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Millionaires and Fractured Crews (Originally Published April 23, 2009)

I used to watch "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire". I liked seeing how far I could get. One of the things that struck me were the "lifelines" - phone a friend, 50/50 where 2 of 4 possible answers were removed, and "ask the audience", where the audience voted on the correct answer. When the audience voted, I noticed that it was very difficult to get conscensus. Even for what seemed to me to be a very easy answer, it was rare that 60% of the audience would agree. I am convinced that if you asked the question, "what number follows 4", you would not get 100% agreement that the answer is 5. It is against that context that you should look at your dragonboat crew. A dragonboat team is no different than any group of individuals. Even when the coach is doing an excellent job, people will come and go, leaders will change, chemistry will change, goals will change. This is a key part of team dynamics. Managing team dynamics is the most important part of a coaches' job description - and it's an ongoing battle. Depending on your perspective, the coach is either succeeding or failing. If I am a complaining, negative, malcontent - but talented, and the coach tells me to move on because I am so devisive to the crew, I am probably going to tell people that the coach is not good. Outsiders, who may only know of my talent, may not understand why I would be told to move on and also question the coach. The team may get a reputation based on my perspective. But it may have been the absolute correct thing for the remaining 19 team members. Coaches and athletes should evaluate things on at least a one year cycle. There will be ups and downs to the season. If you want to have a team meeting or leave the team every time something doesn't go your way, you are in the wrong sport. The highs should at least equal the lows, but there will be lows. And don't blame the coach and the captain when they make a mistake - they are human and they will make mistakes. But understand that most mistakes made by coaches are made because they were trying to do what they thought was best for the crew. If you are on a crew which has "fractured" and some of the team has moved on, by their own choice or otherwise, remember - it's your experience that matters. Don't feel negative because some individuals have evaluated things differently than you - that is normal. If the "fracturing" has been somewhat difficult, it is a good time to feel some empathy for the coach, and to be positive in your actions. Remember, we are all there because we choose to be, spend your time bonding with teammates who have chosen to stay, not worrying about those who left. In your actions try to make it so that people who leave feel they are welcome to return, and ignore any negative comments made by those that leave or by outsiders. If you ignore the rumours, then they will die down quickly, but if you acknowledge them the politics of "fracturing" will consume the crew's energy - energy that should be spent on more positive things. Accept that sometimes, bitter people will take the low road. As the saying goes, "the fool will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience." Resist letting that happen. Dragon Boat teams are large teams - at least 22 people. If the team is meeting your goals and objectives but not meeting the goals and objectives of others, that's normal. Do not base your experience, good or bad, on the experience of others. If a coach or team is basing success on pleasing 100% of the team, 100% of the time, it will fail. Just like in Millionaire, majority conscensus in usually the best you can do.

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