So many options!
You have probably seen as many versions of a count as you have groups. There seem to be infinite options for shakes, swings, huts, and wiggles. Read on to learn the best options!
Goal is clarity
No matter what count you give, the goal is for the group to leave together. As you are messing around with different options, keep this in mind. I have seen odd stuff work just fine because the team is in sync with the weird option.
Regardless of how you choose to give a count, make it predictable and obvious. I tell my 4-way teams that the pilot should know your count – it should be that big, grand, and loud!
Who gives the count
The eternal debate rages on! Long story short, if you are on a trained team, slightly lean towards the inside center (inside diver). If you are with a random group with an arbitrary number of people, the center or front float is best.
Give the count together
Whichever method you choose, the fundamental principle is to let the person giving the count be the trigger. As soon as the action starts, the rest of the team should “pick up” the count and mirror the movement the best they can.
This concept often gets lost as teams get comfortable. But it is critical to great exits, and I find myself relearning it all the time.
Choosing a format
You have to choose how you will physically indicate to the others the cadence of the count.
Out in out
This one is the simplest and the best choice for an outside the plane count. The motion starts with an outward swing, moves to an inward swing on “set,” and blasts outward again on “go.” Out-in-out is a natural feeling count.
If you are outside the plane, make this motion with your hips and whole body. If you are inside the plane, the action will be smaller.
Up down out
Your second option is to move upright on ready, downward on set, and outward on “go.” The advantage here is that the initiation is downward, making it harder to confuse “ready” and “go.” The disadvantage is that it is a little less intuitive since the motion has less of a rock.
For jumpers outside the plane, be sure not to lock your knees out on climb out. If you are already standing on your tiptoes, it will be tough to go “up” anymore. When inside the plane, be sure you aren’t crushing a headjammer’s head with your rig as you rise upward.
Before the main count comes, there needs to be some indication that the next move you see will be a count. Teams will often add a fourth phase to the main count motion to send this message.
The most straightforward readiness display is simply a complete stop of motion from the entire group before the count is triggered. Being still should be used in conjunction with the options below for trained teams.
For bigger jumps, like 8-way, this is the one I use. In larger groups, extra motions and shakes are more likely to get confused, so I keep my process as simple as possible.
Before the count starts, the counter will shake their grips a couple of times from the inside of the plane. After the shake add a brief pause before the main action starts. For four-way, this is what I do.
When you give the grip shake, make your movement visible and physical so people you aren’t gripping (and your video) can see it.
A body wiggle is done inside or outside the plane. As a pre count action, the counter will wiggle their hips or torso to indicate the count is coming. This one isn’t my favorite because the extra hip movement might be mistaken for a count. Plus, it can be trickier for the video to pick up.
This one is a favorite outside the plane pre-count. The counter shakes his or her head a couple of times before pausing. After the pause, the count goes. This is an excellent visible signal for bigger groups, and since it doesn’t involve any hip motion, it is less likely to get confused than a full-body wiggle.
Scream it out! Whatever count you use, please don’t be shy about verbalizing it in the plane. If you give the count strongly, some folks might hear it. And even if you don’t, it can help you provide a smooth and predictable start.
Not just “ready set go”
You don’t have to say or think the classic “ready set go.” If you are having trouble with the motion, use the names of the action. For example, if you are doing an out-in-out count, shout “Out – In – Out”! It helps tie the phase with the move.
You can also say something to get you in the right mindset! For Perris Riot, I very much enjoyed yelling out “Ready – Set – Riot!” as my count.
Make the count bigger than you think it needs to be. Everyone on the load should be able to see your count. Don’t be shy, rock the mockup!
Don’t crush your teammates head
If you are giving the count on the inside, be careful that your motion doesn’t crush someone’s head. Have some rig awareness as you make your move. If it is too tricky to do so without hitting your tail with your gear, consider using an alternative motion.
That’s it! You now have all the pieces you need to give a great count. Make it loud and proud!