Observations based on 60+ years in the world’s greatest sport.
By Bill Falk, M-F Athletic Founder
How to Win In High School
Back in yesteryear – 1952 to be exact – I was hired by Attleboro HS, MA as Track Coach, Asst. Varsity Football & Basketball coach plus Jr. High Basketball coach (on days of night HS basketball games) plus full-time teacher. Salary was $2,700 – including $200 because I had an M.A.
Things were a lot different then. Meals for teachers were 25 cents, and Mrs. Ryder put aside a meal for me to grab when I had afternoon and evening basketball games.
One night before a basketball game at Braintree HS, MA I got talking with the AD from the host school. He explained how to win as a high school coach. I was all ears, since I was inheriting a track team that finished the previous season with six members. He said for every 100 high school students there were 2 that possessed excellent athletic ability, and coaches that successfully recruited these budding stars would be successful. He said those coaches unsuccessful would be losers.
I hadn’t realized that coaches had to fight for the good athletes, but it seemed like a good plan. Since teachers had to stand outside their rooms between classes, I saw an opportunity to talk to kids who looked like athletes. I was successful, and I rounded up about 50 candidates for my track team. Most of the kids I talked to were flattered that they were picked out, so everybody was happy. Sure enough, many of my recruits helped us win the MA State Championship two years later.
I moved on to Hope HS in Providence, RI after four years in Attleboro and I followed the same recruiting procedure. One day while standing outside my classroom I spotted a huge guy walking in front of me. I stopped him and asked what his name was. He told me he was Albert Santio, a sophomore who played basketball. He was 6’7” – gigantic in 1956. He didn’t know what to make of me when I told him I expected (ordered) him to come out for track once the basketball season ended. He had never heard of track, but he was scared to say no to me.
Sure enough Albert reported to practice in the spring, and I began to indoctrinate him about throwing. We tried the javelin first. He threw the implement and it did a loop-the-loop and landed with the top of the javelin sticking into the ground. Albert was hilarious – thinking this was supposed to happen. He didn’t look natural throwing the javelin, but I had high hopes that he would be successful in the shot and discus. He seemed to get the basics of those events, but he couldn’t turn in the discus circle. Albert scaled the discus extremely well from a stand, but it took him the better part of two years to get any kind of effective turn. Finally he was able to turn fairly well, and the discus began to fly. By his third year Albert was the U.S. record holder and National AAU Jr. Champ in the discus. I should mention that we were throwing the 2k college and international weight in those days. We also ran college high hurdles in RI high schools at that time – and only the talented survived that ordeal.
How Fiberglass Vaulting Poles Came About
We used bamboo vaulting poles until WWII came along. Then bamboo became hard to get so aluminum and steel were used. Neither was good. Aluminum was light to carry but it fell apart if dented and steel weighed a ton. There was only one size and weight for aluminum and steel poles. Everybody used the same pole no matter what the athlete weighed or how high he jumped. One day a father wondered if there was a better material for vaulting poles. He sought out Herb Jenks, the developer of fiberglass fishing rods who produced the first fiberglass vaulting pole. It was much heavier than today’s models and not as sophisticated – but a great advancement. There were several lengths available but the resistance was rated the same no matter what pole was used if the vaulter maintained the same grip with his top hand. Let’s say the top hand was gripped at 11’. As long as the top hand stayed at 11’ the pole’s resistance was rated the same whether the pole was 12’, 14’ or even 15’ long. But resistance was actually lowered when vaulters moved their top hand up higher when using longer poles. A 140 lb. vaulter could start with a 12’ long pole rated at 140 lbs. resistance, but if he moved to a longer pole and raised his grip, the pole became easier to bend. This fortunately has been rectified. Now pole vault poles have weight resistance ratings for each length of pole. In fact poles today are lighter to carry but stronger and have much more accurate resistance ratings.
See you next time,