Jeff Tindall Remembered As Pioneer, Coaching Great, Mentor

Tindall spotting Contursi during practice at Hunterdon Central.

When Lauren Contursi won the first ever girls pole vault title at the Meet of Champions during her senior year at Hunterdon Central in 1999, she was called a pioneer in the sport.

But Contursi (now Slater), who further cemented her great legacy when she became the first high school girl in NJ history to clear 12-0, says the real pioneer during her high school days was her vaulting coach, Jeff Tindall.

"I was said to be the pioneer and the reason the NJSIAA Executive Committee finally approved the addition of the girls pole vault my senior year,'' said Slater, who was convinced to try the pole vault by Tindall while she was at gymnastics practice. "But I really had little to do with that, that was all Mr. Tindall! It was his vision, his passion for the sport, together with seeing potential in me that motivated him to push the sport forward and fight for NJ to make it an official girls event.''

Slater, who held the state pole vault record for five years, was one of many athletes at Hunterdon Central who admired Tindall, and was inspired and motivated by him during his 25-plus years coaching the vault and jumps at the school. So when Tindall passed away at the age of 77 on June 30, Slater and the rest of the Hunterdon Central Track and Field Community were heartbroken.

"I am very saddened by the recent passing of Dr. Tindall, who was not only my high school coach, but also my biggest supporter and advocate for the women's pole vault,'' said Slater, who now lives in Rhode Island with her husband and four kids. "I would definitely not be where I am today without his passion for the sport and investment in me as a young athlete. Sitting here at 39 years old reading through the newspaper articles I laminated in high school, I have a much different perspective and appreciation for my high school pole vaulting career, which would not have existed without Mr. Tindall.''

Left to right: Nicole Stettner, Jeff Tindall, Katrina Wyllie

Tindall, in addition to being one of the leading advocates for getting the NJSIAA to certify the girls pole vault, which became a scoring event at the Groups Championships in 2003, was widely considered one of the very best vault/jumps coach in the state. He was also a very accomplished masters competitor on the national and international level.

Tindall was a great mentor to Jon DeLisle, Hunterdon Central head track and field coach since 2007.

"Jeff took me under his wing when I was a rookie head coach,'' said DeLisle. "He took the time to talk with me and show me the ropes when no one else did. He was a master of the art and science of coaching with his strong understanding of bio-mechanics, physiology, and psychology. He could explain the science behind every event, which made me realize that I needed to learn it. He was always positive and patient with his athletes. And it was no coincidence that his athletes were as successful as they were. I looked up to him and consider him one of my coaching mentors.'' 

Among the many state champions that Tindall coached at Hunterdon Central was current Hunterdon Central vault coach Mike Roberti.

Roberti said Tindall had a profound impact on him and the Hunterdon Central program.

"Coach Tindall was a tremendous asset to myself, the Hunterdon Central track and field team, and the state of New Jersey, '' said Roberti. " He had a knack for being able to train his athletes both physically and mentally (he was a licensed psychologist). He was able to take his athletes and utilize their strengths in order to let them achieve success. Coach Tindall had such a vast knowledge of all the track and field events, especially pole vault. It was a luxury to have had him as my vault coach during my high school career (2001-2004), and I attribute the success I had to him.''

Roberti said no one had more passion for track and field than Tindall, who served as a great role model and inspiration for him.

"Coach Tindall was a class act and taught all his athletes to respect the sport, their teammates, opponents, and officials,'' said Roberti. "His work ethic was second to no one, which he modeled to his athletes as a competitive master's pole vaulter. When we were doing workouts and push ups and pull ups, he was doing them right beside us. He helped teach other coaches fundamentals, pole vault safety and tips to allow their vaulters to be successful. Coach Tindall always was willing to give his knowledge to others. The reason that I became a track and field coach was to give back to my athletes what Coach Tindall had given to me. I've used so much of what he taught me, especially psychologically, while coaching my athletes. When you look back and see all that he accomplished as a high school coach, it's truly remarkable. Coach Tindall was a game changer in the pole vault community, and I don't believe the state of New Jersey would have as successful a pole vault presence had he not left his footprints.''

Dan Battaglia, the head boys volleyball coach and an assistant football coach at Hunterdon Central, expressed his feelings about the loss of his former coach on Twitter.

Lauren Contursi,(on the left), Stacy Dragila, the world record holder in the pole vault at the time, and Jeff Tindall at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, CA 1999. 


Tindall's athletes won a total of 44 championships in the pole vault, high jump, and long jump at the Meet of Champions, Group Championships, Sectional Championships, and Skyland Conference Championships combined.

And at one point under Tindall, Roberti, the late Mike Tucholski, and John Contursi held the state three-man pole vault record. 


