College – Issue 40

SPORT Fun and patience – the Tom Turner recipe for success

Tom Turner is in his 41st year coaching pole vault, three decades of which have been at Christ’s College. Every Monday and Wednesday you’ll find him gathered with a group of pole vaulters, of greater and lesser ability. The ones who struggle are just as rewarding for Tom as those boys whose abilities seem to defy gravity. Charlie Cameron is clearly a standout in the talent stakes – smashing the College record on Athletics Day with a 4.20m vault this year. “It was amazing. That vault was basically like climbing Mount Everest in a t-shirt and shorts!” says Tom. With equal enthusiasm, Tom also reels off the names of several lesser lights from over the years.

“One of the key things is to be patient. Most boys want instant results, but I try to teach them to take time. Be patient and have fun, then they’ll go well.” During his many years of coaching, Tom has seen great changes in the sport – most particularly the equipment. Today’s poles are made from composites such as carbon fibre rather than the rigid steel of yesteryear. Although never a competitive pole vaulter himself, 70-year-old Tom’s best vault was 2.20m and he challenges current boys to beat that mark. These days you’ll find him at the gym five days a week or out on a building site – he’s just finished building a house for one of his three children. Tom keeps toying with the idea of retirement, but hasn’t quite made the call yet.

“It’s exciting to coach gifted athletes, but it’s equally a pleasure to bring someone up from the bottom. They might never be brilliant but it’s great to see them start to shine. Seeing them achieve personal bests is wonderful. It’s about doing the best you can. I encourage the boys to believe in themselves. “Ultimately, the most important thing is to have fun. I think kids need to have fun in their sport and not make any decisions on which pursuit to follow until they’re 18. They’re too young to concentrate on one thing – it can take the pleasure away. “When I’m coaching, I don’t usually look at what they’re doing wrong. It’s more important to find out what they did right. I like to get them to focus on the positives first and then I ask them what they could do to improve.” Tom says the pole vault requires a mix of mental and physical ability.

“ Tom is a pretty special coach. You won't find many coaches who are as enjoyment focused as he is. His enthusiasm for the sport and for his athletes is what draws a lot of young people to the sport. It's certainly what has helped me to get to the level I am at, and is what continues to make him one of the most popular coaches among the athletics community. ” Charlie Cameron

College Issue 40 2021


Made with FlippingBook Learn more on our blog