Skip to main content
Original Issue


'It's mind over matter'

One of the oddities of the sporting scene is that periodically one small community will produce a long string of outstanding athletes. In a Phoenix, Ariz. high school a small, sandy-haired man has been turning out some of the ablest young pole-vaulters and weight men in U.S. track. He is Vernon Wolfe, an ex-paratrooper and a transplanted Californian and very likely the most successful high school track coach in the country.

Wolfe arrived at North Phoenix High, a school that draws boys only from its own district, in 1954. In 1957 he produced Jim Brewer, the only high school pole-vaulter to clear 15 feet. The following year came Dallas Long, potentially the greatest shot-putter in the world. This year Wolfe has Karl Johnstone (above right), who recently shattered the listed high school discus record with a sling of 184 feet 11½ inches, and 15-year-old Wayne Coleman (above left), an outstanding prospect to improve the high school decathlon mark. For bringing along youngsters like these Wolfe has a double prescription: psychology and weight lifting. "If you believe you can do it," says Wolfe, "most of the time you can. It's mind over matter."