After 30 years of coaching pole vault at Canyon High School and helping lead the Cowboys to renowned success, Frank Rock decided to hang it up after this past season.
Rock began his vaulting career at Hart High School, then continued to compete at Glendale College and San Jose State University. He set a personal record of 17 feet at the Mt. SAC Relays in 1974 and at one point, was ranked the No. 8 vaulter in the country by Track and Field News.
While most coaches will admit they never thought about coaching during their playing days, Rock always believed leading a program would be in his future.
“I always thought coaching would be somewhere in my cards, whether it would be as a career or just a volunteer,” said Rock, who coached at Boise State, College of the Canyons, Occidental College and Burbank High School before taking over at Canyon. “I always had the knack of coaching the event, I was always a student of my event and passed it along and got a lot of joy out of it. There aren’t many pole vault coaches around, and I knew my event.”
Over the past three decades, Rock has helped build Canyon into one of the top pole vault programs in the area. Kids have access to two Olympic-sized pits and are able to practice year-round with Rock and the rest of the coaching staff.
Pole vault is one of the most difficult events in track and field and requires a tremendous amount of practice and repetition, Rock said.
“It’s not the easiest event in track and field — it’s one of the hardest, takes a lot of dedication,” Rock said. “The term I always told the kids is it’s going to be ‘mind-numbing repetition’ until you get it right.”
Under Rock’s guidance, two boys have reached the CIF State Track and Field Finals in the past three years, Jeremiah Chow in 2016 and Christian Valles last year. Seeing them reach that level of success is just some of the highlights in Rock’s coaching career.
Now he is passing the baton to one of his former vaulters, Jill Hurley, who he believes has the right tools to continue the successful tradition at Canyon.
Rock is also a local artist with several murals around town, said he’ll still be around to help Hurley and the student-athletes. He also said he plans to attend meets during the season to help out as an official.
While he’s looking forward to retirement so he can concentrate on his artwork and spend more time with his family, he’s going to miss working with the kids. Particularly, the look on their faces when they clear a bar for the first time.
“I’m going to miss the expression on the kids when they jumped over a new height or got over a bar for the first time. There’s nothing more infectious or gratifying then seeing a kid get over a bar which is well over two or three feet above their head for the first time,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s seven feet, 12 feet, 18 feet, to them, they are jumping over a building. It’s something to see them float and get that feeling.”