Indoor Group 4 State champions:
2000--Jessica Taibe (HJ)
2006--Tara Oberg
2009--Brooke Kohler

Indoor Sectional champions:
2008--Andy Morris
2009--Tim Shanahan
2011--Dan Hill
2012--Louie Zampetti

Outdoor Sectional champions:
1995--Steve Wood (HJ)
1998--Frank Dumbreski
2000--Chris Chen
2002-Jay Emrey
2003--Mike Roberti
2004--Mike Tucholski
2010--Tim Shanahan 

1992--Bridget Wagner (HJ)
2000--Jessica Taibe (HJ)
2002--Kristin Strizki
2004--Kaitlin Lambracht (LJ)
2009--Dana Fineman
2012--Sabrina Anderson

Outdoor State Champions:
1996--Frank Dumbreski
2004--Mike Roberti
1991--Bridget Wagner (HJ)
2000--Jessica Taibe (HJ)
2002--Kristin Strizki
2004--Kaitlin Lambracht (LJ & TJ)

Meet of Champions Winners
1999--Lauren Contursi

Skyland Conference Champions:
2001-Jay Emrey
2002-Jay Emrey
2003--Mike Tucholski
2004--Mike Roberti
2006--Chris Wynn (TJ)
2008--Ricardo Kennedy (TJ)
1992--Bridget Wagner (HJ)
1993--Bridget Wagner (HJ)
1994--Cristy Richards (HJ)
1996--Autumn Fogg (HJ)
2000--Jessica Taibe (HJ)
2001--Kristin Strizki
2002--Kristin Strizki
2004--Kaitlin Lambracht (LJ & TJ)
2007--Brooke Kohler

Left to right: John Contursi, Jeff Tindall, Mike Roberti

Tindall wore many different hats during his great life, including serving as mayor.

After graduating high school from Penn Charter in Philadelphia, Tindall received his B.S. degree in biology from Bethany College in Bethany, West Virginia, followed by a master's degree in physical education and a doctorate in counseling psychology from American University in Washington D.C.

He began his working life in 1965 as a biology teacher and track coach at Langley High School in Langley, Va. At Langley, Tindall had tremendous success both in the classroom and as a coach, leading the school's cross country and track and field teams to several state championships.

After teaching for three years, he returned to graduate school and eventually served on the faculties of both Rutgers and Fordham Universities. The majority of his working life was spent alongside his wife, Dr. Joy Lutz Tindall, in private practice as a psychologist in Flemington.

The Tindalls raised their children in Stanton, and motivated by a deep commitment to public service and stewardship, Tindall served on the Readington Township Committee for over two decades and as mayor of the town for two terms.

Despite his hectic schedule, Tindall always made sure he found time for practice and meets.

"As a clinical psychologist in private practice, Mr. Tindall would work his schedule around afternoon practices and traveling to meets,'' said Slater. "Looking back, Mr. Tindall and I traveled all over, which was 100% his doing and planning. Since pole vaulting was not yet an event in NJ, there were very few opportunities to jump and very little competition.''

Slater has lots of great stories about her experiences and travels with Tindall.

"I loved the sport from day one and basically was up for whatever meet, training, or camp he wanted to go to,'' said Slater. "I wasn't always that excited when he would pull into our driveway in his red VW van at 5 a.m. to travel a few hours to a meet, but I would get up, strap the poles on the side and off we would go. We put a lot of miles on that VW, which was a perfect size for our 16 foot pole bag. Mr. Tindall didn't do so well with the pole bag when he took it out of the country to jump one time. I remember he came back and said he had bad news. The poles, which we shared many of, flew off the tiny car he rented and were run over by a tractor trailer! We had the best time flying to camps and meets and watching people stare at us as we carried this pole bag through the airport!''

One of Slater's favorite memories of Tindall came in the summer after she graduated high school.

"Probably the best time we had was when we went to the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Ca. the summer of 1999 before I headed to Brown,'' said Contursi. "I think Mr. Tindall was even more excited then I was that we were invited, and just in awe that we were hanging out with and being coached by Stacy Dragila, the world record holder at the time, and her coach. We were there for a week, we rented a red Mustang convertible, and about 20 of the best female pole vaulters practiced at the most elite facility and felt like the world's best athletes!

Tindall was also very instrumental is getting Slater to attend Brown University.

"My parents didn't go to college, so they were basically leaving it up to me where I thought I wanted to go,'' said Slater, who still owns Brown's indoor pole vault record. "Mr. Tindall's daughter (Sara, a state champion distance runner at Pingry), was already at Brown on the track team, thus he was close with then head coaches, the Rothenberg's. He started planting the idea of Brown in my head, and I was accepted as an early admission candidate.''

After Tindall retired in 2011, he moved to Rhode Island, living six months in Florida and six months in R.I. to be closer to his children and grandchildren. The move also gave Slater a chance to reconnect with Tindall.

"The Rothenbergs have held an annual kids track and field series every July at a local high school in R.I., and Mr. Tindall, again being a huge advocate for the pole vault, started offering a clinic for kids 10 years old to high school age to try out pole vaulting during the track series. He would bring a big bag of poles, some of which were even mine from high school, and we would teach the kids the basics of holding the pole and work them up to doing some pop ups in the grass and then into the pit. My two sons were even able to participate and jump with my old poles. It was so great to reconnect with him after being so close throughout my high school years.''

How should Tindall be remembered?

"He touched so many lives, especially the Hunterdon Central pole vaulters and especially myself,'' said Slater. "I definitely owe my high school success and going to Brown to Mr. Tindall, and I think his legacy is just that, he was a wonderful, kind, patient, coach, husband, father, grandfather, psychologist and an All-American man. He was educated, smart, competitive, athletic, and always focused on one step at a time, but had the bigger picture and future in mind. He will be missed but never forgotten!''