Start A Team

The following are some suggestions on how to develop a dragon boat team comprised of people living with breast cancer. As this is a group with special needs, there are a few items that require specific attention. Like most other ventures, people are the keys to success. All the hurdles can be overcome with the right mix of knowledge, compassion, and energy.

1. Personnel: Support Staff

COACH: Key player. Must recognize the special issues that accompany this team. The training program is fundamental to success. It is an art to provide the right amount of training stimulus to 25 different individuals, without causing an overuse injury. He/she must understand the mission of the team and not be focused on being competitive.

MANAGER: Another very key player responsible for organization of the team. Jack of all trades with unlimited energy, patience and enthusiasm. Managers are not usually allowed to paddle in regattas so this team member may not necessarily have a history of breast cancer (they all want to paddle!).

MEDICAL: If the training program is correct and the paddlers listen to their coach and their bodies, medical issues will be few. However, an interested physician with knowledge about the physical demands of paddling is useful. This does not have to be an oncologist; most of the problems are related to the musculoskeletal system, not to breast cancer. A physiotherapist or other health professional who is sympathetic to the cause is also helpful in treating any of the medical problems.

2. Team Members

CAPTAIN: The leader and spokesperson. Elected or appointed, she should have the support of the team members.

PADDLERS: The only criterion for being a paddler on our team is a history of breast cancer. Age, athletic ability, previous paddling experience are not issues. We are all part of one team – we are all in the same boat.

STEERSPERSON: An important position that requires special training and some upper body strength. Train 2 steerspeople.

DRUMMER: Important leader, not afraid to yell at her teammates. Should have a sense of rhythm.

3. Training:

We begin in January with dryland training for new members. Year round fitness should be a part of the former members’ lifestyles. On-the-water training begins with daylight saving time in early March. Two paddling practices per week; try to have two days off between practices.

4. Practice Site:

You will require paddling equipment and change facilities. A membership provides access to a dragon boat, paddles, floatation devices and changing facilities.

5. Funding:

Dragon boat paddling is a costly affair. It cost approximately $4000.00 per year per crew for Club memberships and registration in the Rio Tinto/Alcan Festival. We have a Sponsorship Committee and a Fundraising Committee to attract and produce funds from several sources. You will need to do the same.

Where there is no Club or dragonboats available to rent, a boat may need to be purchased. Factor this into your budget/fundraising.

6. Races:

The regular paddling season finishes with a major Dragon boat Festival in June or early July. There are also smaller, local regattas in which our crews participate during April and May. We have also travelled to Portland, Henderson (Las Vegas), Seattle, Victoria, Nanaimo, Kelowna and Whistler. Major Regattas attended have been Wellington New Zealand, Toronto, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Singapore, Cape Town South Africa, Posnan Poland, Caloundra Australia, Houston, Peterborough, and Putrajaya Malaysia.

7. Organization:

Someone (or group) will have to take a leadership role. Please do not underestimate this task. Historically our leadership was provided from the Sports Medicine Clinic at UBC but very quickly these individuals were overwhelmed by the demands, not just from the team, but also from the media for information, interview and photo sessions, documentaries etc. We were not prepared for this attention and would recommend that you plan, now, how you will handle these requests. We believe that it’s important to use these opportunities to deliver the message about breast cancer and also thank sponsors, etc; it’s more difficult than we thought and this aspect of the team deserves your attention.

We have formed a Society; this was a necessary development following our first two years. This provides structure to the organization and also a division of responsibilities and duties. It gives members an opportunity to serve and we have regular Board meetings. It also provides a tax-deductible number so that sponsors are more enthusiastic about funding the Society. In 1998 we initiated a membership fee for all members and associate members (non-paddlers). This will allow supporters who have not had breast cancer, a chance to join the Society.

This is where we find ourselves today. The approach has worked for us but really is just presented here to tell you how we developed. We would be happy to offer our support to other teams in any way possible. You can contact us and we’ll do our best to help get you on the water.

For more information about starting a team, please email us.