The Philippine Canoe, Kayak and Dragon boat Federation (PCKDF) recently concluded last Sunday, December 9, 2018 their 4th leg of the Annual Dragon Boat Regatta. One of the teams who took part in this event is SAG1 Dragonboat Team, which includes myself as a crew (yes I am a dragon boat paddler).

One of the highlights of this event, of course, is the awarding ceremony where winning teams get hold of the priced trophies and medals. But guess what, this is just a tip of the iceberg, most ordinary people saw that time the gleaming throphies the paddlers get, but what they never saw was the tears, sweat and sometimes even blood; shed by the athletes in order to achieve such glory. My teams’ journey for 2018 is never different, but it was indeed an honor to end up our 2018 dragon boat journey with a blast (3 trophies for the team seems not bad at all).

To wrap up my own 2018 Dragonboat journey, allow me to share 5 Lessons I’ve Learned In Dragonboat Paddling:

1. There’s No One Great Paddler, Only One Great Team

Being a Team Sport at its core, Dragonboat Paddlers can never outshine each other; each paddler should acknowledge each other’s weaknesses and strengths, then learn to compensate. One good thing about Dragonboat Paddling is there can never be a superstar paddler, only a superstar team: have you ever saw any paddler endorsing commercials individually? There is none, only a whole team. Unlike Individual Superstar Athletes of Basketball or Football who does endorsements of brands inside or outside the sports industry, dragon boat teams remain as a team in endorsing brands, its pay all paddlers or none to endorse a brand.

2. The Team Can Only Be As Strong As It’s Weakest Paddler

Those who do dragon boat (especially Team Captains and Coaches) understand that races are won not by developing individual players’ strength, but creating a program that will suit every individual’s need for improvement. Team training is always best compared with individual strengthening. This is why even in training, every paddler is required to have a uniform exercise sets, only the intensity or weight is modified based on individual capacity.

3. Synchronicity (One Move) is Always Better Than Sheer Power (Skills/Capabilities)

Dragonboat Team Leaders will always point at how synchronize the team is more than how powerful the paddling was. They always will state during training, especially for beginners: (in Filipino) “isabay mo lang yung sagwan mo sa nasa harap mo kahit walang power…” (Just synchronize your paddling with the team even if it lacks power). It is here you will see the value of “being one” because no matter how strong an individual paddler is if he/she is not moving to the same cadence as the team, his/her power does not count; it will even serve as a counterforce slowing down the boat’s movement.

4. The Value of a “millisecond”

If you want to know how valuable every second count; ask a dragon boat paddler: they Measure it up to a millisecond!
Winning or losing varies up to those levels… most races are won or lost at a second or a millisecond count. A second or millisecond lost is equivalent to meters away from the finish line. It is common knowledge to every paddler that Dragonboat is the “Longest 1 Minute Of Your Life”.

5. Winning Is Not The Goal: It’s a result

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you win or lose. Dragonboat teaches the value of comradeship, how you play the game win or lose is defined importantly not by how you train individually for the paddling game but most especially who you paddled with. As one of my team-mate coined it: (in Filipino) “Masarap mag-champion na kayo kasama…” (It feels great to win with you by my side).

To summarize this journey, let me coin the words from the lyrics of the song “Iisang Bangka (One Boat)” by the Filipino Rock Band; The Dawn:

“Basta’t kasama mo ako, iisang bangka tayo
Anuman ang mithiin ay makakamtan natin”

(For as long as you are with me, we are in one boat… whatever we desire, we shall achieve)