Top 20 Terms Coxswains Should Know: Pause Drills

Previously: Rush(ing) || Body angle || Pick drill || Suspension || Skying the blade || Quarter feather || Pin || Run || Lunge || Washing Out || Missing water || Footboard || Check || Ratio || Over compression || Release || Cut the cake || Hanging the blade || Shooting the slide

What part of the stroke/stroke cycle does it refer to

Pause drills happen on the recovery at any of the following points: the release, mid-thigh, hands away, bodies over, quarter-slide, toes, half-slide, or three-quarter slide.

What does it mean/refer to

Pause drills are a way to slow everything down, organize the bodies, and establish your positioning as you come out of bow. They’re an active process (similar to shooting drills in basketball) that tap into the need to be prepared. Each pause also acts as a “collection” or “gathering” point for the rowers to check themselves and ensure they’re in the same position as the other seven people so that the rest of the recovery leading into the catch is executed smoothly and in unison.

Relevant calls

There are few times when a coxswain (particularly novices) sounds more robotic/”IDGAF” than when their crew is doing pause drills. The overwhelming majority rely on (and say) only one word for the entire duration of the drill – “go”. Not only does this get really old, really fast, it just makes you sound bored and disengaged. And trust me, I get that pause drills (like most drills) are boring but just because they are doesn’t mean you can be. There’s not a lot of “pause drill-specific” calls that you’ll make outside of general technical reminders (which by this point you shouldn’t have trouble coming up with on your own) but one thing you can do is stop saying “go” and replace it (or at the very least, alternate it) with stronger words that tie into what you want the rowers to do.

For example, if you’re doing a double pause drill at hands away and bodies over, instead of saying “go … go” after each pause, replace both of those with “pivot … row”. Instead of the rowers reacting to a word and doing whatever they want (not literally, more in the sense that whatever they do isn’t likely to be done together), they’re responding to a direct command (“pivot”) and focusing on swinging together into the next pause. Similarly, when I think of the word “row” I think of everyone moving together in time whereas “go” doesn’t really have that same feeling to it.

This isn’t specifically about calls but it’s also important to remember to make the pause long enough that the coach can jump in if they need to address something. We specify to our coxswains whenever we do these to “add in a two second pause at [wherever]” (it’s always two seconds) and that gives them enough time to actually pause and us enough time to jump in if/when necessary. There’s no sense in doing pause drills if your pause is 0.3 seconds long so count it out in your head (“one one thousand, two one thousand, row…“) and make sure the timing of each one is consistent.

What to look for

What you’re looking for with pause drills is going to relate less to the “pause” and more to whatever thing the pause is actually addressing – i.e. if you’re pausing at the toes, square timing and body prep will be two things to keep an eye on. You should discuss with your coach (if it’s not mentioned at the start of practice) what the goal is for the drill, what the rowers should focus on, if there’s anyone in particular that we’re doing the drill for (i.e. 3-seat has been having issues with getting his shoulders forward before the slide starts so you’re doing bodies over pauses to help him work on that), and what you should be looking for as you go through it.

Related: Hi! I’m a novice and I have a problem with my oar. My coach said that it doesn’t square early enough. I square just before the drive but he said I need to square earlier. I don’t understand how I can do this ? I feel like I will catch a crab if I square too early (which I did twice today). Do you have any solutions or a way to know how to square at the right time? Is my oar too close to the water on the recovery? Thank you, your blog is the best btw!!

Outside of that, try to stay aware of how the slides feel after the pause(s). There shouldn’t be any rush to get to the next catch (especially if slide control is something you’re trying to address) so remind them that once they break the knees, let the boat come to them and keep the weight off the foot stretchers until the blade is locked in the water.

Effect(s) on the boat

Pause drills are effective because, like I said earlier, they slow everything down and when done/called right, get everyone to breathe, relax, and focus on taking quality strokes instead of just moving back and forth on the slide.

Related posts/questions

I’m the senior girl’s cox for my school club and my crew is really struggling with having a slow recovery then accelerating to the finish and putting in pressure. When I call to go slow up the slide they might slow down 1 or 2 points or not even at all. And the pressure dies when the rating slows. Then the rating goes up when I call pressure. Do you have any ideas about how I can help them get into a slow steady rhythm but still put in pressure?

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?

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