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I will post each week with a new theme, so check back frequently!

Feb2, 2019-The Beginnings:

I am writing my blog so you all will know what I went through in my career and hopefully some of my experiences can help you with your journey.  I will cover all areas of athletics woven with my experiences and thoughts. This blog is for athletes of all sports, ages, and genders.   Some of the things I will write about are how to deal with failure, how to deal with success, what I wish I knew earlier, how to train your mind for success,  how to get ahead of your competition,  how to balance training and life, and many more areas that you want to hear about.  Hopefully some of this will inspire you and motivate you through good times and bad.   

Let me introduce myself to those who dont know anything about me.  My name is Tim Mack.  I grew up in Westlake, Ohio which is a 20mn drive west of Cleveland, Ohio.   I was a pretty good athlete, but not great.  In grade school I played baseball, basketball, track, and football.  I started pole-vaulting in the 8th grade because I didnt like running distance and the pole-vaulters didn't have to run, so I asked if I could try.  I pole-vaulted in high school 9th, 11th, and 12 grades.  I didnt vault in the 10th grade because I played baseball.  I also tried to play football but got cut from the football team in the 10th grade.  I was desperate to find a sport.   I was "ok" in the pole vault, so went back to it as a junior and stuck with it.  I ended up vaulting 13'6" as a senior.  I didn't go to the state high school meet and I don't even have my high school record.

I never made the state meet in high school and never got any scholarship offers.  I was going to "walk-on" at Toledo University in Ohio.   I went to Toledo for freshman orientation, I got my school I.D. and class schedule at Toledo.  I was set.  Then, the summer after I had graduated high school, I vaulted on a summer track team.  While doing that I was introduced to coach Ralph Schreiber at Malone College in Canton, Oh..  Malone was 1 1/2 hour drive southeast from Westlake.   He was only the pole vault coach, but he was there for every part of training.  He, for some reason, showed interest in me?  He and the other vaulters at Malone came to my house to recruit me, met my parents, and that was that.  I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to improve because both vaulters were vaulting better than me and the coach was there for everything.   

At Malone we trained very hard and Coach Ralph was there for all parts of training.  After 3 years, I ended up breaking the school record and vaulting 17'5".  After my 3rd year at Malone Coach Ralph thought it would be a good idea for me to transfer to a bigger school.  It was because I improved quite a bit, but that was with vaulting and running in the snow and vaulting in the gym wearing high jump shoes.  He thought if I went somewhere with better weather and facilities, the sky was the limit.  He saw somthing in me that I had not seen yet but i believed in him.   So I ended up writing letters to the best NCAA vault schools in the country.    

University of Tennessee called me first.   I saw that there were 3 vaulters vaulting 18'+ and one vaulting 19+.  They also had a reputabl coach there in Jim Bemiller.  I was a decent competitor and those vaulters would help me get better.   It was an easy decision for me, so went to UT. 

After 2 years at UT, I ended up vaulting 18'4" and won an Indoor NCAA National Championship.   After I graduated, it was 1996 and also the Olympic Trials.  I qualified to those trials, but I did not make the pole vault final.  That means I did not jump high enough in the preliminary to vault in the final and a chance to go to the Olympics.

 

It really hurt not even making the final at the Olympic Trials in 1996.  I didnt know what I was going to do after.  I didnt think I was good enough to keep training and felt embarrassed to even tell anyone that I wanted to continue.  Then, my advisor at UT asked me what I was going to do now that I had graduated.  I told him I had no clue.  He said to come back in a few days and he had an option for me.  I went to see him a few days later and he said he had a graduate assistantship for me that would pay my living expenses as well as allow me to study to get a Master's degree!  No doubt I took that deal!  He saw somthing that I did not see yet!  It was the perfect opportunity!  I could continue to train with my coach and use the school facilities and get a Master's degree.

Four years later it was time for the 2000 Olympic Trials!  I was sure I could make it.  I had vaulted 19' that year and was one of the top vaulters in the nation.   One problem was that I wanted it so bad that leading up to the Trials I  trained so hard, that I found out later I had been "over-trained" for the Trials. That means I was beating up my nervous system so much everyday with sprinting and weight training and plyometrics, that my body couldn't handle it and it was breaking down.  I was in deep trouble.  My run-up was getting shorter, I was gripping lower on the pole, I was vauting on softer poles…all bad indicators for the biggest meet of the year.  I was trying my best to positive, but I knew somthing was not right.  I ended up vaulting 18'2" and placed 6th (they only take the top 3 to the Olympics).  I was devastated.  I thought I had done everything right and it still didnt work out.  I saw I had 2 options…quit, or do everything In my power to do everything smarter and better. 

 

I had 4 years to make this right!  I left no stone unturned!   I did not have any trainining partners for 4 years, Other than vault workouts, I had to do all the workouts by myself.  I had to keep myself accountable, motivate myself, develop my own workouts, and sometimes punish myself if I was late for practice…for 4 years!   

