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Our energy-conserving and reliable pole vault trainer, known as the "Rick Attig Swing Up and Invert Device," has exceeded every one of our expectations in improvement of the pole vault technique. This machine promotes proper muscle firing and correct timing that, after repeated practices, converts into correctly programmed and retrievable muscle memory. With proper spotting and consistent training with this pole vault simulator, an athlete will convert created speed on the runway into a strong aerial phase of the pole vault. A more successfully completed aerial phase will allow the athlete to continue the upward movement of the hips which will convert into a greater flyaway and thus the clearance of higher bars.

My wife and I have attended countless pole vaulting seminars, lectures, demonstrations and camps since our high school head track coach asked us if we would assume the responsibility for coaching the pole vault in 1997. We were eager to learn all we could about the many phases of this complicated field event because everything we learned would benefit our son, Michael who was a freshman at our local high school at the time. Michael was very driven and was verbally open about his struggles to learn certain phases of the event. I relied on his feedback and brainstormed and actively problem-solved ways to help Michael break down and analyze the complicated movements that were eluding his understanding. Because Michael attended Coach Rick Attig's ATP Camp in 1998, where he did nothing but target the runway (ground) phase of pole vault, he was very solid at this critical phase of the event. The second phase, the aerial stage, however, escaped Michael's full understanding for many years. Part of the reason for this fact is that the aerial phase involves many elements that need to be sequentially mastered for each ensuing phase to be executed at maximum efficiency and success.

The aerial phase of the pole vault requires the inclusion of three critical segments: the swing up; the close off; and the launch. Although there are pieces of equipment and drills used for replication of parts of this phase of the pole vault, there was no single piece of equipment that allows athletes to simultaneously and sequentially practice the aerial phase all in one fluid succession of correct movements. In isolation, drills did facilitate me in my efforts to help my high school pole vaulters develop various segments of the correct muscle memory for the air-born phase of the pole vault. However, they were only fragmented, close approximations of this difficult phase and provided little or no flowing motion that would simulate this phase completely. I, therefore, continued to watch my vaulters struggle to successfully combine the multi-stepped muscle training into fluid movements and correct techniques. When it actually came time for my athletes to run down the runway and leave the ground to execute this important phase of the pole vault, they, more often than not, simply wasted their time and energy and continued to do the aerial phase incorrectly. These incorrect replications of wrong techniques frustrated my athletes and left them confused and tired at the conclusion of too many vault practices.

Then it occurred to me that what I needed for my athletes was an all-inclusive apparatus that would allow them to correctly and successfully feel the appropriate body positions and timing necessary to utilize their speed, jumping ability and the pole's recoil for the highest and safest vault possible. I felt my job was to create a device that could, as closely as possible, replicate each step of this phase. I wanted to have the ability to slow down the aerial part of the vault while safely spotting my athletes. I was convinced that this device would allow them to safely and correctly feel and execute the movements in the aerial phase. After many attempts, much welding and cutting, and trial-after-trial by our son, Michael, I invented the "Rick Attig Swing Up and Invert Device."

Bill Ford


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