G-Force Pole Vault Club

Mike Soule has coached at Forest Lake High School as their pole vault coach for 4 seasons, and
maybe more significantly as the owner and coach of G-Force Pole Vault Club for 13 years.
During that time, he has had many pole vaulters gain scholarships or go on to pole vault in

Who are some recent vaulters who will earn scholarships to compete in college?
As the pole vault coach at Forest Lake High School as well as heading up G-Force Pole vault
Club I have had the great fortune to work with some wonderful kids. Alec Varani, the athlete that
got me back to the high school ranks, is now finishing up his junior year at UW Stout University
in Menomonie Wisconsin. Taylor (Brett) Johnson, Tyler Colling and now Jenna Parent all have
gone on to pole vault at University of North Dakota. 2019 Graduate and state qualifier Sofia
Dodge has committed to Concordia University, St. Paul. Former G-Force club athletes that have
gone on to college careers are Centennial High School’s Andrea Gessner and Lydia DeBuhr .
Andrea who jumps for University of Wisconsin Eau Claire and Lydia at Northwestern College,
St. Paul. Roseville High School’s Allison Weiker is pole vaulting at UW Eau Claire and Mark
Mc Pherson is vaulting at Minnesota State Mankato.

You also have an excellent staff of your former vaulters working in the G-Force Club.
Who are they?
There’s an old saying that goes “those that can’t do, teach”. In my case it’s more like, “those that
can’t do very well, coach”. My personal best since coming back to this is 9’ 6”. Now at 67 I’m
more like a 7’ to 7’6” vaulter. Initially I jumped into this event focusing entirely on being able to
jump myself. Little did I know how much I really learned to love coaching. It all began that first
year in my back yard with 5 boys coming over to my house to jump once or twice a week. 4 of
the 5 went on to vault in college. The 5th would have vaulted in college but he went to Bemidji
State for his major and they discontinued their Track and Field program. Two of those boys are
now coaches for G-Force Pole Vault Club. Proof that what goes around comes back around. G-
Force has grown from the small 5 participant program to what it is today. Last year we filled 64
spots during our summer and fall sessions. We run 4 sessions a week during the summer months
and 3 sessions a week during our fall. Summer sessions are limited to 10 athletes. We provide 2
coaches per session to keep the coach to athlete ratio 1 to 5. We have a great coaching staff
featuring; Marty Proops, USATF Masters all American in the pole vault. Mike Hrudka, Masters
pole vaulter, USATF level 1 certified coach and current pole vault coach at Spring Lake Park
High School. Tyler Colling, Former G-Force athlete and college pole vaulter at University of
North Dakota. AJ Walsh-Brenizer, Former G-Force athlete, college decathlete at University of
River Falls, and now pole vault coach at University of Wisconsin River Falls. Kyle O’Connor
post collegiate vaulter and current pole vault coach at Roseville high school.

What are your earliest sports memories?
I was raised in Wisconsin and moved from Luck Wisconsin to Hudson before my 4th grade year.
Like most kids of the 50’s and 60’s we would play our sports coinciding with high school sports
seasons. Football in the fall, basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring and summer. That
was how it was until I saw a high school kid pole vaulting. Since then track and field and the
pole vault became a spring sport for me. I was 7 years old when I first witnessed the event and
couldn’t wait to get home and grab a conduit pole out of my Dad’s garage along with a couple of
peach crates to hold a crossbar and a bamboo fishing pole for the crossbar and try to jump over
the crossbar with that conduit pole. From that day on, Pole-vaulting became a very important
sport for me and many of my friends. We would put all sorts of things together to make it
possible for us to jump over a bar with the aid of a stick. Most consistent piece of equipment for
me and many other backyard pole vaulters was the 2” x 2” x 8 foot upright with nails every 2
inches that we used for crossbar standards. From then until I graduated, I had my own pole vault
set up either at a nearby vacant lot or in my parents’ yard.

How did your high school career go?
That’s how things went pretty much through high school. Football in the fall and pole vaulting in
the spring. I tried wrestling and basketball for winter sports but wasn’t very good at either. So, I
limited my focus to training in the winter preparing for track in the spring. As most older pole
vaulters will tell you there wasn’t a lot of coaching back in those days. Basically, our training
guide was a 1958 World Book encyclopedia with pictures of Bob Richards jumping at the 1952
Olympics. I remember my coach, long time head track coach at Hudson High School John
Ewing, saying to me the first day we met,” I don’t know much about pole vaulting, but I read a
lot about track and field. If I find something that I think will be helpful I’ll pass it along”. It was
Coach Ewing that suggested that I do pole runs to increase approach speed and posture.
Something that to this day I insist my vaulters do a lot of. I went to state in 1969 but I didn’t
make state my senior year in 1970. I finished 1 ½” behind the 2nd place vaulter at sections that
year. I did set a school record that stood for 4 or 5 years and lifetime best of 12’ 7 ½” at those
sections. So, I guess it wasn’t a total loss. It still hurt not making it to state.

