Video by Shawn Francis of the USPVA and Team HOOT YouTube Channel.
The pole vault is an event that comes with its own array of challenges, not only on the technical side but in terms of having the right equipment as well. Mark Cortazzo, a seasoned vaulter and Pole Vault Coach at The Pingry School, reached out about a non-profit organization he has started that hopes to help with those challenges called the United States Pole Vault Association.
We ran through some questions with Mark about the important resources the USPVA can bring to schools, athletes, and coaches not only in our own community but around the country. These opportunities range from finding needed equipment to tutorials for coaches and much more.
Q: Hey Mark, first off thanks for reaching out and presenting this USPVA opportunity to the community. How about we start with a quick introduction about yourself such as your own background in the sport and coaching experience.
A: I started pole vaulting in high school and won the Meet of Champions in NJ my senior year, I was a division 1 conference champion in college and as of this past weekend a two time national masters champion. I volunteer at The Pingry School where I coached last year's girl's MOC champion and my current two sophomore girls hold the state relay record. I also coached my daughter who is The Johns Hopkins school record holder.
Q: So we're here to introduce some great resources involving the pole vault. For those who might not be familiar with the USPVA in its most basic form what kind of opportunity does the organization bring to the table for our coaches and athletes especially at the high school level?
A: We can connect a new coach with great education resources that provide them with a strong foundation about the vault and we have had a number of coaches offer to "adopt" a new coach to mentor them. We are also working with pole vault clubs across the nation and equipment manufacturers to help with access to equipment by providing discounts, seasonal rentals and event some donations, this may even include large ticket items like a set of mats.
Q: With an event like this safety is a big concern and having coaches with backgrounds in the pole vault to make sure the athletes are learning properly are indispensable. For a school or coach looking to advance their knowledge in the event how would the USPVA go about helping them?
A: We would direct them to a free course that will provide an introduction to the basic skills of the pole vault and make them aware of local resources like a nearby club as well as try to provide them with a "big brother, or big sister" to be a resource should they have questions as they start this journey.
Q: You touched upon equipment opportunities in your introduction. How does that system work and how would a school go about helping the cause and or acquiring the equipment they need? Or if someone would like to help provide some?
A: There are some great ideas in this area. Some schools have equipment in a sheds that they aren't using that they may be willing to share, there are groups of coaches locally that keep a shared spreadsheet of the poles that their school has and pool the inventory with each other. The primary school's athletes have first rights, but it can almost triple or quadruple the number of available poles. We even have a program where when a school buys a new set of mats they are asked if the old mats are still usable if they would be willing to donated them to a school that doesn't have that equipment. There are some clubs that offer seasonal rentals so the school doesn't have to invest in equipment that they might not use the next year.
Q: Does it cost the team anything to utilize that program?
A: The USPVA does not charge for any of its services. It is a not for profit organization, but if anyone wants to become a member or donate to the organization so that we have more resources to grow the pole vault in the US we won't say "no".
Q: Where did the motivation come from to build this organization?
A: With the founding members we have coaches, parents, elites, former elites, Olympians, but what we all have in common is the sport changed our life and we want give other people the opportunity allow it to do them same for them. The pole vault isn't evolving as fast as we'd like so it's our way to give it a little love because we haven't seen what it can really be yet.
Q: Obviously you have a connection to New Jersey but this all has a much broader reach or goal as well correct?
A: This is a national campaign with members in every region of the country. We have the support of a number of Olympic medalists in the pole vault as well as National and World Champions.
Q: It looks like there are plenty of talented names working with you on this project. Who might those in the pole vault community recognize?
A: A sampling of people that are supporting this initiative are American record holder Sandi Morris, National Champion Scott Houston, Olympic pole vaulter and American Ninja Warrior April Steiner Bennett, a large number of the top pole vault club owner's and numerous elite and master's pole vaulters from around the country.
Q: How do you become a member of the USPVA and where can they find more information about the organization?
Q: How about a shout out and introduction for the pole vault talent that edited the video above? Shawn Francis.
A: Shawn is an unbelievable talent and resource for the USPVA. If you love the pole vault you should check out his YouTube channel Team Hoot. He was an elite pole vaulter and has an incredible arsenal of resources and knowledge about the event.