on Sports
                                          BABIES GROW UP TO BE POLE
                                          VAULTERS by Stan Silliman
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Silliman on Sports
By Stan Silliman

Mommas, are you thinking about letting your kid get into track and field? Running events? Get in great shape, buy some spikes, running suit, good idea. Throw the shot or discus if your kid has muscles? Just make sure your kid practices by throwing AWAY from the house. High jumping? Still not a headache. But if he tells you he wants to run fast down a track and then sling himself up to a third floor balcony just so he can drop straight down into a pit… put your foot down, twice, so that you can stand up to give him the “Are you crazy?” speech.

Because that’s what he is – crazy. Oh yeah, he’ll tell you it’s just like flying and the view from 15 or 17’ is breathtaking… and how all the girls dig pole-vaulters. Don’t buy any of that bull until you’ve had a heart-to-heart about the cost.  Who is going to finance this athletic adventure? How many paper routes can he handle? Does he think he’ll have a chance when he’s using a bamboo pole and all the other competitors have fiberglass, titanium or carbon-fiber poles? Bring out the pen-and-pencil and set it next to the check book. Ask him if he really knows what he’s in for? We’re talking about an expensive sport.

I know you might be saying there are lots of expensive sports. Academy Sports and Outdoors didn’t get as big as they did because their products were five-and-dime. But don’t give me basketball, or swimming or even golf. If you want expensive, give me pole-vaulting. Yes, golf clubs, course fees and lessons can set you back but at least you can carry or check your bags when you travel. The poles, not so easy, they don’t break down and at up to $ 1000 each (for 17’ super carbon), they’ll break you. Not only will they break you, they break… often, so much so a champion vaulter may have to bring 10 poles to a meet. And that’s not the worst of it. Airplanes don’t like carting these things and can hit you up for an extra $ 500 to $ 750 on an overseas event… each way. 

Don’t get me wrong, with the London Olympics on the horizon, one of my favorite events to watch is the pole vault. I love watching it.  It combines strength, speed and bravery. I just want parents to know the full picture.

Here are a few things to know about pole vaulting. Poles started off as ash, then bamboo, then on to aluminum tubes, then fiberglass, then fiberglass wrapped around metal, then carbon fiber and as the technology advanced, the poles became lighter and every year… more expensive. As the poles advanced, so did the landing pits. Sawdust gave way to better and more expensive landing mats. But very little is regulated and vaulters almost always have poles selected for their size, weight and bendability. Custom poles for the world-class vaulters are as common as custom clubs for pro golfers.
                        BE POLE VAULTERS by Stan Silliman humor sports
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As you’re approaching with the pole using 18 to 22 strides, the plant, the take-off, the swing up, the extension, the spin and fly-away all depends on the desired whip which is based on your pole weight and technology. Still want to get your kid into pole vaulting?

How about when you have to rig your car to carry an 18’ long bag of sticks? A ski-rack won’t do the trick. You might need a flagman or an escort. And that’s just because you couldn’t convince your kid to stick to high jumping or run the 440. If you know all this and he still wants to vault – remember, as he grows he’ll have to get a whole new collection of poles each year – good luck to you. Hope he gets a gold medal!

Silliman On Sports
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Norman, OK  73069

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