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Living a Dream: Coffee With the Boys II

All that follows is dedicated to two men who have transcended fear, ignorance and physical imprisonment by virtue of the sheer exuberance of their joyous spirits. Nelson Mandela spent most of his life imprisoned for striking a blow against Apartheid, but returned to unite his country. Muhammad Ali entered the prison of Parkinson disease in the prime of his physical life, even after being stripped of his livelihood for refusing to be inducted into the US Army on religious grounds. Both spent the remainder of their lives continuing the work they started as young men. Neither of their voices will ever be stilled.

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He’s the most forgiving person I’ve ever met, too. Like, I’ve never met a guy with that ability to continue just bringing the best out of people, without holding onto people’s problems, or problems they’ve had in the past. Steve on Dan Pfaff (ALTIS Head Coach)

Garry: Who are some of the people who have helped you become the athlete you are today?

Steve: It’s been a lot of people, and probably way to many to talk about, but there’s been key guys along the way. When I was a kid, I had a really good gymnastics coach who just…you know, you’re that cheeky little kid who probably talks back too much and answers back too much, and this guy really put me in my place. And it was probably the best thing that happened to me because he taught me how to train and how to be focused.  Which is really all he taught me because I was a shitty gymnast. But when I went on to athletics, I had that ability to focus and train so I learned faster.

But then my first good coach in pole vault was a guy from Australia, Steve Rippon, and he taught me the fundamentals of training and attitude and how to be a young adult. And again, he’s a super tough guy who wouldn’t take any shit, even outside of the pole vault program. Like, he would kind of monitor if I was up to no-good. I had to answer to him a lot,  so he really helped me to become a responsible young adult. It was like, all these guys were guiding me to be a better person, so the athletic end took care of itself, you know.

And then obviously, the biggest influence being Dan (Dan Pfaff, Head Coach of ALTIS). He kind of took me at that awkward age, I wasn’t sure If I’d still got it,  and I was getting a lot of injuries and stuff like that, and in two years turned it around from struggling to jump 5.50 (meters) to jumping 5.80. And then finishing fifth in the 2012 Olympics. And again, he is my coach but he’s like my mentor, you know? If I’ve got problems or any issues, Dan’s my guy. I suppose he’s been that figure in m life now for like six, seven years now.

Dave: He’s a pretty amazing guy from what I can tell. Steve: Yeah. You know what, I never met a guy…he’s got a lot of qualities, right? Everyone sees him as a coach with all this knowledge, and that’s amazing, right. That he’s got such good retention. Like, I test him sometimes. I’ll fricking go home and read for four hours and I’ll turn up the next day fresh with information, and I’ll say something to him. He’ll give me a dictionary definition, and he’ll tell me what it is and how he taught it back twenty, thirty years ago, and it’s relevance to the reason I ask him for it in the first place. And he’s done it several times. I’ll pick topics that are difficult, because I’m like, “I’m going to catch him out one day,” and I can’t (imagine a British “ah”). I seriously can’t. And that’s fascinating.

And he’s the most forgiving person I’ve ever met, too. Like, I’ve never met a guy with that ability to continue just bringing the best out of people, without holding onto people’s problems, or problems they’ve had in the past. He’s so good at letting go, and ultimately, if you want to be (British expletive) happy in life, you got to let go, right? You can’t hold on to stuff. Garry: Absolutely! Steve: And any time I get angry, it’s like well, what would Dan say right now? Or I can just speak to him, get a logical idea and a way to get through this. He’s got a lot of wisdom like that.                                                                                                                                                                    Dave: Yeah, I think you alluded  to the fact that, besides having all of this knowledge, he puts it across in such a simple manner, “Well, we need to do this first, this second, and this is why we need to do this, and this is why we need to do that.” And it just sounds so, so… straight off the farm. (Chuckles all around. We’ve all been recipients of Dan’s ‘farm’ wisdom ) Steve: He’s that way , you know? Even when he’s delivering courses on whatever, or doing education, he underplays everything. And he’ll put it across in such an eloquent way. But if you want to challenge him, good luck. (Dave is laughing and repeating ‘good luck’)  He’s going to know his stuff, and you’d better know your stuff.

This is what you find. It would be stupid for me to call out a number, but there’s not many guys out there who really are true experts in the human body, movement, principles, and then being able to use the art of coaching for application. And  to add to that personality, patience…all into one guy…it’s like Wow! Dave: And when you start looking at all of those qualities you find yourself saying, “You’re really good at all of those things.” It’s not just, these are his better qualities. It’s all of them. Steve: It’s not luck, man. He’s not getting lucky that’s for sure. Dave: I’m glad you guys got together. Good for him and good for you. Steve: You know what, as you get older, you realize, pole vault’s been part of my life and I love it, but it has just been part of my life, you know? But Dan’s going to be a friend of mine forever. That relationship is more important to me than anything I’ve ahieved in pole vault. Being able to learn under him. Pretty cool!

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