Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Summit Time!

Whew, in the months since my last post have been truthfully the hardest of my career.  Ive always known the impact the mind can have both positive and negative on anything you do but especially vaulting.  Starting mid-November I began having doubts about my grip on the pole, first it was the chalk or the tape just didnt feel right which forced me to jump on smaller and smaller poles.

 At the time I was still only jumping from 5 lefts so it wasnt like I was practicing from my full approach.  So I did what I thought i should and I fought it, I thought that if I tried harder or stopped being a baby I would snap out of it, but that just made it worse.  It got to the point where I would pick up the pole and not think I would be able to hold on...from 3 lefts.  Ive always been the fearless one that was on the big poles and this was so unlike me.  I had probably 4 practices where it would start good, I was starting small trying to gain confidence and I would get to 4 lefts and just be paralyzed with fear that I wasnt going to be able to hold on to the pole.

  Most of those times I would leave practice in tears, not knowing how i was going to be able to get over it or if i would ever be able to pole vault from a long run again.  I have never really put a date to when I will finish my professional vault career but I know Im not ready to be done yet, and the possibility that which has defined me for the past 15 years could be taken away from me was very hard.  I tried to get my mind off it, I was able to go to California and help coach a camp with my buddy Paul Litchfield which was a great time but when I came back the problem was still there.  Shortly after that it was time for the holidays and even with all the hustle and bustle pole vault was still on my mind.

 Out of necessity I began using sticky spray on my hands rather than chalk, and little by little I am learning to use it.  Im not pushing it, Im only back to 6 lefts right now but Im taking off and ive jumped in 2 meets.  Right now Im not worrying myself with results but rather progress is my goal.  Im gaining confidence with every jump and enjoying every time I leave the ground and fly through the air. I hope I never take for granted again the awesome ability I have been given.

Heading to the Reno Pole Vault Summit tomorrow with Amanda, really excited she is able to join me this year.  Love the chance to get together with old friends and make tons of new ones.  Make sure you come say hi and feel free to ask any questions you may have.

I think the reason it took me so long to write about this issue is that Ive been embarrassed.  Ive never heard of anyone having this problem and I really thought that I could just snap out of it, but the reason I write this blog is so that you know the problems we sometimes go through.   If you know that I Mark Hollis 2x National champ couldnt even leave the ground because I didnt think i could hold on to the pole, maybe it will help you to face your demons head on and overcome them.  I plan on using this to be stronger and more confident than I ever have before.

Always Pursuing -Mark-


  1. Thanks for sharing, Mark. I'll never lose my pride in you. I trust that you and Amanda have a great time in Reno. be assured of our support and love. Go get 'em Tiger. DAD

  2. As the parent of a young pole vaulter, I can not express how much respect I have for you. Not just for your raw honesty, but for being the type of athlete we want our kids to look up to. We had the pleasure of seeing you vault in Akron last week, and when you missed your final attempt, my son did not notice what height you had cleared or where you had placed; he noticed the fact that you came off the pit smiling and waving to the crowd. For a HS freshman who is continually told by his coach not to hang his head in defeat, you had an impact. Thank you for that. Best of luck in Reno! We will be attending for the first time, very exciting!

  3. We too saw you in Akron - our first time seeing you jump. You were exciting to watch and a great example for my vaulter son who is a hs junior. Keep battling those demons!

  4. As a collegiate vaulter, this is inspiring. Thanks so much.

  5. Really takes some STONES to post like this and "Put it all out There" - Kudos, I know our Egos fight us all the way on stuff like this... Way to Go!!

  6. This same thing HAPPENED TO ME ! I'M now 59 yrs old and very disappointed my Polevaulting career end my sophomore year in college by this fear ! The memories still haunt me .I was very disappointed because I loved vaulting so much . I would try it now but my wife thinks I'm nuts ! thank for sharing !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Mark your not alone. Starting over the summer I also became obsessed with my grip (After my most successful season). I would only take off about 50 percent of the time. Poles that I used to crush felt like monsters in my hands. I spent half of my Practices re-taping my hand holds, and chalking my hands before every jump. My confidence was completely shot. It got to the point where I also couldn't jump from a full approach. I spent most of the summer jumping from 5 lefts and still struggled even when i would finally blow through a pole I would not be able to leave the ground on the next pole.

    I took 2 months off before resuming jumping because my college facility does not have an indoor pit. I continued to struggle to even do slide box drills. We had 2 meets before the winter break. The first meet I managed to jump from a full approach on a pole that is normally too soft from that run. The next meet I was a complete mess and struggled to even jump on that SAME pole. I was actually rejected twice and ran through too many times to count. I barely made my opening height of 14 feet.

    During the winter break I retreated back home where I have access to an indoor facility. I tried the same method as you and went back to the basics. I started at 3 lefts and gradually worked back. I slowly worked my way up to 6 lefts and even tried and failed at 7 lefts. This process took place over the last 4 weeks.

    I have my 3rd meet of the season this weekend and don't even have the right poles. I will have to borrow if I can. As a senior in College with a PR of 4.65m, I will not have the chance to pursue the sport I love as a professional. I hope for both our sakes, we find a solution to this problem.

    I have tremendous respect for you and I'm a big fan. Never give up. Every successful take off is a victory!

  8. Just a thought, may be way off base, but been there too in a non pole vault situation......essentially same problem, thought I was having a heart attack or just plain about to lose it, turned out to be a "panic attack".....slowly went away after six months, still recurs mildly two years on....tried anti depressants for 10 days, ditched them.....stress worsens situation, knowing you'll get through it helps (gain this appreciation after several months).....hope you get your equilibrium back, feels so good to have it, and so rotten to lose it

  9. What a monumental step that has a teaching point way beyond the vault. Those that have vaulted and those that have watched the event throughout the years can comprehend to some extent what you've stated - some more and some less…BUT even those that read this that have never seen a single vault can still go away with an admiration of someone allowing their innards be shown. I'm proud that you are not allowing detriments like these to define you - you are defining a greater you…a greater perspective. I know we share "life lessons" all the time because we're blood, but allowing yourself to share something very personal like this to "all" will have a great affect and will trickle down to the soul of many. Thanks buddy for being you! May it be a lesson for us all in our positions, whether great or small. You're truly capturing... "Touch lives - Touch the passion - Touch the sky!" Proud bro …proud! Much love!

    ~ Steve

  10. Mark, good luck @ Drake Relays! We saw you at the pole vault event in Jordan Creek Mall! What a stud! You and April Steiner were sitting right in front of us. My son and the other younger kids whom you high-fived were EXTREMELY ecstatic! What a fantastic way to get the kids interested in sports and the event. We wish you all the best at The Relays and in your future. Welcome to Des Moines.