When Coach Robert Tilley moved Pure Sky Vaulting Club, originally started in 1997 as a vaulting camp at Green Valley High School, to his backyard in Henderson, Nevada in 2006 a unique and wonderful club opportunity became available to young pole vaulters. Over a period of two weeks Coach Tilley laid a 110’ pole vault runway himself and Pure Sky Vaulting Club, as it is known today, took off from there.  Along with the runway came a sand pit and a full spectrum of pole sizes (all by the same manufacturer- which is highly recommended by Coach Tilley to prevent problems with changing poles due to fluctuations in manufacturing).  Other equipment and facilities for keeping in shape are also offered, and all with the comforts of home to add to the fun.

This one-of-a-kind club would leave anybody curious so we asked Coach Tilley how he was able to start a facility like this.  Other than dealing with zoning requirements and the like, here is what he says was the most important piece in causing this all to come together:  “Really what it takes to build something like this is just the willingness to jump through all the hoops and want to do something for the kids.  And this is not about me.  It’s great that it’s convenient for me, but this is never about me.”

His desire to create something for the kids he coaches has turned into something that is not easy to come across.  When asked why his club is different he says, “Being in the backyard changes the atmosphere of what’s happening.  I think it’s just a more relaxed setting.  We’ve got music playing in the background and it’s just a fun situation for the kids and it’s less stressful than at their schools.”

Exposure to vaulting is another way Pure Sky differs from average vaulting clubs.  Coach Tilley sums up how exposure makes a difference when he says, “Being that this is a backyard I can give kids more opportunities to compete.  We try to have three meets prior to the season starting and then we try to have three meets after our season is over.  So they’re already three meets into the season by the time they get going for regular track season- they’ve already got competitions under their belt so they’re not as nervous for that first competition of the year.”

Coach Tilley’s assistant, Russ Kashka, agrees that exposure is key for Pure Sky’s success.  He says, “It gives you more exposure to the sport because usually you’re only doing it after school hours and you’re kind of limited to how long you’re there at the school.  So here, after the school practice, we come out here and we can vault into the night.  That’s what helps.  It’s just having that extra.”

The partnership between Coach Tilley and Coach Kashka was born out of wanting to do something great for young vaulters.  Coach Kashka tells us he got into coaching when his oldest daughter basically volunteered him to coach at her high school in 2002 when her track team was lacking a pole vault coach.  He and Coach Tilley met through coaching high school vaulting and it ended in Kashka becoming Tilley’s assistant coach at Pure Sky.

The Pure Sky philosophy of taking training back to basics also helps make this club so unique.  Coach Tilley says, “Everybody starts in the sand every single year.  We want to make sure that if we missed something along the way that we pick it up this time around.  Obviously the kids that have been jumping longer progress faster, but I want everybody to go through that new beginning.  And sometimes, if they had struggles last year, now they’re building confidence and maybe a new love for the sport.”  This approach is very important to Coach Tilley and he holds it dear to him.  He also told us, “I think that’s one of the things that made our kids fairly successful because a lot of coaches don’t want to start back at the beginning- they don’t want to do it progressively.  We have a very progressive program and basically I’ve run my life that way- a little at a time, add a little bit at the end.  And hopefully these kids will understand this and it will carry over into their lives.”

Furthering the opportunities for vaulting exposure is a partnership that Pure Sky has formed with Sky Athletics (www.skyathletics.com) which takes a more traditional camp approach.  Coach Tilley fell in love with their Kiss the Sky Summer Camp and he encourages his vaulters to be a part of it.  Here’s what he has to say about it:  “I got in with Todd Lehman and Greg Hull probably about thirteen years ago.  They invited me to come to camp.  I had no idea what kind of camp they ran and I’d been looking for a good camp.  My girl was the first girl to ever attend their camp.  These are some of the best coaches in the United States.  I’ve never seen a camp like this.  It is the best atmosphere that you’re going to find.  When you go to camp it feels like you go to camp.”  Kiss the Sky runs from June 9 – 13 this year and college-aged and younger vaulters can attend.  The Pure Sky team is looking forward to it.

We were able to talk to a few young vaulters who attend Pure Sky and it’s evident that they love the environment as much as Coach Tilley does.  When we asked high school junior, Cassidy Motis (PR 9’6” at Desert Oasis High School) what the best part of Pure Sky is she replies, “It’s all of it.  You learn so much and then the people are great and they’re like your family.  It’s just a great time.”

Ryanne Bailey (PR 8’9”), senior at Foothill High School and three-year attendee at Pure Sky, says, “I like that it’s at his house because it feels like we can connect more with everybody else since we’re at a home environment.  It’s just homey.”

A newbie to Pure Sky, Haleigh Piotrowski (sophomore at Coronado High School- PR 7’), says, “You get a lot more jump time and there are more coaches to help you and then you have all your friends.”

Austin Tilley, son of Coach Tilley (PR 14’6”), says, “Everyone gets to come over- a whole bunch of new friends.”

And freshman, Charleigh Allen (PR 6’ at Foothill High School) likes the part of Pure Sky that might not be true forever after the secret of this club is let out.  She tells us her favorite part is that, “Not many people know about it.”  Sorry Charleigh – many more may want to join you after hearing about this great opportunity.  Visit www.pureskyvaulting.com for more information.


By:  Michelle Walthall

Pure Sky Vaulter Magazine
Pure Sky Vaulter Magazine

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