Ditch the Idea of “Stealing” Dragon Boat Paddlers

I’m sure you’ve heard it before. It is actually discussed quite often: one team claims that another team “stole” their paddlers.

A teammate of mine recently pointed out how laughable this is. Did the other team sneak in at night wearing all black, toss your paddler in a giant sack and run off with him or her?

Of course when talking about such “stealing,” people are referring to the active recruitment of paddlers from other teams. Sure, it’s an ethical issue, but the truth of the matter is that each paddler is capable of making his or her own judgements regarding their choice of a team.

We are all adults. We make our own decisions. If another club seems more appealing to a paddler and he or she leaves your team for another one, perhaps that is better for your club in the long run. If a paddler does not have the loyalty to your team and its development, why would you want to keep him or her? Or worse, why would you want to force that person to remain somewhere he or she didn’t want to be? How is that productive to your team culture?

Paddlers change teams for a variety of reasons. It may be a simple reason such as the convenience of the practice schedule or location. Or possibly it is because a paddler is seeking a different type of training.

Montreal Challenge 2016

Montreal Challenge 2016. Photo: Ed Nguyen

As I mentioned in my previous post which explained the difference between all-inclusive teams and competitive teams, paddlers need to find the club that best fits their goals. Often paddlers are seeking more of a challenge. If they find themselves feeling stagnant on their current team, it is in their best interest to look for a club that is perhaps more rigorous in its training.

Believing in and trusting your team are key points in the development of the club as a whole. Tweet it!

Other paddlers are “fair-weather” paddlers: individuals who change clubs to be on the winning team. They are quick to abandon their own team if it isn’t doing well and instead seek out the team that is at the top of the pack. On one hand, it is understandable that a paddler would want to get the solid training that the top team is obviously getting. But on the other hand, I can’t help but wonder if a paddler who does this continually isn’t simply trying to ride the coattails of the winning team without having to put in the collaborative work of developing and synthesizing the team. Changing teams from year to year doesn’t really present a consistent training plan. Not to mention the fact that such frequent changes are a clear indicator of a lack of allegiance to the team.

Talented paddlers understand how important it is to find a coach, captain and team that are compatible with his or her goals. If your goal is to make your country’s national team, you should focus on finding a coach who has the knowledge and the ability to help you achieve your goal. If you hope to meet new friends and have something fun to do on the weekends, you should look for a team that is more social.

Outer Harbour Premier Women training for Nationals

Outer Harbour Premier Women training for their gold medals at Nationals. I took this photo using a GoPro attached with a clamp mount to the Outer Harbour Senior Women’s boat while training.

Sticking with the team through the tough times will not be as difficult if your own personal mission is aligned with that of your team. Believing in and trusting your team are key points in the development of the club as a whole. Without this conviction and confidence you are simply 20 people who paddle a boat together at the same time.

The success of teams often ebbs and flows. A team will perhaps have an exceptionally strong year or two (or more) and then may have a rebuilding year due to a variety of reasons: the loss of paddlers to other teams, family situations, illness, injury, etc. While it may seem like the end of the world at the time, such challenges are often what make a team stronger in the long run, as they work together to rebuild. As Canadian National Team Coach Chris Edwards said at a recent practice, “The grass is greener where you water it.” Put the time and effort into your own team rather than looking for the next best thing, and in time you will reap the rewards.

So, let’s abandon the idea of “stealing” paddlers and acknowledge that we are all adults capable of making our own decisions based on what is in our own best interest. Rather than focusing on what you might have lost, put emphasis on devloping what you’ve got. Encourage teammates to find the right fit for them and we’ll all be better off.

What are your thoughts on this controversial topic?

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8 Discussion to this post

  1. Shirleen says:

    As I see it, as long as people don’t leave the sport, it all good! :)

  2. Helen says:

    I agree wholeheartedly. I solved the problem by paddling on 2 teams. One team is community level, and is an extremely close group, very social and very supportive when the going gets a bit rough. A better bunch of people you couldn’t wish to meet. I value the friendship and camaraderie of this team. We also have some excellent coaches, who have helped me reach another level.

    Then there’s my competitive team. I wish they raced more frequently, as I’m a race-junkie. A good crew, dedicated, who train hard and post very competitive times. Again, a great coach who pushes me to my limits so that I can reach my personal goals.

    I have been accused of being paddle-obsessed. I make time to paddle on two teams, and it definitely has a greater financial impact. I travel for business and try to find a team who I can practice with when I’m away. I may need an addictions counsellor!

    What every paddler needs is a great “home” team, and a coach who understands the needs of the paddler and pushes them to achieve the paddler’s personal goals. I’m lucky enough to have 3 such coaches. And I know at least one of them reads this blog – so THANK YOU!

    • Paddlechica says:

      Helen, I’m glad to hear you’ve managed to work out a wonderful solution. I wish everyone could be so lucky! Thanks for reading!

  3. Sometimes it’s just a natural progression. Somehow you get wrangled into that 1st Dragon Boat Experience, and you like it, and before you know it you’ve found a team that can compete in China.

  4. Hi Paddle Chica, great read! You mentioned in the beginning of the article “active recruitment”. And that is where I have a problem and feel sometimes it leads to the concept of “stealing”. While my background is in outrigger canoe, the topic is not foreign.

    I personally feel, and agree with you, that a paddler can make up their own mind as you state, and find a happy place. But I frown upon hearing paddlers actively trying to ‘down-talk’ a club, or over-hype their own in a passive way to sway the decision. Or leaving out weaknesses that they know the inquiring paddler would have problems with. This to me only creates resentment between paddlers, teams, and end the end hurts the sense of community I personally love in paddling.

    In the end, our waterways are small and we all have to see each other at races or while paddling. By all means, I encourage paddlers to share when asked about their club, but actively bringing up the topic of switching teams (you should totally come paddle with us) is not something I enjoy seeing or hearing. Every club has its strengths and flaws, and every paddler should find their home and harmony, and not stay in ‘a bad relationship’. But use caution and let them be an adult and decide, not be persuaded.

    Great dialog!
    Clarke, Cali Paddler

    p.s. Love the grass watering quote by Chris Edwards!

    • Paddlechica says:

      Clarke (Cali Paddler!!),

      Thanks for the comments and for reading the post. You are absolutely right that trash-talking a club in the hopes of getting a paddler to switch teams is awful and shouldn’t be done. And the same can be said of neglecting to disclose a club’s issue which may be problematic for the inquiring paddler. I completely agree with you regarding these situations. However, I am inclined to think that all of that will come back to bite the recruiter in the proverbial butt. Eventually the paddler who switched teams is bound to find out the downfalls of the new team. Sooner or later the truth will come out and that new paddler is likely to switch teams yet again (perhaps returning to the original team). So, yes, certainly let them decide and let’s not let persuasion be a part of the conversation.

      But in playing devil’s advocate, aren’t we all going to talk up our own team whether we are trying to persuade someone to change teams or not? Typically we think our team is the best because that is the one that we have joined. Sure, there are some down sides to it, but overall, we speak highly of it because it’s ours. It is our blood, sweat and tears. It’s our family. It’s our social circle. We love it. Our team glass is half-full. We look at it through rose-colored glasses. Of course we are going to want to share the fabulousness with others. Unfortunately it does get carried too far and/or taken out of context and recruiting takes place. So it’s good to keep it all in check and be mindful of how our enthusiasm is being perceived.

      But yes, all of this hurts our sense of community that we have, or should have, in paddling.

      Thanks for continuing the dialog and adding your thoughts!

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