Top 5 Things I Learned about Teamwork after Rowing in a Dragon Boat

July 6th, 2017

Regional Partnership Intern Recalls Downtown Fort Wayne Event

It was a warm summer day in June as several teams from Northeast Indiana gathered on the banks of the St. Marys River at Headwaters Park for the third annual Fort Wayne Dragon Boat Races. For our team, the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership and the Emerging Leaders Alliance, it was our third year racing the boats, and we knew we still had much to learn from the team building experience.

The dragon boat, a long, narrow canoe-like boat, fills with 20 teammates including paddlers, a steersman and a drummer. To win the race all paddlers must row at a fast and synchronized pace set by the drummer in attempts to be the first to cross the finish line. While this may seem simple and straightforward, it is much more difficult to execute out on the water.

While we did gain an understanding of the process of racing a dragon boat, what we really learned was how to work together as a team.

Here is what I learned about teamwork after rowing in a dragon boat:

5. When working as a team, we must have an open mind.

Several of us on the boat, myself included, were rookies to the dragon boat race and we had no clue how to orient ourselves on the boat. Our instincts told us, “Paddle with your arms!” Our instructor said, “Paddle with your core!” Even though paddling with our core muscles felt unnatural and difficult, it was ultimately what pushed our boat forward and made us successful.

4. When working as a team, we must look to each other.

“Don’t let me catch you looking down at the water, it is not going anywhere,” called our instructor several times. In order to push the boat forward, we had to be synchronized, and in order to be synchronized, we had to look to those in front of us. Incidentally, teamwork does not happen when we are looking just to ourselves.

3. When working as a team, we must communicate clearly.

There are several rowing patterns a team could use to run the race. All members of the team must be on the same page (or in the same boat, if you will) in their understanding of this pattern before they get on the water. This means that open communication, and even over-communication, is vital among teammates.

2. When working as a team, we must trust each other.

With team members in front of and behind you, it is impossible to see how the entire team is performing. With this perspective, we have no choice but to trust that each of us is doing our part to push the boat forward and make our race a success.

1. When working as a team, we must have fun.

While learning, synchronizing, communicating and trusting are essential components to teamwork, the race does not feel accomplished unless we enjoy ourselves. Essentially, is it all of these attributes of teamwork that allow a group to create a successful and fulfilling experience. Fun is the reward that motivates us to get on a dragon boat, push it over the finish line and even come to work every day to build, market and sell Northeast Indiana to its full potential.

- By Rachel Stephens, Regional Partnership Intern, Summer 2017