Pole-vaulting school is making name in Shelby

Owner and coach Jamie Steffen does not train basketball or football players, but rather he’s a pole vaulting coach, and with his unique facility he’s singlehandedly putting Kentucky on the pole vaulting map.

With only a handful of similar facilities across the nation, most of his students travel more than one hour each way every week to train at Fuzion, Steffen said.

“Our average kid drives two and a half hours every time they come, each way,” he said, noting that the longest distance one of his students travels each week is nearly five hours.

Steffen originally established the business in Minneapolis in 2008 where it has since grown to become a massive success, training nearly 200 students per week.

But when Steffen was laid off from his teaching job – a position he held in order to coach high school track and field – he decided it was time for a change of scenery.

And after spending a summer in Kentucky, he opened a second location in small gym in Louisville before moving to a garage in Taylorsville, and then finally building an outdoor vaulting pit in Shelbyville.

And this past fall, after partnering with Kentucky Athletics – a non-profit track club – he opened the doors to a brand new facility on Bonniemere Road.

Each week, 65 students of all levels and ages pass through the facility.

Though Steffen coaches vaulters as young as sixth graders, he also has students as old as 78. That kind of longevity comes from what Steffen calls the “Pole Vaulting Bug,” meaning once you start pole vaulting, it’s hard to stop.

“I’ve had a guy come in with a walker and move his walker out of the way and pole vault, it’s crazy,” he said.

But while Steffen enjoys coaching the advanced athletes, his heart lies in introducing kids to the sport he loves.

“My real love is coaching a kid that’s never picked a pole up. That’s fun,” he said.

Steffen said he loves watching otherwise shy children become confident through the sport.

“You give them confidence and it helps them in school, their grades go up, it’s amazing to watch,” he said.

Steffen has since been hired as a track and field coach at Centre College, but he unofficially coaches high school teams all over the state.

Because many high schools in Kentucky do not have a pole-vaulting pit or the proper equipment to accommodate a team, Steffen said coaches often send their students to Fuzion for practice.

“I think [that] is really cool, that the kids can come here, jump, maybe get a college scholarship and not even have the equipment at their school, or ever think they could have a chance to go to college and pole vault,” he said.

Steffen, who placed fourth on the world team last year in Brazil, isn’t just training athletes, he’s training winners.

“Last year out of this facility we had one all-time state record, two state class records – out of three classes – we had three state champions, four state runner-ups, 25 state medalists, 40 state qualifiers, and 16 went to college,” he said.

Steffen admits, pole vaulting is not a popular sport in Kentucky, but in the three years since been here, he’s grown his clientele from a handful to hundreds, and the number keeps increasing.

“Seems like everyday I have a new kid,” he said.

Steffen does little in the way of advertising, as his student’s successful performances all over the country tend to do that for him.

And that word of mouth is working, he said, explaining one student moved here from New York and another family moved to Shelby County after discovering his facility.

But Steffen isn’t just bringing athletes to Shelby County.

Along with teaching the sport, Steffen also owns, which allows athletes to rent the expensive poles instead buying them. He is also is the largest distributer for UST ESSX poles.

“We have poles that go to London, Brazil, I have some in South Africa, Australia –we actually do a lot of business in Australia,” he said.

In fact, his Shelbvyville facility has now become a testing location for the company’s pole engineers.

And with the help of Kile Signs, Steffen also manufactures pole bags, which are also sent worldwide.

In the pole-vaulting community, it’s clear to see Steffen is putting Shelby County on the map, and all because of one simple mantra – “If you build it, they will come. And hopefully, they’ll keep on coming.”




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