Paddles Up!


Team sports – any sports, actually – were never my thing.  Whatever required grace and coordination was out of the question.  Over the years I tried ballet, tap-dancing, ice-skating, baton twirling, horseback riding, dancing and piano.  I took to downhill skiing for a while, and I hiked when I lived near the Appalachian Trail.  I even organized a company softball team one year – we lost every single game, but we did have fun partying afterwards!  Bicycling was always an interest, but it was not until middle age that I became a cycling enthusiast.

One of my closest high school girlfriends was (and is) a competitive swimmer.  She was kept off the varsity team in the early years even though she swam well enough.  When we reached our senior year, the swim coach told her she still couldn’t be on the varsity team because she was the only girl and there were no female chaperones available.  I never learned anything about the team sport of swimming, but I became her chaperone because she was my friend . . . and because I had a crush on a boy on the team.

When Rick emphasized points by using sports team analogies, my thoughts drifted away.  I understand the concept of a work team, certainly, but more in the vein of different specialties coming together for the common good.  Some people are just simply more adept than others in terms of skills, knowledge sets, energy, etc.

Which brings me to the team sport of dragon boat racing.

OMG!  What a tremendous sport!  I had been to a few dragon boat festivals over the years and knew some of the people in my local dragon boat club, so I decided to give it a try last fall.

This past year has been full of decision-making, to-do lists and erratic emotional swings.  In the dragon boat with nineteen other paddlers I have no responsibilities except to listen to my coach, stay in sync and perform my best.  The whole movement of rotating inward, reaching my arms forward, catching and pulling water with my core and legs, and returning to the starting position is rhythmic and a form of mindfulness for me.  The pleasure of moving in symmetry with the others and feeling our collective power moving the boat is almost indescribable.  Physical exertion and peace.

And that’s just practice.

In a race, there’s the same focus on form and synchronicity, with the added oomph of our team members pushing themselves to their physical limits to reach the finish line first.  I have so much respect for the focus of each paddler in my club; each woman and man exhibits character, teamwork, and competitiveness.  Power and punch.

Rick, I get it.

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