Hi Don, my name is Becca Gillespy Peter and I am the founder of PoleVaultPower.com, the nation's leading pole vault website. I am also a high school pole vault coach in Washington state and have been involved with several different pole vaulting clubs over the years.
I am concerned about New Jersey's adoption of a rule limiting the identification that schools/clubs/individuals may place on their pole vaulting poles.
I understand the desire to not let advertising in high school sports get out of hand. At most levels of the sport, there are restrictions in place regarding advertising on various aspects of uniforms and stadiums.
However, at NO other level of track and field are their restrictions on placing identifying markings on track and field equipment. No other high school governing body has perceived this as a problem and created any restrictions, and I assure you that club pole vaulting is stronger in several other states than it is in New Jersey.
New Jersey is the only state interpreting NFHS Rule 7-5-4 in this way. The rule is intended to prevent coaches from altering the length of the pole or placing a fake weight label on it.
These identifying labels are being misinterpreted. Clubs are not placing them on their poles in order to try and drum up more business for the club. They are placing them on the poles to try and protect a very expensive investment they have made. These labels contain contact information in hopes that they will be returned if misplaced. Poles cost $300-$600 each. Most pole vaulting clubs have invested tens of thousands of dollars (or more!) into pole vaulting poles. Without any extra accoutrements, pole vaulting poles tend to all look the same, especially to your average clueless high school kid. It is very common for kids to accidentally take a pole vaulting pole that belongs to another school. Having a prominent sticker on the pole is a good way to reduce the chance of this happening.
The fact that clubs allow kids to borrow their equipment for prep competition is a good thing that makes the sport safer and more successful in your state. All around the country, high schools are severely underfunded, and sports tend to be the first place they cut. A single pole vaulter may require dozens of different poles throughout their career in order to not only progress, but to vault safely. Poles vary widely in their stiffness and length, and small variations in this make the difference between an athlete landing safely in the middle of the pit, or landing in an unsafe location. Pole vaulting clubs are helping meet a need that high schools are often unable to.
It is a hardship for any club or high school that has used stickers to have to now remove them. Some clubs have well over 100 poles, and these stickers can be very hard to remove. The size of sticker that you are now allowing is tiny, easily overlooked, and so small that it will likely fall off the cylindrical pole. Large stickers are used because they stick to the pole better. Most clubs in your area serve athletes in multiple states, and no other state has a restriction on this. I imagine that many club coaches will simply no longer allow New Jersey athletes to use their equipment in prep competition anymore.
If clubs in NJ no longer allow high school athletes to use their poles, you will see the following happen:
- Less participation in high school pole vault in NJ
- Less success for HS pole vaulters in NJ due to not having the equipment needed to succeed
- Athletes may choose to forgo prep competition and focus on club competition only
- Athletes who choose to vault in prep competitions will jeopardize their safety by not having the right equipment available
I would like to encourage the NJSIAA to reconsider their position on this matter. You are grossly misinterpreting rule 7-5-4. This affects both the safety and success of the pole vaulters in your state.
Becca Gillespy Peter
Pole Vault Powerhttp://www.polevaultpower.com/