Dragon Boat World Athlete: Positive Reinforcement – A Main Coaching Tool

This Q&A was with Dragon Boat World Athlete, Dennis Wright, National Athlete – Auroras – Australian Dragon Boat Team.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Dennis Wright

DRAGON BOAT WORLD ATHLETE PROFILE

NAME: Dennis Wright
BIRTHPLACE: Nhulunbuy, Australia
AGE: 33yo
TRAINING COMMITMENT: Full-time
POSITION: Paddler; Coach (South Australia State Coach – Premier Division)
PADDLING SIDE: Either
HEIGHT: 178cm
WEIGHT: 85kg
STATUS: Married

MEDAL RECORD:
AusDBF National Championships 2016, 2 Bronzes – South Australia Premier Mixed, Standard Boat, 500m; 200m
AusDBF National Championships 2016, Silver – Premier Open, Small Boat – Club Division, 200m
AusDBF National Championships 2016, Silver – Premier Mixed, Small Boat – Club Division, 200m
AusDBF National Championships 2015, Bronze – South Australia Premier Mixed, Standard Boat, 500m
AusDBF National Championships 2015, 2 Silvers – South Australia Premier Mixed, Small Boat, 500m; 200m
AusDBF National Championships 2015, Bronze – South Australia Premier Women (Coach), Small Boat, 500m
AusDBF National Championships 2015, 2 Golds – Premier Mixed Small Boat – Club Division, 500m; 200m
AusDBF National Championships 2015, 1 Gold; 1 Silver – Premier Open Small Boat – Club Division, 200m; 500m
AusDBF National Championships 2013, 1 Silver; 1 Bronze – Premier Mixed Small Boat – Club Division, 500m; 200m


It was during that warm Australian summer of 2008 when this bass-playing World Athlete, Dennis Wright, started in the realm of dragon boat. Grew up in Nhulunbuy, a small mining town in Australia’s Northern Territory, he shared with us his humble beginnings as a paddler-turned-National Athlete and his experiences as South Australia’s (SA) Premiere Class state coach. “I started paddling with Water Warriors, a local club in the South Australia state. I was introduced by family who had retired from the sport the year previously, after many years in paddling in SA.”

Dragon Boat World Athlete Dennis Wright

When asked if he has displayed his bass skills in front of his teammates, he responded: “I still play bass whenever I can in between paddling, work, and life commitments. Sad to say that I’ve not yet been able to do so with my paddling teammates as yet, but there is still hopefully plenty of paddling years left for me, so who knows?”

Dragon Boat World Athlete Dennis Wright

Started as a hobby for Dennis, he then began to take his paddling stint more seriously in 2010 when the selection process has changed in qualifying for the Auroras, the Australian National Dragon Boat Team. “Back then, the winning State Team in the AusDBF Nationals competition becomes the representative Australian team.”, he recalls. “The change has opened opportunities for paddlers around the country to represent Australia in international races.”

“Since SA is a small density state with a large population spread, it typically meant that SA could not compete in a standard boat against the larger state teams. But since the selection process was introduced, SA has fielded a large number of Australian Auroras paddlers over the years, and I have been fortunate enough to be one amongst them.”, Dennis added.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Dennis Wright


Q: How did the Auroras fair at the recently held Asian Dragon Boat Championships? Was it the projected results?

A: I think the Auroras represented very well at the Asian Champs. It’s always difficult to project results in such a competition, but improvement is always sought after.

Q: It was a success, then?

A: The results helped define the success. It was a little difficult to back-up so quickly from the IDBF World Championships campaign in Canada, so it was very heartening to see the Auroras improve their results from last Asia Champs campaign

Q: In three words, can you describe to us what ‘Sportsmanship’ means to you?

A: Honour. Brotherhood. Honesty.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Dennis Wright

Q: What is the most rewarding thing of being a coach?

A: The most rewarding thing for me is being a part of the improvement of my paddlers. Seeing the beginners advance to intermediate and from intermediate they advance to skilled and beyond. The experience of seeing doubt being expunged is proof positive of skill advancement.

Q: How important is the coach’s role in keeping the supportive and respectful climate in the team?

A: Paramount. The head coach (and division coaches too) are the prime point for setting the examples and structures by which the paddling team will be expected to follow. I do not believe it is possible for coaches neglectful of this reality to create supportive and respectful teams.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Dennis Wright

Q: Can you give us some tips on how to maintain unity and respect within the team?

A: Positive reinforcement is my main coaching tool. This stems from the idea that once a person believes they can perform better, they will psychologically strive to perform in accordance with that belief. I always maintain a healthy respect for my paddlers of all levels, since I am often paddling in the boat with them too. I am aware that as a sole person I may not see or understand all things of all paddlers at all times. So I encourage healthy discussion and conversation from my paddlers. This two-way dialogue encourages respect and cohesion amongst the paddlers.

Q: Outside the dragon boating world, who is the athlete that you admire most and why?

A: This is always a difficult one. I’m probably going to go with Steve Waugh. From watching him play I always felt that he had good respect for the sport and the competitors alike. Sport is a microcosm of life in many ways, and as such I am still always motivated by love.


Photos: Michael Daniel Photography (Australian Auroras Squad); Instant Photos Publications Australia (Black Dragons DBC); Papillon Marcel; Audio Reign
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