Since we are still fighting with the NJSIAA to get them overrule this, I was going to send my own letter to Don Danser and just wanted to know what you guys think of it. I know it probably will not do much since compared to everyone who has already emailed, I am not as qualified, but i figured it was worth a shot. Sorry its so long but I would appreciate any input
I am sure you have already received a number of emails regarding your misinterpretation of NFHS Rule 7-5-4 and that I am not as involved in the NJSIAA or high school sports in general as many of the others who have contacted you. However, I am a former athlete (Randolph High School ’05) who did participate in track and field all four years while at Randolph. I am currently training to qualify for the US Olympic Trials which in order to do so, I only have to jump about 4 inches higher.
I have noticed over these past several years that I have been around NJ high school track the intense dislike that most coaches, officials, and meet directors have had for club coaches. Maybe its pride or the fact that the athletes pay club coaches but whatever it is, it seems clear to me that this group of people do not have the athlete’s best interest in mind. I have even heard one coach say that he would rather see his athlete have a mediocre performance with him than a great performance with another coach. This is unacceptable. In one year of training with my club coach, I pr’ed by almost 3’, making me an Olympic Trials hopeful and one of, if not, the best pole vaulter to ever come out of the state of New Jersey. I became a Division III national champion last year at Ramapo College and a three time All-American as well. I have a great deal of respect for all of my high school coaches but I truly believe that if I had attended a pole vault club in high school, I could have had a much better scholastic career.
While I was not one of NJ’s “Elite” pole vaulters, only clearing 13’ 6” and placing 8th at the outdoor Meet of Champions my senior year, I did take pride knowing that there were multiple 15+’ vaulters, with the state record being set at 17’ 4.5” by Adam Sarafian during my junior year. When I cleared 13’ 6” my senior year, I was jumping on a pole that my father had bought for me because my school could not buy it. If I had a proper/complete set of poles, who knows how well I would have jumped. I could have even jumped high enough to possibly compete at a Division I school, maybe even on scholarship. That being said, I take great pride in the fact that I competed in NJ and during the years following my graduation, 2006-2009, I was very disappointed in the results for my event around the state. During the abovementioned years, there were very few 15’ vaulters and fortunately, this is beginning to change. This change has been because of the emergence of local pole vault clubs.
Now this is just the boy’s side. I could make an even stronger case about the success that pole vault clubs have brought to the event on the girls side for New Jersey. Most of the girl’s champions during the last 5 years, both indoors and outdoors, have been members of pole vault clubs using club poles. The reason I bring up the success that the clubs have brought to NJ is because this rule you are misinterpreting will do considerable harm to these clubs.
In your email to all coaches, you wrote that “It has come to our attention that what amounts to "Club advertising" is appearing on pole vault poles. The following ruling has been made concerning such markings:
Addition/altering (in excess) of the original manufacturer of Pole. See NFHS 2012 Rule Book page 56. Rule 7-5-4 note: "Altering the pole in any fashion renders it illegal." If individuals or groups want to add identification markings to pole vault poles, the additional information is limited to a label 2 inches x 1 inch with indication of either ownership &/or user. The label may be placed a maximum distance of 18 inches from the plant end of the pole.”
Yet in a response to Becca Gillespy Peter, you wrote that your concern was not about advertising, but all "extra" markings on pole vaulting poles. In the first line of your ruling you mention “Club Advertising” yet you say that it is not about club advertising in your response to Becca. Not only is this inconsistent with the ruling, but the head pole vault official marks all poles used in the competition with his or her initials and the date to show that it has been checked in. How is this any different than club coaches marking their poles with these stickers?
I realize that you gave clubs the option of using a 2”x1” sticker to put contact information on the poles but I can assure you that this will have no effect. I have witnessed teams/athletes stealing poles from other teams and this will not make it any more difficult. However, the current stickers do a great job at deterring this. Will you offer to replace any pole that is lost or stolen at an NJSIAA meet because its owner is not clearly identified? Considering poles run anywhere between $300-600, I am guessing no.
Now from a financial standpoint, this ruling will affect the NJSIAA as well. If you enforce this rule and club coaches do not allow kids to use their poles at the state meets, 1 of 2 things might happen. Kids will jump on different poles that might be too big or too small and risk serious injury and/or death and I am sure (or at least hope) that you do not want that to happen. Kids might instead not jump at all and just jump unattached for their clubs. If this happens, you will see a drop in participation rates, as well as admission ticket sales because you would have fewer parents attending the state meets.
I understand that the state government would like to dissolve the NJSIAA. If this ruling is not reversed, you might see many of these athletes and their parent’s petition to their Legislator about this. I am sure if enough people petition, then the state of NJ might look a little harder into this idea of dissolving the NJSIAA. I honestly feel that the NJSIAA is good for high school sports and I would not like this to happen. As I previously mentioned, I take great pride in knowing that I competed in this state and one of my fondest memories is competing at the NJSIAA outdoor Meet of Champions.
If indeed this has been about a head coach(s) complaining to you about club coaches, like many people whom I have talked to believe it is, then I think that maybe you should re-evaluate your position on this matter. If this is the case, it means you do not have the student-athlete’s best interest at heart thus making you unqualified as our state’s committee head.
I have enclosed a copy of this year’s Indoor State Meet of Champions pole vault results. I have highlighted the names of athletes who were either jumping on poles with club stickers or attend a pole vault club in the area. I am sure that I missed a few names on the list but clearly you can see that without the clubs, there would not be a competitive championship.
Craig J. Van Leeuwen
Randolph High School ‘05
PR=5.40 (17' 8.50")