DRAGONBOAT DRAMA: When paddlers disrespect coaches

This is part 2 of my 3 part series focused on creating healthy cultures in Dragonboat communities. In this article we will address how disrespect between coaches and paddlers creates toxic environments where drama breeds.

Behaviors are tough to manage at the best of times but in sport they are heightened by competition. When coaches can hold paddlers in the light of having good intent they will often step up to the plate and make the requested changes even in heightened emotional situations.

This is the foundation of energy training; creating the mindset and heart space of pure intention and belief.


Paddlers mess up, they are human, but if they continue to consistently relate to team mates and coaches with disrespectful behavior, it must be dealt with. Most of us coaches are not equipped to deal with these issues and as such need a bit of guidance. My intent in this article is to provide a couple resources that can provide a road map to building healthy team cultures!

The premise we work on is one where creating change is based on shifting a behavior while having faith in who paddlers are at their core. Most people embrace change and are open to evolution for the greater good of the team or culture. When we build this foundation with mindful intention we can nurture behaviors we want to see rather that allow behaviors such as disrespect to creep in.


I personally use Iyanla vanzant’s guidelines when trying to determine when it’s time to act on destructive behaviors or when it’s appropriate to simply try to understand. 

If one person tells you are a horse you can walk away

If two people say you are a horse you should probably look in the mirror

If three people say you are a horse you probably have hay hanging out of your mouth

Now, to be clear, I don’t condone behavior that cannot be changed beyond a mouthful of hay. At times like these paddlers are best moved to teams with other coaches or clubs where they can cultivate respect. Now, this is also saying it is paddler initiated. Not always. If three paddlers are having the same issue with a coach, that coach has hay hanging out of their mouth and the same rules for removal apply.

Just to be clear, I am not putting on rose colored glasses on this matter, there can be circumstances where too much water has passed to bring coaches or paddlers back from drama bred from the toxic environment of disrespect. The following are guidelines for prevention but not always a “fix”. Although difficult, it may serve toxic cultures to dismantle and regroup. Culture healing requires dedicated and open minded people!  


Principles before personality

Principles are the guidelines of the attitude and behavior of the team as a whole. Generally this would be called “The Guiding Principles” that govern each team. These principles become the basis for all decisions and are communicated as such by coaches, team leaders, captains and steers. It is the manner for which all paddler concerns, treatment and communication is managed. When paddlers understand these guidelines they are able to see direction given by coaches in the interest of their skill development and not take it personally. When coaches adhere to the principles they coach paddlers where being a professional is the primary focus over a personality.

Here is how to use and apply Guiding Principles:

  • Outline them in the season plan
  • Use them as directives when communicating in practices
  • Demonstrated by the leaders when approaching paddlers
  • Used to determine if lines by coaches or paddlers are crossed in communications

Putting personality before principles can cause paddlers to disrespect coaches if they feel they have not been treated appropriately


Process before personality

Process is the laid out actions and timelines that dictate the season and expectations of all paddlers. When paddlers are aware of the process they have an expected timeline to reach their goals. This process is the documented formula that determines paddler success. Without this process paddlers make their own assumptions as to what success looks like and decisions about their abilities based on those assumptions. When coaches are required to make decisions for rosters, practice attendance or team cuts, mandates provide the foundation for process driven decision making.

Here is how to use and apply Mandate Processes:

  • Outline in the season plan
  • Referenced as paddler expectations within practices 
  • Demonstrated by the leaders by bringing goals and focus to practices
  • Used as the measure for decisions where seat selections are applicable

Putting personality before the process can cause division amongst paddlers when they think they somehow deserve something when others do not

Cheryl Roose

Share this post

Hosted on Panda Cloud