Focus in the Boat: Coaching Dragons and Harnessing Courage

Location: Jepson 124
Date: Sat, April 27
Time: 12:30 PM - 1:10 PM

This interactive presentation examines the unique communication and leadership components of a competitive dragon boat team in Gig Harbor, Washington. The presentation utilizes multimedia--photography, video, audio--and audience participation to illustrate the connection between dragon boat racing and courageous and compassionate leadership. I discuss my personal experience as a competitive paddler and as a coach of the co-ed team. Members of my team have become mentors for me in leadership, communication, team building, cooperation and encouragement. The Gig Harbor Dragons are a stellar model for ethical and effective engagement with its members, stakeholders and community while promoting positive and encouraging values.


Throughout my scholarship, I have been exploring team building, ethical communication and courageous leadership. This presentation represents a portion of my current work on my Capstone Project for the M.A. in the COML program. I use the ethical artifact of a dragon and its significance in one the fastest growing sports in the world--dragon boat racing. I share my experience as a competitor and coach, and weave program content into my evaluation of this vibrant organization: the Gig Harbor Dragon Boat Team. Western culture's depictions of dragons typically show creatures that conjure up fear and anxiety and that project evil intent. This dragon is considered cunning and cruel. In a metaphorical sense, people often use the phrase "slaying their dragons" when describing their struggles with overcoming fear and anxiety or in tackling personal demons. In contrast, traditional Chinese culture views the dragon as a symbol of power, excellence, courage, boldness, heroism, perseverance, nobility and dignity: less fire and anger in need of slaying, and more admirable leadership qualities to uphold. The art of coaching a dragon boat team lies in harnessing and encouraging those intrepid and admirable qualities of the Chinese dragon, while extinguishing the fear and anxiety associated with the fire-breathing dragon who harassed Saint George. This interactive presentation examines the unique communication and leadership components of a competitive dragon boat team in Gig Harbor, Washington. The presentation will use multimedia--photography, video, and originally composed audio--and audience participation to illustrate the connection between dragon boat racing, and courageous and compassionate leadership and inclusive, ethical and effective community engagement. The key questions addressed are: What is a dragon boat and what is the sport's connection to leadership principles? How can this team building experience translate to other milieu? What are the salient qualities of a healthy team environment?

Interactive Workshop