Runway—the track on which the vaulter runs
Box—a metal-lined ‘hole’ in the ground that holds the pole while a vaulter jumps. Its dimensions are internationally standardized.
Pits or mats—the foam rubber that cushions the vaulter’s fall. These have standardized minimum dimensions for safety.
Crossbar or bar—the round fiberglass tube that the vaulter clears to make a height. In the 60s – 80s, these were triangular-shaped aluminum tubes.
Standards—the vertical arms that hold the bar in place. Standards move vertically, usually to heights between 4’ and 20’. They move horizontally to approximate where the vaulter’s peak height occurs. For safety, high school regulations require that standards to be set between 18” and 31.5” from the top back of the box. Within this window, vaulters clearing the bar should land safely on the pits.
Catching a step—a designated person determines the location of your last footprint before you leave the ground. It’s important to know where this is and to make adjustments as necessary. Alternatively, a ‘mid’ step is caught, which is 6 steps out from take-off.
Blowing through—this happens when you use a pole that is too soft or too short for your weight, speed or skill level. If you blow through, you won’t be able to position the standards ‘deep’ enough (31.5” is the maximum depth) to accommodate where your vault peaks. Blowing through means you need to move to a stiffer or longer pole. If blowing through is due to over bending the pole, that is called crushing the pole.
Stalling out—the opposite of blowing through. It happens when you use a pole that is too stiff or too long or if you run too slowly or don’t jump well at take-off. It can also happen if certain biomechanics suffer during a jump. Stalling out means you won’t make a height, and you’ll land on the front part of the pits or hard ground. We really don’t like it when this happens!
Pole speed—the rate at which the pole moves to a vertical position. This is considered the most important mechanical aspect of pole vaulting to make a vault successful and safe. If you think of the pole as a musical metronome (or upside-down pendulum), then pole speed is how fast the pendulum moves from its low start position to the vertical end position.
Plant—the phase of the vault where you raise the pole high over your head and prepare for take-off.
C-position—the position your body assumes if you are performing correct biomechanics shortly after takeoff. So named, because the arch in your back, arms and trail leg, looks like a “C”. Your arms are over your head and out of visual range, your chest is driving forward, and your trail leg is well in back preparing for a tap-like swing.
Sweep, rock back—names given to the chain of movements that take the vaulter from a standing position to an inverted head-stand position. Essentially, this part of the vault is half a back flip. The rock back is sometimes called the “L” position, whereas the inverted head-stand position isimes called the “I” position.
Shoot, shoulder drop, I-position are all names for the upside down posture assumed by the vaulter just before the pole starts to unbend.
Pull-turn-push—as the name implies, the part of the vault where a vaulter attempts to rise into a handstand over the top of the pole. The last part of the vault where the vaulter remains in contact with the pole.
Fly-away—the peak of the vault.
Capping out—holding the pole at a maximum grip on the pole.
5 lefts, 7 rights, etc.—the number of times the left or right foot hits the runway from start to finish for a given vaulter. We count lefts for right-handers and rights for left-handers. We typically begin teaching the vault from 3 lefts or rights. As a student gets better we move them back. A rule-of-thumb is that a male vaulter should be able to jump twice as high as the number of lefts/rights he takes (e.g., 10 feet from 5 lefts), whereas a female vault should be able to jump twice as high as one less than the number of lefts/rights she takes (e.g., 8 feet from 5 lefts). That is a very loose rule of thumb, as we have boys who can jump 15′ and girls who can jump over 11′ from 5 lefts.