Vera Schmitz on Pole Vault, 10 lessons learned and the journey so far …

Ellie Kormis

Ellie Kormis

ALTIS Director of Education

After NCAA Division I Championship finishes of 2nd in 2009 and 4th in 2011, three time All American Vera (Neuenswander) Schmitz entered the world of post-collegiate Track and Field. In this interview Vera talks about life as a post-collegiate Pole Vaulter, training at Altis and the journey so far.

Vera – how did you get into Pole Vaulting as a youngster?
My dad was an All American gymnast at the University of Michigan, so I loved gymnastics from the get go. It only made sense that the first time I stepped on the track I was drawn to the most acrobatic event- the Pole Vault. The same year I began to Pole Vault was the same year that Stacy Dragila won the first ever Olympic Gold medal in the 2000 games. And from then on, I was hooked. I was pretty successful in High School winning three Missouri state championships at Jefferson City High School, and that lead me to Indiana University where I was a three time All-American.

Altis treats its athletes as whole people and its coaches help facilitate an environment where every part of you – emotional, spiritual, physical, mental – matters in your personal growth and your growth as an athlete.

What brought you to Altis?
My therapist, Brian Murer was an elite hammer thrower and he had the privilege of learning from Coach Dan Pfaff. My first few years post collegiate were hard on me, and Brian kept nudging me to meet Dan. Once I was in a position to take that next step, I reached out to Altis and was offered the opportunity to come out and train with Dan and the Altis staff – I was floored and honored to have a chance to learn from the best!

So what do you like about training here?
One of my favorite things about Altis is that every coach and athlete welcomes you, no matter where you are, where you have come from, what your struggles are … everyone is so willing to help you grow as an athlete – and that includes more than just your training. You see, Altis treats its athletes as whole people and its coaches help facilitate an environment where every part of you – emotional, spiritual, physical, mental – matters in your personal growth and your growth as an athlete.

What are your aims for the upcoming year?
For now, I take one day at a time. I certainly have goals for the future that include Rio and the 2016 Olympics, but I am most committed to living in and appreciating the process … enjoy the journey!

Vera – thanks for your thoughts, sounds an exciting future for you! Final question – could you share with us the top 10 lessons you’ve learned thus far which may help other aspiring athletes in terms of what to expect on their journey in Track & Field?
Sure – but may I preface this by saying I am continuously working on these myself – it is impossible to ever complete any of them, it is a process of constant growing, learning, and re-learning! I hope they encourage people!

1. Control what you can control, and trust God with what you can not.

2. Love what you are doing. This is the most simple of things. But sometimes the simplest of things are the hardest.

3. Every event, good or bad, is a learning opportunity. Be diligent in identifying what mistakes you made and what you did well. Experience (whether positive or negative) drives improvement.

4. Trust the plan. Confidence flows out of trust.

5. Expect that things will not always go your way. What good story worth telling doesn’t have a bit of hardship?

6. Embrace change and lean into the unknown. Knowing you need to change yet staying the same is a weak and foolish choice.

7. Fear is super sneaky and extremely toxic. Take time to listen to your thoughts and clear your head of fear.

8. Listen to your body and don’t be afraid to back off. You have a shot if you’re healthy, injured is a different story.

9. Remember, you are always just one jump away from making big gains. Every jump is a new opportunity for progress!

10. Choose to be grateful everyday. How special is it that we have the ability, luxury, and freedom to do sport? Not everyone does, so be thankful! And be sure to thank those around you for their help (parents, mentors, coaches, officials, etc.)

Vera has her own blog where she writes about the nature of the competitive experience, the battle for a positive mentality, and the importance of developing our God given talents while selflessly bringing others along. Check out her page …


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