I sought out help from as many sprint coaches, strength coaches, vault coaches that I could.  I saw a sport psychologst for the 4 years leading up to the Olympics.  I had regular massage therapy and chiropractic treatments.   I was obsessed.  I even chose an email to use for the 4 years leading up to Olympics.  That email was "goldnathens@aol.com," like gold"in"athens.  I chose that so I would see and write my goal everyday.  I remember, I was so embarrased to tell people my email, I would just tell them it was "gold nathens"  like the name of a person "nathen"!   Having that email was for me, not anyone else.   I would not be denied!

Four long years later I ended up winning the Olympic Trials with an Olympic Trials record 19'4 3/4".  Even better, it was in Sacramento, Ca., the same place it was at 4 years earlier where I failed.  Then, I went on to win the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece with an Olympic record 19'6 1/2".  That was also a personal best and I cleared it on my 3rd attempt!


Moral of the story is do not give up…ever!  I know my story is about someone training for Olympics, but maybe some of what I did and what I had to endure can help someone in the same situation.  You do not have to do everything I did, but maybe some of what I did can help you.  This is a tough sport and any help makes a difference.  

Check back frequently for new stories and information! 


Thanks,

Tim


Post 2

Feb 7, 2019-Use your imagination!

 


In 2001 I qualified to represent the USA in The Goodwill Games in Brisbane Australia.  It was the biggest competition of my career.  However, there was one major problem.  That was for the weeks leading up to competition, I could not sprint full speed…actually not at all.  There was shooting pains on the outside of both of my lower legs.  I could tell the outside of my both lower legs got aggravated/irritated and they would not calm down.   There was nothing I could do.  I remember thinking that I was deep trouble.  Well, I thought to myself, I had already traveled to Australia, so I had better make the best of it.   I would not waste this opportunity!

So I went out to the practice track and I tried to run without feeling the pain.  I started running in different running positions, I tried jogging into a run-up, I tried skipping into a run-up, I tried wearing different spikes and nothing was helping.  I tried massage, chiropractic…nothing.   I was really feeling the pressure of the situation and the competition was weeks away.

I was at my wits end, needless to say, I was stressing big-time!  I was alone in my hotel room, depressed, then, I decided I was not going out like this.  I decided I needed an action plan.  I decided that I had to stay off of my legs as much as possible.  I would have to conserve mental and physical energy.   I would have sit in bed, and I would have to ice massage the outside of my lower legs 5-10x/day for 10mn each time.  I would take ibuprofen to reduce inflammation, I would also lightly massage and stretch my lower legs. I would do this routine daily and I would just “wing it” at the competition.  That helped and calmed my body and mind for a few days.  I was still getting nervous though and I still felt that I needed to do more to prepare for the competition. 

I could now at least walk without any pain.  Then, I remembered through my many sport psychology sessions that my mind doesn’t know if it is real or imagined.  That means…if I close your eyes and just imagine what you are doing and go through the motions of what you are supposed to do, your mind really doesn’t know if it is real or not..   You would be getting the same reps as if it was real!  Perfect Reps!   Basically I could rehearse perfect reps for the next 10 days and I didn’t have to run! 

 I thought to myself, all alone in my room,  well Tim, I said….I could at least walk the rhythm of my run-up and I could motion dropping the pole and then rehearse going through a full vault, just standing there.  I knew I could do this perfectly.   So, I did that thousands of times over the next 10 days.  My routine was get up, Ice, stretch, ibuprofen, rehearse, watch an hour of a movie, ice, stretch, rehearse, etc, etc.  Even when others were going to visit the Zoo, I knew I needed to stay and take of my legs and rehearse.  So I basically barricaded myself in my room and rehearsed.  I did not want to embarrass myself at this competition.  All the major players would be competing and I wanted to look respectable.


I rehearsed over and over and over again!   I enhanced the rehearsal session by playing trance music…seemed to help and get me more focused. Then I would enhance it more by watching video, then ice, then stretch, then rehearse again.  I would get chills going through the motions because my mind was so engaged in the actions.  My mind actually thought it was the real deal!  Knowing that this is a lot of mental energy, I knew I would also have to watch movies in between to balance expending all of that energy.  So I would also take time away from the rehearsal, because I did not want to get drained.

I did that for the 8-10 days leading up to the competition.   Then it was competition day.  I remember taking the bus to track the day of the competition.  I was extremely nervous, but I just kept rehearsing in my mind what I had to do.  I remember attaching such an emotional connection to wanting to execute my tasks that I was borderline in tears.  Of course I was also playing the trance/techno music to narrow my focus. 

I remember starting my warm-up jog on the grass, to take pressure off of my legs , and doing as easy a jog as possible.  I was just waiting for that pain in my legs to return but it didn’t.   I could not believe what was happening.  I continued with my running drills waiting for just a little pain to return, it didn’t.   I wanted to run as fast as I could, but It was like pulling the reins on a wild horse.  I would not let it loose yet, it was not time yet.

