Clean exits

Core Coach Jan20Brexit day has arrived at last. For me today brings a moment of sadness that the UK is giving up its close relationship and influence in the decisions of our friends and neighbours in continental Europe. But it also prompts thinking about the nature of exits and whether they are best conducted slowly over time or executed sharply and cleanly.

I was working recently with a group of racing coaches, developing their coaching skills and focusing on types of practice. We were at that stage in the course where participants were designing mini coaching sessions to deliver and review with their peers. We had just enjoyed a highly effective session looking at improving the catch through massed practice paddling on one side only – setting up with the hands held at eye level, well-rotated, driving the tip of the blade into the water and unwinding to apply the power only when the blade was firmly gripping the water – fifteen strokes on one side and then fifteen on the other (bilateral practice!). Then the question came: what about the exit?

Discussing the question highlighted that we tend to put a great deal of emphasis on an effective catch but far less thought as to how the blade should leave the water. We may stress with our learners that effective power transfer ends as the knee goes past the lower hand – and top marks to the course member who reminded her colleagues that it is indeed this way round and not the paddle moving past the hand – but how often do we hear mention of what happens next?

The discussion prompted one of the course members to run their next mini session focussing on the recovery. Using Guided Discovery the session experimented with rotating the paddle shaft by dropping the upper hand and alternatively lifting the blade from the water with the lower hand. A consensus soon became clear, keeping the upper hand at eye height and bringing the lower hand up level with it in a single sharp movement not only ensured the blade left the water more cleanly but also brought the paddler more smoothly into a good set up position for the next stroke.

In paddling terms a sharp clean exit is clearly preferable. Will the UK’s departure from the EU be equally clean? We’ll find out (maybe) at the end of the transition period this December!

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