No longer a living legend but still a legend!

faith mindset Feb 12, 2024

Don W. Hood known by most as “Coach Hood”. 

Born: April 6th 1933

Died: Feb 9th 2024


For those who don't know Coach Hood has coached dozens of olympians and national champions in pole vaulting over decades of coaching.  

The first time I met Coach Hood was when he came up north for his world class pole vaulting camps.  I remember him talking about the catered meals = Subway, burgers, and Pizza.  I remember sleeping in a college dorm or motel.  I remember carrying kids to and from locations in the back of pickup trucks.  I remember him telling everyone to buy a T-shirt but only wear it at home if they weren’t going to do things right on the runway.  I remember him calling flip flops thongs and that getting a giggle out of the kids.   I remember working hard to make sure I wasn’t a “rock head”.  He could coach hard and direct and still not crush people.  He made me think higher of myself as far as pole vault goals but also for the kind of person I’d want to be.  I remember wearing out my Coach Hood Pole Vault VHS tape.  I remember watching the French Pole vault training videos.  I remember always leaving inspired to put in the work. 


I visited him at his home for a private coaching weekend.  I remember Betty Ann having one good day and two bad days of cancer treatment while I was there.  She was one of the sweetest women I have ever met.  I remember driving over the cattle grate that had a couple broken poles shoved in it to keep the horses from running out.  I remember worrying I would get bit by a rattle snake inside the old mats.  I remember feeling tougher just being around him.  I remember not wanting to let him down.  I also remember arriving into his game room and getting humbled in ping pong before I moved my stuff into the guest room.  I remember his house just kept on going.  The hallway zagged and there was another hallway!


I transferred schools and got a chance to spend even more time with him.  I remember setting up his mats and raised runway in several warehouses that belonged to people he knew.  I remember the hot dry tail wind at the stadium.  I remember the conveyor belt runway and the DEEP plant box at his house.  I remember videoing and reviewing jumps.  Over and over and over again.  I remember pole vault training in the gymnastics room which was a combination of super fun and super exhausting.  He would let us work AND play and there wasn’t much difference between the two.  I remember the people he attracted.  I got to jump with powerhouse girl pole vaulters 5 of the 7 all Americans Coach Hood Coached and my dudes were impossible for me to keep up with.  It was an amazing environment.  I felt like I owed it to all the people around me to work hard.  I loved it. 


I loved Coach Hoods smile and laugh.  I loved how the leathery skin above his eyes covered his eyes so much he would just peak through the slit.  Thousands of hours at the track had earned him that.  I knew coach hood as he was turning 70.  I remember wishing I could be a little bit like him when I was older. 


On graduation weekend he let my family stay at his house.  That’s what this picture above is.  I had already missed out on my pole vaulting dreams with a back injury.  He still found ways to help and encourage me.  He never threw anyone away.  He believed we could all get better if we’d just quit being such a rock head.  He believed that Jesus Christ was our lord and savior and his life showed that belief in action. 


Along with things listed above I learned:

  • Excellence is found through consistent hard work – thousands of pole runs and plants
  • Build a solid foundation first before you work on the showy stuff
  • Small compromises lead to disaster or at least poorer outcomes
  • Smile, Laugh, and enjoy the days in the sun


Thank you, Coach Hood for the days in the sun you shared with me.  A legend taking time to encourage a young man who would likely never be a GREAT vaulter.  But, that wasn’t your main goal for me was it?

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