Then we went out to the competition venue.  I did some strides on the track, no pain.  I increased my speed to 80%, then 90% and still no pain.  I could not believe it.  Then I let it loose, I ran a stride full speed and slowed down with no pain.  I was so excited, but I did all I could to hold it in…I still had to vault! 

I went to the runway.  I remember that I rehaearsed, thousands of times, over that 10 days that I had to punch that last step down so I could get my step out.  That is all I was thinking.  I was like a robot.  I started my run-up, punched that last step down,  and I absolutely crushed my warm-up pole.   I landed in the back of the pit and I could not finish my vault.   I was in amazement.  I was super excited.  I tried to stay focused.  I just played it off like it was supposed to happen.  I just went with it.  I grabbed the next pole and did the same thing.  I didn’t think of how good I could that day, I just felt the whole vault.

I ended up vaulting  19’ that day and won the competition.  I also won $20,000!  I was able to quit my full-time job and focus more of my efforts on vaulting full-time.  That day changed my career!  I continued to rehearse as much as I could the rest of my career.

The point of this story, the point that I preach this to everyone I coach, is to rehearse as much as you can!  I can tell you that your mind doesn’t know if it is real or imagined!  Find time to rehearse!  You can rehearse anytime or anywhere!  You can rehearse during your study breaks, you can rehearse on the plane, you can rehearse on a car ride, you can rehearse during the commercials of your favorite show.  I don’t have a specific number that I think you should rehearse.  I believe that it is as much that gives you confidence.  You should rehearse as much as you need to calm your mind. Now, I am not saying to rehearse 24/7, but you should do as much as needed to get over the hump when learning new things.  

I used to think that sports was 60% mental, now I am thinking it it much more than that. Athletes and coaches should spend time developing this skill as well.  I will talk on another post about what else you can do to get the mental edge. 

If you want to execute something, if you want to be good at something, a little rehearsing is not too much to ask.  You only have so much time in practice to work on things.  You can make up more reps throughout the day.  I am a firm believer that those who gets the most reps usually come out on top.

Let me know what you think or if you have any questions!

 

Good Luck,

Tim



3 Use your imagination again!

It was a few months before the Olympic Trials and I was feeling a bit anxious.  I always watched movies that got my mind off of training and the Olympic Trials.  Even though I watched them, I always related the movie to my situation.  In this particular situation it was the movie “Any Given Sunday” with Al Pacino.  Now it is a pretty intense football movie, but I watched it anyways.  I wouldn’t watch some movies if I thought they would tax my nervous  system (not really sure if that is true, but I could feel if I was wasting any type of energy on anything other than training).

 There was a scene where a wide receiver would look at himself in the mirror and recite “ you are the greatest wide receiver to ever live.” He would be totally serious. He would say it like he really meant it.  He would them look slowly away nodding his head in appreciation for what he said and how he believed it.  I could really feel the focus in that scene  I could really feel that that could work. 

 I was looking for anything that would boost my confidence.  So I got the idea that I would try it for myself.  So, first time I tried, I went to the mirror in my bathroom, I looked at myself directly in the eyes and said “you are the greatest pole-vaulter to ever live!”   I couldn’t get through the sentence before I started laughing at myself and I turned away in disgust.  I tried it again and again I laughed at myself and I couldn’t even look at myself.  It was really hard to look at myself and believe it.  I went and sat on the couch in my living room in astonishment that I could not do it and be serious about and believe it.

 I didn’t let that get me down.  It was then I knew I didn’t really believe it.  I would continue to try it for the upcoming months.  I needed to be able to do this.   I was scared to try each time because I would think what would happen if I could never do it and be serious.

 I would try it whenever I thought about it.  If I was making dinner and I thought about it, I would try.  If I got home from practice I would try again.  The weeks went by and I continued to laugh at myself each time and turn away in disgust. 

 A few weeks before the Olympic Trials, I got home from a really good practice.  I was getting ready to make dinner and I thought I would try it.  I went to the bathroom and looked at myself directly in the mirror. I recited again “you are the greatest pole-vaulter to ever live!”  I remember saying it and I started to tear up a bit and was getting chills.   I didn’t look away this time, I didn’t laugh at myself this time.  I turned away from the mirror, nodded my head in appreciation and went on to make dinner.  I continued to this every other day before the Olympic Trials to build up my confidence. 

 While writing this post, a quote comes to mind.  “Desperate times call for desperate measures.”  I was desperate to make that team.  I knew I needed to build my confidence and this was one way I was going to do that.  My advice to you is to use your imagination to build your confidence.  It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks!  This is for you.  You can try what I did, or try something else.   The more ridiculous it seems the better.  You can do what you want.  And when you achieve what you want, it will not be by accident.      



  

u© Tim Mack 2018