10 Things About Teamwork From Dragon Boating

Number 1: Timing and technique are more critical than power and strength

In many sports individual performance, strength, agility etc. are the focus of attention. The first skill the coach worked with us on was to have the entire team row in time with the same technique. It is amazing that a team with less brute strength can outperform a stronger boat on timing alone. This is the

1+1 is >2 principle in action. This does not mean that individualism is lost, but that individualism serves the overall purpose of the team. Otherwise, you are a group of individual contributors in a working group, but not a team. When all the paddles stroke in time the boat moves faster than the boat with stronger rowers who are not in time; using their energy against each other rather than focusing on their timing and technique.

Focus on ensuring that members of the team are working toward the same goal. Everyone on the team should be able to tell you how they contribute to the purpose and goals of the team.

Number 2: There is no replacement for a talented steersperson

With a good steersperson, whom the team trusts, each paddler is freed up to focus on their job. They are not worried about other boats, what direction this boat is going, how the boat will navigate the wake etc. In fact, the real job of the steersperson, beyond the technical ability to steer to boat, is to instill confidence in paddlers. The team does not lose energy distracted by problems that they cannot solve but on achieving the goals of the team.

Focus on team leadership that allows members of the team to perform their roles knowing that ‘things’ are being taken care of.

Number 3: One person out of time can cost the race for the whole team

This sounds like the inverse of number one. It is about what happens when even one person behaves in a way that compromises the performance of the team? This is where the steersperson and coach come in. Often the individual does not know that their performance is putting the team’s performance at risk. It is seldom about willingness or even the ability to perform but rather an understanding of the impact of their performance. Feedback is critical in ensuring that the members of the team move forward together.

Focus on providing data based performance feedback to the team including the impact of current performance both positive and corrective. Team members need to get objective feedback on their performance and what plan corrective measures to improve.

Number 4: You train long and hard for a short and intense race

Plans mean nothing if the team is not able to achieve its goal. Teams work hard, often on long term projects but realize that the measure of the value of the work is in implementation. Results are the measure of a team’s success.

Focus on the ability to achieve exceptional results.

Number 5: There is no “luggage” in the boat; everyone contributes

Boy, we all have bad days, but guess what, the team deserves your best even on those days. We all cover for each other when it is needed but everyone contributes..

Focus on helping team members understand their contribution and seek opportunities for them to apply their strengths more often.

Number 6: Treat other teams with respect but don’t get distracted

In the heat of a race it is easy to notice where the other teams are in the race and get distracted. But you can only control what happens in your boat not theirs. There is nothing you can do about what happens in their boat. You have all the control over what you do in your boat. A team with a strong start may not have the stamina to complete the race by continuing their opening speed. Focus your attention on your purpose and the results.

Focus on what the team can accomplish with the resources it has.

Number 7: There is always more to learn

No matter what your role or how long you have been with the team, or how many races you have been in, there are always things to learn. Not matter how good you are you can always be better. The coach would move us around to different positions so that we would learn new skills and perspective.

Focus on ensuring that everyone on the team is actively learning all the time.

Number 8: The lead paddlers (strokes) set the pace

There is incredible benefit from everyone on the team working in concert towards the same goal. Leaders in the team set the direction, provide visible support for the values of the team and hold themselves and others accountable for the performance of the team. Everyone is accountable to be in time with the strokes. It is not ones business but mine to watch and pay attention. Remember, one person out of time can cost a race.

Focus on leaders holding themselves and other accountable for success.

Number 9: You paddle as hard on a bad day as on a good day

A manager friend of mine said to her employees after being challenged about the lack of loyalty in the organization, “I do not want your loyalty, I want your commitment.” It is important the each member of the team is fully present all the time, whether in practice or in competition.

Focus on every individual on the team performing their best everyday.

Number 10:Teams win and teams lose, not individuals

In Dragon Boating, teams win, not individuals. The entire boat crosses the finish line or it does not. The people at the front of the boat or the steersperson do not get more of the ‘win’ that others. The team wins or the team loses. We are all one team.

Focus on being all one team. Individual skills, style, experience and knowledge all contribute to the work of the team. At the end of the day, we are all one team who achieve the results or not.

By ensuring that these top 10 success factors are implemented you can develop your team’s effectiveness. We hope that these 10 Success Factors helped you to reflect on the factors that need to be considered and planned a highly effective, high performing team.

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11 thoughts on “10 Things About Teamwork From Dragon Boating

  1. Phil on

    Very nice article. 🙂 Can I ask a permission to present this to my teammates in PPT format? Thanks!

  2. i enjoy a lot after watching the coverage of the dragon boat festival in Taiwan.Thanks for providing the link…

  3. Yep, very good points listed above. You should also add, no getting drunk the night before and operating with a hangover 🙂

  4. cheryl Hill on

    these are so true comments but you forgot the part about also having FUN !!!!!!!!!

  5. Brilliant article.
    I am coaching a new team. Not a year into it.
    Lives nothing out.

  6. Monica Wilcox on

    Need to add: respect means trusting that your team mates are putting in their best effort. only the sweep & coach have the authority to make that judgement call whether that is not occurring.

  7. Manfred A Preuss on

    Excellent, article with one slight flaw. Paddlers face forward and Rower face backward. We are paddlers not rowers. Maybe i take to much pride in being a paddler or do not want the rowers to be upset. Either way i paddle dragon boats and love it. Paddles UP!!!

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  9. Mitz Mercado on

    Very insightful and enlightening article. May I share? Thanks!

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