Triumphant winnings of the Philippine Dragon Boat Team aired in all TV networks, published in all newspapers and trended in all social networking sites. Inspired with the fact that it was a democratic and humble sport where you don’t have to be rich and famous, you don’t even have to be politically influential to give pride to our country, I researched about the sport and watched some videos and how they do it.
While watching it I thought it was easy…
Well, not until I tried it for myself…
I was warmly welcomed by the Aqua Fortis Dragon Boat Crew. My first day of trying dragon boat was a realization; paddling was not as easy as it looked. I woke up at 3am to join the 5am training. It was a battle waking up early considering that I’m not a morning person and I hate waking up that early. Then after that first training, I nursed my harshly aching arms and back for a week. But though my body ached like hell that week, I was happy I had the opportunity to try dragon boating and met like-minded individuals. The group was composed of adventurers; bikers, mountaineers, travellers, runners, tri-athletes and the like.
After 3 months of training with the crew, I realized that paddling is such a grueling sport. High level of discipline is required. Concentration matters a lot. Endurance, upper body strength and timing are mandatory. You would need to forget everything and focus on your goal as your mind cannot wander even momentarily. Strokes should be in sync with other paddlers and even in a split second, off-timing is unacceptable.
As I observed, riding in a boat with people you don’t know would be a challenge because it’s also entrusting your life to each one of them. I thought Stephen M.R. Covey’s book Speed of Trust is also applicable in this sport. In the book he shared a trust formula “When trust goes up, speed will also go up and cost will go down”. He itemized Five Waves of Trust and the most significant wave applicable to dragon boat is – Relationship Trust. Relationship Trust teaches one to be imbued with the 13 Behaviors which Covey thought would enhance one’s ability to establish trust in all relationship. In general, the quickest way to decrease trust is to violate a behavior of character while the quickest way to increase it is to demonstrate a behavior of competence. Covey identified the 13 behaviors — one through five flows from character, the second five from competence, and the last three from combination of both.
- Talking straight – When we talk straight, we tell the truth and leave the right impression. But straight talks need not to be paired with tact. On the boat, there is no excuse for being so blunt you hurt feelings and destroy relationships. That would definitely affect the performance of the team.
- Demonstrating respect – The simple principle is to value the individual and living up to the Golden Rule; treat other people the way we want to be treated. Our actions show that we care to the team and that it should be sincere.
- Creating transparency – Honesty, openness, integrity and authenticity would help in earning trust from team mates.
- Righting wrongs – Righting a wrong is much more than apologizing for something you have done to the team or with a team mate. It involves restitution and a promise to go the extra mile in contributing strength and earning back the trust.
- Showing loyalty – Giving credits to others shows loyalty. As a team member, one should also give credits to those individuals responsible for the success of the team. This fosters an environment where people are more encouraged. Make it a rule to never talk about the team in negative ways.
- Delivering results – The faster way to build trust from team mates is to deliver results as it gives you instant credibility and trust. Showing that you have improved training by training would be enough.
- Getting better – Learning from mistakes is normal. We cannot expect that we can right away be an expert in this sport. Continual learning, high level of discipline and improvement process is always part of the game.
- Confronting reality – Sometime we really have to confront the reality that we’re still weak. And that if we want to reach our goal of racing for the team and for the country we would need to embrace commitment and discipline. This also means taking tough issues head on.
- Clarifying expectations – It is always important for a team to focus on shared vision and success for the team, an agreement about what the strategy is and what’s to be done up front.
- Practicing accountability – Holding oneself accountable includes taking responsibility from bad results. It is often human’s natural response to blame others for failure. When we fail, we need to look in the mirror. Losing is part of becoming successful.
- Listening first – We should learn to listen from the team captain/coach/team mate about their tips and feedback. That would help us to get better.
- Keeping commitments – Being part of a dragon boat team especially when you’re part of the line up for a race, demands commitment. One should not make commitments they cannot keep. A commitment of joining a race and not showing up for it create issues and results in your team mates to lose trust in you.
- Extending trust – This only means that we should extend trust to those who have earned it.
But though all 13 behaviours are there, one cannot proceed in completing all these without trusting oneself first. Do I trust myself? Am I someone whom others can trust? Indeed, we sacrifice a lot in order to pursue a passion for something. That passion I see with Aqua Fortis. These early risers and sun-bronzed champions are always determined to win. Amid torrent financial and time challenges and never ending obstacles before each race, the team manages to still do the best they could to bring pride to the team and the sports. They take each training as an opportunity to develop excellent physical and mental skills. It is extremely challenging to integrate 22 people as one unit but once the team gets on the boat, it becomes a mutual understanding that they’re there for one goal and that they trust each other to achieve that goal.
NOTE: Aqua Fortis Crew is currently looking for sponsorship. For interested sponsors, you may contact Captain Abet Lagula at mobile number 09285200922 or check out their Facebook Page.