You did not pole vault in college because you played football at Arkansas, but you got back
into vaulting as a master’s athlete. How did that happen?
So ended my pole vault career in May of 1970. Or so I thought. Fast forward to 2004 at age 53 and me watching the 2004 Olympics. I saw Tim Mack and Toby Stevenson go 1 – 2 in the pole vault at those Olympics. I thought that it might be fun to try pole vaulting again. I had no idea where to start except for the internet. I punched in “senior pole vaulting”. What appeared in the search findings was a website for a masters / senior pole vaulter (and now one of my best friends) named Doug (Bubba) Sparks who lived in Houston Texas. He provided me with all the information I needed to come back to a sport that I was so passionate about many years before. One of the things that he suggested was that the best way to find a place to jump is to find a high school to coach at. I spent two years as a volunteer coach at Mounds View High School in Arden Hills, MN. Those two years convinced me that the high school season is just not long enough to do a proper job of teaching the pole vault.

Why did you come to realize that the high school season is too short to learn the pole vault?
I realized that there are just too many links in the chain of events, which is the pole vault, for it to
be mastered in the short high school season. It is said that a pole vaulter is a combination of a
sprinter, a jumper and a gymnast. All three functions take place in a matter of 6 to 7 seconds.
That time frame begins at the top of the runway and lasts until the athlete is on his or her back in
the pit. When I realized that there isn’t enough time to learn all those things is when I decided to
leave the high school ranks and put a club together in my own backyard similar to what I had as
a kid. I called the club G-Force Pole Vault Club. (There is a story about the background of the
name, but I won’t go there now).

But you eventually decided to coach during the school year and during the off season.
I have found after doing both high school and club coaching that there is a big difference
between the two. During the high school year, the focus is on the overall jump. In a club session
we focus on one link in that chain I spoke of earlier and have the time to work on that link until
it’s mastered or done to the best of the ability of the athlete.

How did you happen to start coaching at Forest Lake High School during their regular
In the early days of G-Force Pole Vault Club, USATF would sanction home based units which
G-Force was. Several years ago they stopped insuring home based units and that is when we
formed a partnership with Forest Lake Community Education Department. For many years
Forest Lake Ranger Coach Paul Kendrick had asked me to come coach at the high school. I
declined because it would interfere with my club coaching. Four years ago, one of my club
athletes was entering his senior year at Forest Lake. I contacted Coach Kendrick and told him I
would coach this athlete for his senior year and then that would be it. Oops, guess not. I am not
only coaching the boys but the girls there as well.

Why do you love pole vault coaching as much as you do?
One of the things that I really enjoy about being a pole vaulter and coach is that those of us that
do it belong to a very close-knit community. Even though as competitors we want to win every
contest we enter, we also support and root on those we compete against. I have no problem
helping a kid from a different school if his or her coach is not there, or they don’t have one to
begin with. The “community” attitude is prevalent in the master’s pole vault rank. It’s one of the
best things about competing at the master’s level.

What does G-Force Pole Vault Club emphasize?
Our summer sessions at G-Force focus on the technical aspects of the pole vault. That is
accomplished through lots of drill work and repetition. Those sessions are usually two plus hours
long. During the fall the sessions are shorter, an hour and a half, but there are also less athletes.
We limit those sessions to 8. The idea is in the summer we learn the vault and in the fall we do
what we learned in the summer. Hopefully, things learned in the summer will transfer to
implementation in the fall and on to the following spring when the athlete once again competes
for his or her high school or college.

How do you keep this activity safe?
Someone not familiar with the event would think that it’s dangerous and risky. There is a certain
amount of risk in this event but no more than any other sport if there is good coaching behind it.
There are more injuries in football, and hockey than there are in pole vaulting. The difference is
that an injury in the pole vault can and sometimes has been a catastrophic injury bringing it to the
forefront. Most, if not all pole vault injuries are the result of an athlete trying to perform above
his or her physical capabilities and/ or on equipment that is not right for them. This once again
falls back on an untrained coach who allows that to happen. Safety is the main focus around this
event. Especially in the high school ranks. I have close to 100 pole vault poles that belong to me
for club use because of that reason. For us involved, it’s so important that safety is the focus so
that we can keep the event on the high school track and field program. One of my goals is to
have Minnesota pole vaulting to be included in the same sentence with Indiana, Ohio, Michigan,
and Wisconsin.

Mike Soule, Assistant Coach Forest Lake High School – Pole Vault
Copyright 2019 by Bill Peyton, All Rights reserved.

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