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Stop Drills

by Jim Stevenson
by Jim Stevenson

Most people are familiar with the concept of the stop drill and have an overall idea of what it is trying to achieve. As with all coaching techniques, it is one to thing to understand the logic of why we do something, it is another thing to be able to translate that into how we physically fly or how we execute as a team. When learning 4-way or 8-way it is worth revisiting the stop drill to build a common understanding and expectation amongst the team and give everyone the luxury of a little time to process lots of new information.

What do we mean by STOPPED?

Firstly, there is the element of stillness in that you have made your turn, taken your position, killed your momentum… all is quiet. Secondly there is the strength element in that you are stopped in position and you are staying there no matter what is thrown at you (you may duck but you may not move).

What do we mean by DRILL?

It is a repetitive training method. It is not the most exciting thing in the world. What is exciting is where it can help take you and your team. The repetition allows you to explore your range in executing a simple transition. This is valuable time to master the basics - developing the skills and awareness of the individual and benefiting the team as a whole. It requires patience and discipline to stick to this process and a huge dollop of self-awareness.

The Process

Pick a random dive and apply a 3 stage process:

Stage 1

Rule: Only take grips when you are fully stopped.

The transition between points is exaggerated to encompass a very definite pause before taking up grips. Move – Stop – Painful pause – See complete stillness across team – Picking up of grips is initiated by the centre(s). The pause is painful as you fight the urge to go straight to picking up grips. The painful pause ensures and exaggerates the point that the grips are incidental, the focus is that everyone is stopped and ready to move forward together. The normal key process is followed and the process is repeated to the next point.

The pause is painful as you fight the urge to go straight to picking up grips
Stage 1, move to the pre-finished picture, STOP, then a painful pause before any grips — by Jim Stevenson
Stage 1, move to the pre-finished picture, STOP, then a painful pause before any grips — by Jim Stevenson

Stage 2:

Rule: Only take grips when you are fully stopped – really!
We can move onto this stage once we have removed the ‘noise’ from the transitions, there is no unnecessary movement/drifting/spontaneous instability etc. For this stage we take out the painful pause - hooray. So, Move – Stop – See complete stillness across team – Pick up grips together. Working on smooth transitions, expanding your awareness as you start to notice how much more you can actually see when your goals aren’t grips.

The common trap as you progress to stage 2 is that with slightly less time you start to rush and try and shortcut the process and the focus drifts back to grips.

Stage 2, move to the pre-finished picture, STOP, then grips — by Jim Stevenson
Stage 2, move to the pre-finished picture, STOP, then grips — by Jim Stevenson

Stage 3:

Rule: Taking a grip means you are ready to go
Stage 3 is putting it all together, keeping the discipline in the transitions but applying a bit of attitude and going as fast as you can control. You have built confidence in Stages 1 and 2, the transitions are familiar, you see a lot more of what’s going on and you have the strength to deal with a little imperfection. Enjoy!

Stage 3, keep the discipline in the transitions but add some attitude  — by Jim Stevenson
Stage 3, keep the discipline in the transitions but add some attitude  — by Jim Stevenson

Why do we do the stop drill?

1, For the individual

Physical - Give yourself the time to learn to fly with power and efficiency
The staging of the stop drill allows the individual to explore how they physically execute their move. You can play! Add power and see where you start to break (ie by popping up, or getting that whole speed wobble thing). Huge inputs are not always necessary or the most efficient, but you can explore to satisfy your own curiosity.

It also switches the focus from grips to position, you do not stop on grips, grips do not stop you - you stop in position and then you take grips. Flying to position means looking more as you need to reference your team mates to ensure you are in the correct position.

Flying to position means looking more as you need to reference your team mates to ensure you are in the correct position

Mental - Learn the process
Whether you are doing 4-way or 8-way there can be many variables to consider in terms of which shoulder you are looking over, when you head switch, who you are looking at, what picture you are looking for, whose grips you are taking, whose key it is, what the last grip is…what the next point is!!! Some of this may come naturally, some of this may not. The stop drill affords the individual the time to think, prioritise and practise processing the info before trying to condense it when adding speed.

2, For the team

To establish a team pace
Following a clearly defined process that is easily understood helps to ensure we are working together as a team in an environment where we can’t physically talk/shout to each other while we are executing the drill. Familiarity and confidence are built in the early stages of the drill and progression is tied to the team being able to move forward together at a synchronous team pace.

Effective communication
By limiting the amount of additional movement in formations, we give the key people the best opportunity to judge whether the formation is complete and take us forward to the next point. The easier we make this job for them, the quicker we can move on, the faster we get through the process and the more points we score. And we know what points make…?! (Prizes – for those who don’t get this cultural reference)

Stop drills help develop good team communication — by Jim Stevenson
Stop drills help develop good team communication — by Jim Stevenson

3, For the judges

To show control
We have to show that we are in control of each point. If you look at footage of the top 8 way teams there will be a brief moment where the entire formation is still. The judges just need a moment of stillness in order to make it really easy for them to award you that point. Any ‘noise’ attracts their attention and increases your chance of a bust.

To show separation
We have to show separation, and all team members have to show separation at the same time. Synchronicity makes this second nature.

Indoors or Outdoors?

These drills are ideal for the tunnel where you have time to force yourself to be patient and work through the specific goals without a looming break off altitude or incoming dodgy weather. To be able to train in the tunnel with your rigs would be an added bonus as you can learn what the impact of the extra weight and shape of your rig is on your flying. You can use your tunnel training to give you a benchmark to measure against your performance in the air. The skill development and increase in awareness that you learn in the tunnel should be directly transferable to the sky. 

Photos show Kaizen, UK Ladies 4-way team 2014, taken by Jim Stevenson.

by Jim Stevenson
by Jim Stevenson

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