Jill Marois: Finding the Right Support System

Pole Vault athlete Jill Marois

Superfeet is proud to support elite Track & Field athletes on their journey toward the 2024 Paris Olympics and beyond. Everyone from sprinters and hurdlers to discus throwers and pole vaulters all trust Superfeet to help them perform at their best, and each have a story as unique as their sport. Here is their story in their own words.

Written by Jill Marois

Pole Vault

Finding the right support system is like finding the perfect pair of insoles; it can change the game.

For some, they grow up being pointed in the right direction from the moment they choose to commit to their dream, and for others, it takes a lot of trial and error to find the right fit. I resonate more with the latter. 

During my Track & Field career, I've had the privilege of having some amazing coaches who have shared their knowledge and experience with me and allowed me to grow as an athlete. I’ve also experienced coaches with a more selfish agenda who are there to suit their own ego, and bring me along for the ride, whether they knew it or not. Through the ups and downs of those seasons the most obvious thing I noticed was how my mentality suffered, and so did my performance. With that combination, it was hard for me to see the potential I held within myself to come to fruition.

Looking back on those struggles, I become filled with gratitude. Although it was hard to exist in those moments, they made me strong and helped me understand the depths of my persistence. They also gave me confidence in my own instinct to know that my potential wasn’t fulfilled, not because I’m not capable of it, but because I wasn’t in the right environment.  

I also had to adjust my expectations of what the perfect community looks like. I realized I was holding a lot of space for people thinking they wanted the best for me, when they were really just result-oriented; offering me contingencies if I was able to achieve my potential, instead of supporting me to get there. Those promises were bright and shiny and tempting to chase, but ultimately they distracted me. More than once, I fell for it. When I shifted my perspective, I was able to see the support that was authentic and true to my process. 

Here are some things I’ve learned that I hope other athletes can take from me so they can identify a solid community if they are not naturally surrounded by it. The right support system includes:

1. Honesty

It is important to me that the coaches and trainers around me are honest with me, always. Almost every athlete will experience injury or setbacks at some point in their career, and there is responsibility on the athlete to accept the situation and do everything in their power to get back to being able to perform healthy. However, I need to be able to trust the people who are educated and experts on the subject of anatomy and physiology that they are guiding me in the right direction to get back on track. I would definitely prefer someone to give it to me straight than "beat around the bush" with bad news, that way I can plan and attack the situation accordingly. 

2. Accountability

If these qualities were in any sort of order this one would be at the top. Accountability is an absolute must-have if you are pursuing anything difficult. I am very good at what I do, but I am also human and bound to have moments of weakness. Teammates, a coach, or good mentors should be able to call out those moments for what they are, and bring me back to the initial goal, without me getting offended. If you are a teammate, and see that a fellow peer is falling short, they would likely thank you for having a hard conversation about how they may be cheating themselves. 

It's also important that people can be honest with me about the goals I have for myself within the timeline I expect to achieve them. If I want to accomplish something without putting in the amount of work needed to get there, I hope someone would tell me, so I don't look back on failure with frustration and confusion. These moments of accountability would also save me from spending any time following unrealistic expectations, and instead use my time getting to where I want to be. 

3. Integrity

This one is big for me personally. All relationships I interact in typically hold this quality, and I would expect no less from the people along my athletic journey. To be earnest in one’s choice of words and behavior is important when I'm leaning on a community for support. Mainly, I would expect someone to follow through with an action on their word if they have agreed to a commitment. I would also, of course, hold myself to these same standards for the program to be as efficient as possible. If that can’t be followed through on, honest and genuine communication should occur to clarify any changes. 

Now, I am able to walk tall through the awareness of this balance. My circle may be small, but it is strong and focused. It's filled with people who speak my language, instead of tip toe around me. They hold power in my life because they have not only witnessed my story, but been next to me through many parts of it. They have helped me define what a true support system entails, and that sometimes the dream we chose is not impossible, it's just really hard. 

I'm still learning how to create healthy boundaries for myself, but now I understand how much weight loyalty and trust hold in my life. Although my community of support is not a flashy mob, it has more richness than any other time in my life, and there is always more room for growth. The trials of struggle and adversity have equipped me with accuracy for what I need. Trusting my instinct was hard and uncomfortable at times, but I rarely regret the situations I have. It took multiple leaps of faith to get to this point so I'm thankful and relieved I jumped. After all, how else could I expect to fly?

June 21, 2024