletes' coach must be notified on each "caution flag" given. This would allow the athlete & coach to make adjustments prior the next attempt.


I would not give an athlete a "Caution Flag" when they bail on a vault without leaving the ground, yet fails to stop & runs up onto the pit. This would simply be a miss.


Thanks for your pursuit to keep the pole vault event safe!

God Bless,
Coach Bill Baker
Columbia Striders Track Club
R.A. Long High School Vault Coach
Longview, WA

Whats your take on this? I dont want to paint the mats, but I would like the three strike rule. Can we enforce this now?




Thank you for asking my opinion on this.

This is the cheapest method for the greatest safety ever before introduced to the pole vault event!

We have to get this passed to keep injuries from escalating as bars sky ward higher!

Every year more high school vaulters are reaching heights never before cleared and this safety zone is a must for the industry!

What is my take ? I am 110% all for it!

I hope you will join me to make it happen!

Bruce Caldwell

I really like this, but is there a way not to spray paint the mats? I know ducktape would leave an adhesive residue as well. Would this be something we could get passed this season as a NFHS amendment? Until it is adopted by NFHS, I know I will not be able to do it in Missouri.



From: Jan Johnson

I love it! Pass this rule, get rid of the weight labels and handhold bands, AND require mandatory coach's certification, and I think we'll have 99% of the safety issues sewn up.


I'm forwarding your proposal with my endorsement onto over 1000 email contacts I have in the pv community. I hope it will garner support!


From: "jan johnson"

Thanks Chris, I in fact would like to get ride of the weight rule and simply replace it with my lading zone rule proposal and a signed waiver by coaches and athletes that says, "the vaulter and the coach agree that they are using poles and hand holds which suit the vaulters ability".

Thanks for your support in this. Next week when I return to my desk I plan to publish some of the letters of support.


Kris Allison wrote:


I HIGHLY endorse this new rule proposal as a common-sense and low-cost approach to increasing safety in the pole vault. If you're not aware, 3 vaulters were killed in practice and/or meets in 2002 while pole vaulting, spurring on a series of attempts to make the sport safer including increasing the minimum dimensions of landing systems, requiring box collars and standard base padding, r&d on making "soft" plant boxes, new designs on box collars, and pole vault-specific helmets. Prior attempts at increasing safety included having manufacturers place maximum handhold bands at or near the top of vaulting poles and weight-rating labels and verification of vaulter's body weights to the poles they are to use. All of these actions were intended to increase/enhance safety in the pole vault at primarily the high school level, however in my professional opinion, many simply made the sport cost-prohibitive, tedious to administer at competitions, and created other safety issues for beginner level vaulters. This is the first rule that would address the crux of the problem: controlling the vaulter's trajectory and/or landing. I truly hope that it will gain support.


Kris Allison
Lone Star Pole Vaulting
New Braunfels, TX


The weight rule blows big time. I never liked the weight rule because there's so many levels not to like it and most importantly it's never accomplished it's goal of jumping safer it's just shifted the hazards from the back of the pit to the front of the pit by making kids jump on poles that are too stiff for there ability/mechanical balance.

And the DOGMA that's evolved around it is very disturbing.

Tim Johnson
Vault Chicago

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