Attitude on a Dragon Boat: How Your Mindset Can Help or Hinder Your Team

Have you ever wondered what role attitude plays on a dragon boat? How a paddler’s attitude can contribute to or impede the success of a team?

When the team is in a stressful situation, such as heading into the final heat of a race, paddlers need to have their wits about them. One bad attitude can seriously disrupt that focus.

A paddler could be the most amazing athlete in the entire world, yet with a bad attitude, he or she becomes one of the most toxic parts of the team. Tweet it!

Attitude is a paddler’s perception and personal response to events happening around them. Negatively-focused paddlers have the “glass half-empty” perspective. Always seeing the bad side of situations, they complain, whine and blame. There is a distinct resistance to change and sometimes even a resistance to the success of the team, though that is typically carefully hidden from the coach. It is easier for this type of person to sit back and be negative than to buckle down, work hard, and improve themselves. This type of person does not see the direct connection between their own development and the growth of the team.

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Team Australia in Welland, Ontario at Worlds, 2015. Photo: Ed Nguyen

At the end of a race, what is your first instinct? Is it to congratulate your teammates on a hard fought battle, no matter where you placed? Or is it to complain, whine, give excuses or place blame about why you may have lost? Only one team can cross that finish line first. Your reaction to the losses are what truly define your attitude as an athlete.

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Team China in Welland, Ontario at Worlds 2015. Photo: Ed Nguyen

I was recently pondering the role of a positive attitude in dragon boating made a list of six relevant attitudinal qualities in a paddler which benefit the team:

  1. Modesty. Rather than an “I’m better than you” attitude, modesty is critical to developing and maintaining positive team relationships. An individual whose ego is so self-inflated with athletic arrogance because of time trials, fitness tests, or experience will quickly run into trouble. Eventually other team members will reject and avoid them and the entire team will suffer with its cohesiveness.
  2. Sense of Equality. Everyone on a dragon boat team contributes through their assigned roles – the boat cannot function without each person doing his or her job. While some may not be at a competitive level, they still deserve to be treated with respect. An exaggerated sense of personal importance accompanied by a condescending attitude toward others will never be beneficial to the team.
  3. Optimists. Paddlers who look at each experience on the boat as an opportunity to grow are willing to take on the challenges of progress. They will put in the time and effort to improve themselves for the team. On the other hand, paddlers with a “world owes me” attitude have a demanding, selfish approach that drains energy away from everyone on the team and brings the team down.
  4. Patience. An individual who accepts that paddling expertise takes time and who doesn’t expect to be on the race boat after only a short time on the team is an asset on the team. This person understands the work involved in earning a spot on the race boat and is willing to put in the time to achieve that. Our “instant” society has conditioned us to expect that our personal desires be met on demand. Unfortunately this isn’t realistic in dragon boating.
  5. Group-focus. A successful team has a focus on the club as a whole and understands the detrimental ramifications of a self-focused teammate. While it is important to work on your own training to benefit the team, when this attitude become the prominent focus, it turns into a toxic self-centeredness that is sure to negatively impact the team. “What’s in it for me?” cannot be the dominating thought of a team player.
  6. Sharing Ideology. Some of the best paddlers I know are willing to help train others, give tips on technique, and generally help out their teammates. Why? Because they can see the greater good that will come of it and they ever don’t let their ego get in the way. Conversely, think of the teammate who is secretive and protective, who at the same time attempts to drain every detail from you in terms of your time trial results, your training, your fitness program. These aren’t team players. They are insecure, selfish, and competitive people who are not trustworthy. Sure, a sport such as dragon boating needs competitive people, after all, that is what drives us. But it cannot ever be the “me” over the “we” if a team is to succeed.
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Team Canada on the podium in Welland, Ontario at Worlds. Photo: Ed Nguyen

So, carefully consider whether your own attitude, as well as the attitude of those around you, are benefitting the team. If not, it may be time to make some changes for the advancement of the team.

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7 Discussion to this post

  1. Wendy Rose Davison says:

    It is all just one big learning curve. Dragon boating teaches you more about yourself than anything…or is it Paddlechica?

    • Paddlechica says:

      Ha ha! You’re too sweet, Wendy. Sorry I didn’t see this comment earlier for some reason. Thanks for reading!

  2. Susan Durman says:

    Great comments. Unfortunately that is not always what happens.

  3. Dave Winter says:

    To this I’d add self-sacrifice. You have to give up your ego and sacrifice for the team. Did you get sat out for a race? Maybe the coach needed to balance the boat or save you for power in another heat. Don’t get your shorts in a wad- accept what’s best for the team, even if it means you don’t always race.

  4. Mike says:

    Our club initiated a minimum practice attendance percentage. Some people were put out but I think it was really a wake up to some people that they needed to show up.

    • Paddlechica says:

      Great plan, Mike! Giving people an idea of how many practices they actually do attend (in the form of a percentage) is a wonderful thing to show those who aren’t attending regularly. Often it is a shocking revelation.

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