A big part of our job as managers of a dragon boat race is to help teams believe in themselves. When we start practice week at any given event, we work directly with teams on their race strategy. We want them all to win, and we give them the best practice experience possible. This is also important to our charity clients, because they want the teams to have a good experience so they’ll return.

When we worked the May 30 race in Oak Ridge, TN, we were excited to work a festival in our local East Tennessee community. In only its second year, the event is a huge success, with more than 30 teams and thousands raised for the Rotary Clubs in Oak Ridge. In the first year, a club team competed from Charlotte, NC and took Gold. The same team returned to defend its title this year. As usual, some of the local teams were a little nervous about a club team that likely practices three to five days a week coming to sweep the competition. The local corporate and community teams that race in this event get one practice session. One local corporate team – Parkway Cardiology “Paddle Attack” – showed promise in practice. The team wasn’t comprised of a bunch of super athletes. Most of them were of normal size and fitness level. They just happened to work very well together.

I taught them an advanced start and strategized with them about how we would win on race day. Of course, they made it to the final race against Charlotte Fury. They weren’t even remotely nervous. (I had given them a pep talk about controlling their adrenaline). The team told me when I called the power at the end of the race they wanted me to call out, “Paddle Attack” to them to get them going. We executed our entire plan. The team held nothing back at all. They methodically engineered a perfect race. When the horn sounded, Paddle Attack sprinted out from Lane 3 to lead all three boats. I called a power in the middle, even though they didn’t necessarily need it. The Charlotte team never surged on us. I called another power at the end of the race, yelling “Paddle Attack” for them. They also didn’t need the surge. I was curious to know what they had as a team. They beat Charlotte Fury by nearly a second. Not bad for a team that has only raced at two dragon boat festivals. That’s the beauty of this sport and this event: The unlikely can happen!