Question of the Day

Really quick question. How do you call switches between pairs/fours when you’re doing a pause drill. I find myself saying, “in two stern pair out, 5 and 6 in… uhm… I mean… just switch here” when they hit a pause and it’s awkward for me and my rowers. I don’t know what else to do though. Ideas?

Great question! I typically do one of two things:

The first is I’ll call for the switch while the rowers are on the pause. No “in two” or anything like that, I’ll just hold that pause a second longer and say “stern pair drop out, 5 and 6 in on this one … and row“. This is the quickest, simplest option and the one I do most often.

The second is really difficult to explain in writing without video or something to show you what I mean so hopefully this makes sense. For this one, I’ll do the usual “in two” thing and have the rowers switch on the pause. It’s essentially the same as the first option except you’re counting it out and giving them a bit more prep time to come in. This is usually how I call it:

“OK, let’s go two more pauses and we’ll have stern pair out and 5 and 6 in.
[Stroke]
[Pause hands away]
Row, that’s one… (said during the rest of the recovery)
[Stroke]
[Pause hands away]
Row, that’s two, on this next pause
[Stroke] stern pair out, 5/6 in (said on the drive)
[Pause] stern pair out…
Ready … row.”

The second one isn’t nearly as tough to call as it looks/sounds, it’s just tricky to explain without a visual. Since I’ve prepped them beforehand I very rarely have to tell them to switch on the last pause (where it says “stern pair out”) – they just do it because they know that’s when they’re supposed to come in/go out. Sometimes I’ll say this pair in or this pair out as a quick reminder but I never repeat the whole “X pair in, Y pair out” again because it takes too much time and, to be honest, I’ve already said it twice and adequately prepped you to come in. If you mess it up, it’s on you for not paying attention. After that switch on the pause though I will say “ready…” before continuing on with the drill, just to give the pair coming in an extra second to get situated.

You probably know this already but for those who don’t, one thing that is really important to establish early on is how you’re going to call the switches and when the rowers should come in. This can be something you determine with your coach (on land) or on your own but it needs to be communicated to the rowers so they know what’s going on. I pretty much called it how I wanted and adjusted as necessary when my coaches wanted to switch things up – their main concern was the rowers coming in on time and doing the drill properly so how I called the transitions wasn’t an issue as long as it was clear and easily understood by the rowers. When I was first starting out if it looked/sounded like things were getting a bit confusing they’d stop me and say “maybe try calling it this way and see if that makes it easier…”. I did that a couple of times until I figured out what worked best for me.

Anyways, if I know we’re doing pause drills that day then I’ll say something after we finish the warmup or right before we start the drill about how I’m going to call it, usually something like “OK so when we do the pause drills, this is how I’m going to call the switches. [Briefly summarize…] If you’re switching in then you should come in on the pause and then pause with everyone before I call ‘row’. (Basically you’re starting and ending the drill on the pause, regardless of whether you’re coming in or out – you don’t have to say this but sometimes it clarifies it if there’s still someone who doesn’t understand.) Everybody good?”. I usually only explain it in that much detail at the beginning of the season or if I’m with a boat I’m not used to coxing. Otherwise I’ll say something simple like “remember to switch on the pauses, listen for the call…”. Just make sure that whatever you do, you’re consistent. Don’t change things up mid-drill because that can/will confuse people.

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