Dreams dashed, Dreams fulfilled, Some thoughts on Jenn Stuczynski

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Dear readers, This was my publishers column for one of our pubs, Coaching Athletics Quarterly, which goes to 5,000 elite coaches in 209 countries. It is single topic, 32 pages, four times a year. In the spring, we do sprints, then jumps in summer, throws in fall and distances in winter. Mostly good technical pieces, plus some analysis of equipment or issues of the day, it is one of my favorite magazines to publish.

Our managing editor, Sue Hall, did a nice job on editing my piece below, I hope that you like it:


Our sport is about dreams fulfilled and dreams dashed. It is what makes our sport a sport, the nobleness of challenging oneself to train hard, train smart and challenge one's body and one's soul. An entire career can be made or lost in an afternoon. This fact was brought home to me twice this past spring.

In the World Indoor Championships, the U.S. vaulter, Jenn Stuczynski, was in a very difficult place in the competition. "I jumped first, at each height, and when I cleared, the others cleared. I was nervous, and also thought that my competitors would get an advantage based on how I fared," noted Jenn as recollected her visit to Valencia a few months later. Jenn stuck to her guns, and after a two and one half month of recovery from her Osaka debacle and some good training, Jenn Stuczynski showed the world that, at this time, there was only one other vaulter in the world who was better than her--Yelena Isinbayeva. In Valencia, Jenn won the silver medal in the pole vault. So far outdoors, Jenn has cleared 4.70 meters, or 15-5 1/2. "That is the highest that I have ever come in at, and I then went to the American record of 4.90 meters, had three good attempts, but did not clear it."

As hard as it is to say, the injuries that Jenn survived and the tough experience she had last summer has made her a better athlete-what a difference a year makes....

On May 18, 2008, at the adidas Track Classic, Jenn Stucyznski showed her improvement over the past, year. These improvements transcend the physical and the spiritual. First, she won the competition on her first jump of 4.67 meters, and then, had the bar moved to 4.90 meters, two centimeters above her American record from June 2007.

On her first attempt, Jenn missed the clearance but was close. On her second attempt, Jenn planted perfectly and afterwards noted, "Once I went airborne, I knew I had it." Jenn Stuczynski not only broke her American record, she became the second best performer EVER in the women's pole vault with her clearance of 4.90 meters or sixteen feet, 3/4 of an inch.

With energy still inside, even with the temperature of 110 degrees on the track, Jenn attacked the current world record, making three attempts at 5.02 meters or 16 feet, five and one half inches. She had three good attempts but did not clear it--that will come soon, I believe. Jenn Stuczynski of 2008 is a different athlete--she now knows she is that good.

****

In mid-April, the Monday after the Flora London Marathon, I went to a memorial service for Andy Norman, who had died at the age of 64 during the past fall. Norman holds a problematic place in our sports history--he has many fans and many detractors. But it was Norman who professionalized the sport in the UK in the eighties and nineties, and he developed many of the great British stars of that generation. During the service, several of the sports notables got up and spoke, among them Sir Sebastian Coe and Jonathan Edwards.

Edwards spoke about how, when he was jumping mediocre, Andy would tease him a bit, saying that promoting Edwards was like selling a used car with four flat tires. In the next breath, Norman introduced Jonathan, in 1993, as the future world record holder in the triple jump.

Two years later, in Goteborg, Sweden, Jonathan Edwards put himself into track and field history by breaking the world record for the triple jump three times in one wonderful afternoon of track and field, becoming the first man over sixty feet. All this was in an event that Sir Sebastian Coe called the most physically demanding event in track & field.

Jonathan Edwards went on, through most of the rest of his career as an athlete of special talents, but with a humble demeanor. He won some, he lost some, but he always did it with a class which gave honor to his career and his sport.

There are so many people that play a part in an athlete’s success. Pat Clohessy, a top Australian coach, used to have a list of thanks that he would send out when his athlete, Rob de Castella performed well. We all should take the time to consider, for one moment, the key people in our athlete's development.

As you know, it is the pursuit of greatness that we find the most pleasure, but also, the most self knowledge. The "unexamined life" does not exist in the life of an athlete or a coach.

At Coaching Athletics Quarterly, our goals are to help you be a better coach in order that you make better athletes, but, as we all know, that is easier said than done. Have a great summer!


(Note, if you would like a sample issue of Coaching Athletics, send me a an email to [email protected] and I will drop one in the mail. If you would like all four of last years issues, send a check for $25 to Shooting Star Media, Inc. , PO Box 67, Fort Atkinson, WI 53538 and we will get those out to you with a special treat as well.)

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