Pole Vault Coach Focuses On The Process Over Performance

By Dominique Smith - Florida Milesplit Correspondent 

Bill Cashman is proof that numbers never lie. In his 36 years of coaching, he's coached over 70 state champions with 51 of the champions coming by way of the pole vault, 6 national champions, over 100 high school All-Americans and his athletes have earned 11 state records in the pole vault. His coaching style has resulted in the success of the athletes that he trains.

What's the key behind his coaching success? His former athlete Erica Sergeant, the former three-time state champion and two-time national champion from Lake Mary High School and Kennesaw State sums it down in a simple phrase.

"The little things make the biggest impact."

Cashman started coaching in 1984 in Maryland before eventually moving down to Florida to coach. As the years have passed, his main focus hasn't changed when it comes to training his athletes.

"We focus on process over performance," he said. "...we go into the ingredients of how we make the cake, not what does the cake taste like when it's done."

Cashman is not one to yell, scream or create more pressure for his athletes. He believes that this style, as well as focusing on fundamentals helps relieve pressure that athletes face when competing. 

"I don't care what the sport is or what the event is, it always comes down to fundamentals, he said. "If they're focused on how they're executing fundamentals, you're in a lot more of a relaxed state, and it allows you to make the critical jump when other people fail, because they're thinking about clearing the height, and they take shortcuts as a result and rush things as opposed to staying patient."

Current FSU pole vaulter Austin Thompson credits Cashman's demeanor in the success that they had while working together.

"Cashman coaches in a very adaptive demeanor, that's why athletes love working with him," he said. "That's probably what helped us the most when we first started training together. He saw I had a lot of abilities and taught me how to use them for pole vault."

Like his athletes, coach Cashman is constantly studying and working hard to improve his craft as a coach. He says he spends every day either studying strength and conditioning concepts, biomechanics or something about the human body that's going to make the kids he coaches better at what they do. 

"It's a never-ending learning process," he said. "I define things to them in small bite sized pieces that I can teach almost anybody."

The concepts of the pole vault that Cashman teaches resonates with his athletes and gives them a better understanding of the event.

"I started working with Cashman at the end of my sophomore year and the most important thing I learned from him was to learn the science behind pole vault and gain a true understanding of the event," Thompson said.

Cashman said that he looks at desire in athletes when coaching them and that he doesn't turn people away because they don't have the talent or quote, potential. He aims to help them reach their full potential.

Haidyn Turner, a junior pole vaulter at Wake Forest University, worked with Cashman while at Winter Springs and won a state championship in the pole vault in her senior year. The bond that they shared helped her reach her goals during their time together.

"Just in general Coach Cashman and I definitely had a very specific bond between coach and athlete that I've never really experienced before," she said. "We kind of understood each other and he understood what my goals and intentions were and he set me up to be the best in all of those. He had a lot of faith in me and we had a lot of faith in each other. It made the seasons spent with him to be what they were and what I was able to accomplish at the end of it."

Outside of his training group, Thin Air Vault Club, he's coach Bill Cashman. But to his athletes, past and present, he's more than a coach. 

"He wears many hats, more than just being a coach, but being an influencer a father figure and just a mentor to so many people," Sergeant said.

For Cashman, the little things indeed do make a big difference. But that's not the message that the legendary coach wants his athletes to carry with them when they move on to the next phase in their lives. 

"The one thing that I want these kids to know when they leave is that they have a coach that loves them," he said.