Question of the Day

Heeey so at the moment we’re doing a lot of work on the finish and the release but I am struggling to come up with calls that really work. I have a few basic ones but not many so I find myself repeating them over and over and over and over. Do you have any calls for technique at the finish and release that i could borrow or modify to suit my crew?? TY x

Good question. First thing (or first two things, rather) I’d do is talk with your coach about what he/she is specifically trying to achieve with the work you’re doing on the finish/release. Usually they’ll have at least one or two things in mind that they’d like to see the rowers improve on so find out what those are and as you’re listening to your coach explain them, write down 2-3 of the key things he says about each one (these should be short phrases, 5-7ish words max). From there, you can either use exactly what he said as a call or come up with a call on your own based off of his explanation.

For example, let’s pretend I had this conversation with my coach: “What I really want to focus on with these finish and release drills is making sure the guys are setting themselves up to have a good recovery and follow that up with a sharp, clean catch. If their posture is poor as they come through the finish it’s going to be hard for them to maintain the pressure with the outside hand that’s needed to tap the handle down and extract the blade from the water. That’s one of the reasons why we’re doing those pause drills at the release, to get them to think about staying up tall throughout the entire stroke and not slumping down into their hips as they lay back and draw through the finish. The other thing I want to focus on with the finish is making sure they’re continuing to move the handle consistently through the back end of the stroke and not giving up any of the speed from the front end.”

There’s a lot of info packed in that paragraph but that’s a good thing because it gives you plenty of inspiration to draw from. Something I did when I was in college whenever I’d try to get my biochem professor to explain something to me was I’d take my recorder and record our conversation so I could go back and listen to it later and pause it at the spots I thought were particularly important. This gave me a chance to actually process what was being said and compare his explanation to the notes I had from class vs. trying to recall everything he said a few hours later and forgetting half of what I asked him. I’d recommend doing this if you know you’ve got a specific question that (hopefully) has a long-ish answer, that way you can go back and review it later.

So, from that paragraph this is what I’d take away and what call(s) I’d create from it.

Take away: ” …making sure the guys are setting themselves up to have a good recovery and follow that up with a sharp, clean catch…”
Call(s): This is where I’d appeal to the coach’s good side while also communicating what we’re doing to the rowers. By repeating what he said to you shows you were listening and actually absorbing the information he was giving you. Even though this isn’t a specific finish/release call it achieves the same thing. “OK guys, as we go through this next minute let’s make sure we’re always thinking ahead to the next stroke and setting ourselves up for a smooth recovery. How good our catches are will be determined by how committed we are to having strong finishes and clean releases…”

Take away:  “…poor posture through the finish = hard to maintain pressure with the outside hand…”
Call(s): This is where you have to do some work and think about what the finish should look like when they’re rowing with ideal posture. What does that “ideal” posture look like when they’re in the finish position? You should be able to come up with … I’d say five or six things easily that you can then use and direct to either the entire crew or to individual rowers if you know they have a specific issue with something posture-related at the finish. (I know I’m not giving you anything specific here but … that’s the point. I want you to do the work and come up with this stuff on your own!)

Take away: “…pressure with the outside hand that’s needed to tap the handle down and extract the blade from the water…”
Calls: Remind them that just the outside hand should be used to extract the blade (younger rowers in particular tend to try and use both) and make a few calls about having a relaxed, flat outside wrist with the elbow up and out (find a happy medium between T-Rex arms and chicken wings…). Keeping the elbow up will help them maintain a flat wrist position which in turn will help them exert the right amount of pressure on the handle to get the blade out. Don’t be afraid to tell them to look out over their outside shoulder to see if their elbows are up or to have them glance down at their wrist, particularly during a finish pause, to see what if they’re flat or a little hunched. Obviously that’s not something you can see with anyone other than your stroke (and even then it can be tough sometimes) so telling them specifically what to look for and what to change (if necessary) is what you have to do in situations like this.

Take away: “…purpose of the pause drill = to get them to think about staying up tall throughout the entire stroke and not slumping down into their hips as they lay back and draw through the finish…”
Calls: I would say exactly this since sometimes it isn’t communicated well or isn’t clear to everyone why you’re doing certain drills. In cases like this I would also talk specifically to that one person in your boat who consistently has shitty posture (there’s always at least one) and say “Dan, we’re doing these pause drills for you. Through these next five strokes I want you to think about staying tall all the way through the drive and not losing any height as you finish the stroke.” This puts some personal responsibility on Dan and gives everyone else something to think about too. Another thing I like to do when I’m doing pause drills at the release is let them take 2-3 normal strokes and then on the third pause say “OK now everyone sit up…”. You will magically see everyone get an inch or two taller. Once I say “go” I’ll tell them to stay tall into the catch (said on the recovery), drive with the cores (said at the catch), and support it here (said as they come through to the finish). Basic reminders like this are a good way to get them to think about what they have to do at each point during the stroke in order to have a supported finish.

Take away: “…making sure they’re continuing to move the handle consistently through the back end of the stroke…”
Calls: For simple things like this I like to keep it basic and say “squeeze” (my most common finish call), “draw through“, “pull in high, snap at the finish…”, etc. Sometimes I’ll also say “keep the handle moving through the back end” on the drive and then say “snap” or “here” right at the finish as the arms draw through.

Take away: “…not giving up any of the speed from the front end…”
Calls: I was just talking about this with the walk-ons the other day. One of the most important things to remember at the finish is that in order to maintain your speed and give the end of the stroke a little extra “oomph”, there has to be a flawless transition from the momentum that’s been created by the leg drive to the draw through with the arms. The arm draw is responsible for taking advantage of the momentum created at the front end and carrying it through to the back end, so in order to do that there has to be consistent pressure exerted on the face of the blade as you come through the finish. I like to appeal to the musculature here and make calls like “squeeze the lats”, “elbows and triceps up”, “press back with the shoulders”, etc. Other times I’ll just say what I said at the beginning – we can’t give up any of the speed we got with the legs so keep the transition between the legs and body smooth and sharp. Another thing I’ve said is “don’t cheat the speed”, meaning don’t get lazy at the finish and expect the boat to do all the work for you.

The other thing I would do is talk to the rowers and find out what they want/need to hear. Some have individual things they’re working on, others are looking for more general reminders … find out what all those things are and make note of them. A lot of times they’ll say “if you could say something like X if you see me/us doing Y…” which is usually a good starting point for you to go off of and build your calls from there.


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