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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Dragon Boat World Athlete: Women in Dragon Boat – What drives them to keep on paddling?

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

Dragon Boat World Athlete Chloe Gear

DRAGON BOAT WORLD ATHLETE PROFILE

NAME: Chloe Gear
BIRTHPLACE: Albury City, Australia
AGE: 20yo
TRAINING COMMITMENT: Full-time
POSITION: Drummer/Paddler
PADDLING SIDE: Right
HEIGHT: 166cm
WEIGHT: 58kg
STATUS: Single

MEDAL RECORD:
IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships, GoldU24 Women, 200m, 500m, 2000m, 2015
IDBF World Dragon Boat Racing Championships, BronzeU24 Mixed, 200m, 1000m 2015
Australian Dragon Boat Racing Championships, GoldPremier Women, 200m, 500m, 2000m, 2015
Australian Dragon Boat Racing Championships, GoldPremier Mixed, 200m, 2000m, 2015
Australian Dragon Boat Racing Championships, GoldPremier Open, 2000m, 2015
Australian Dragon Boat Racing State Championship, SilverPremier Women, 500m, 2015
Australian Dragon Boat Racing State Championship, SilverU24 Mixed, 200m, 500m, 2015


This very promising Dragon Boat World Athlete, Chloe Gear, was in her final year of high school when she got into Dragon Boating. It was through her mum’s corporate team in 2013 where she was trained as the team’s drummer back then.

The club’s coach had convinced Chloe to come back and drum for them in the next regatta and from that day on, she’s been drumming and paddling. She’s now a dedicated Aurora–a member of the Australian National Dragon Boat Team. She confessed that she has developed a substantial movie collection as she would spend her rest days couching on the sofa and do a movie marathon.

“It all happened at the right moment. After ten years of being a competitive dancer and also rehabilitating from an injury, I was looking for a new sport to pursue. My first club was the Albury/Wodonga Warriors and in 2015, I moved to Melbourne and became a Melbourne Flame.”, Chloe shared.

From a newbie drummer to becoming a Dragon Boat World Athlete, may her story inspire the younger paddlers and likewise allow the veterans to rekindle how they started (and how they eventually got immersed) in this wonderful world of dragon boat paddling.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Chloe Gear

Q: How does team practice going during this period?

A: Team practice is going very well, we are making good progress and are where we need to be in preparation for our upcoming competitions.

Q: What major races are you preparing for now and how much do you train nowadays?

A: The Australian National team is preparing to compete at the 12th Asian Dragon Boat Championships while my club the Melbourne Flames is currently preparing for the Australian Dragon Boat Championships and the Club Crew World Championships all being held in Adelaide starting at the end of March. I currently train twice a day, six days a week. I have a cardio session in the morning being running or doing laps at my local pool for about an hour and then attend dragon boat sessions in the evening.

Q: Given the number of hours of practice per week, how do you keep up with it? Does it affect how you manage your sleeping patterns?

A: I’ve learnt to prioritize my training around my work and sleep and have been training regularly for just under two years now so my body is quite used to it. My training doesn’t affect my sleep too much, if anything I may be sleeping a little too much now! I always make sure I get a minimum of eight hours sleep every night to allow my body to rest and on rest days I will usually go get a relaxing massage and lay on the sofa resting.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Chloe Gear

Q: How big is the Auroras now? How many are women?

A: The size of the Auroras depends on the campaign that we are preparing for, currently the Auroras is just a Premier team with half of the team consisting of women.

Q: In terms of funding, do you think that there is an equal treatment between the Men’s Team and the Women’s Team?

A: Sadly, in Australia, Dragon Boat Racing receives little funding, however most funding that is available is called an “athlete grant,’ which is open to any sport/age/gender, et cetera. At the end of the day the lucky recipient comes down to the quality of the application and the decision of the judging panel.

Q: Given the number of women in your team, is this a good number in your opinion? Should there be more?

A: As previously mentioned the size of the Auroras team depends on what campaign we are training for and this year half of the team consists of women. This year we have very strong women in our boat. I’m excited to see what they will achieve when we go out on the water.

Q: What do you think drives women to keep on with being at the elite level (National Team) of dragon boat?

A: In my personal opinion and experience I think it is the deep connection that women are able to create with each other that keeps driving us to be part of the National Team. Being an Aurora is being part of a family. We all support each other and want to see one another succeed. It’s very hard to just let that go when all the racing has come to an end so we keep coming back for more! A bit like a family reunion.

Dragon Boat World Athlete Chloe Gear

Q: Can you share to us one thing that makes being with the Auroras so rewarding to you?

A: The most rewarding part of being an Aurora is not only the opportunities we get presented with but also getting to be part of such a supportive family. Not only have I been able to travel the world but I’ve been able to travel with some of my closest friends beside me and make lifelong friendships. Our success on the water stems from how we support and care for each other off the water and I’ve been incredibly blessed to have met some amazing people from around Australia.

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

A: The athlete whom I admire most is Australian Paralympic swimmer, Sam Bramham. I have been following Sam’s journey for the last few years now and have read his autobiography of his climb to success. He attended his first Olympic games in Athens, 2004 age 14, setting a new world record in his heat, only to blow his chances in the Final. Sam learnt the hard way that going into a race without rest and a complacent attitude distracts you from your race plan. However rather than letting this defeat him he learnt from his mistakes and has gone on to win gold in several other Olympics and will compete this year in Rio as one of Australia’s first Paralympic Tri-athletes. I find his passion and resilience inspiring.


As for our featured athlete, injury was not a hindrance to her dream of becoming a world champion. While this is coming from a passionate, budding athlete, it very much shows of a young woman’s strength, determination and resilience—such a beautiful and powerful attribute that we all paddlers must appreciate, and, yes, emulate.

In paddling, no matter how new or old the paddler or the team is, the passion for the sport must be kept alive; and just like paddling, one must dig deep with soul and might and in synchrony. If we’re able to possess these essential paddling tools, then shouldn’t it be also easy for us to be synchronised, in thought and in passion, in working together to provide equal opportunities for the women in our sport?


Headshots by Bing Ren

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