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Wednesday, 22 May 2019 10:33 pm

St Oran’s girls 2018 dragon boat title all about mental toughness

Apr 17th, 2018 | By | Category: Editor's Picks, Latest News, News

St Oran’s College team members celebrate winning the 2018 Dragon Boating competitions.

St Oran’s College Dragon Boating team members’ minds beat opposition muscle to become A Grade Girls’ secondary school 2018 champions for Wellington.

Alyssa Best, captain of St Oran’s College Dragon Boat team.

Captain Alyssa Best says the win was made possible because everyone came together and showed tough mental ability.

Dragon Boating is one of the fastest growing water sports in the world so it’s not surprising that over the weekend of March 10-11 more than 1500 people competed in 10 dragon boats over 35 races.

Over 6000 spectators enjoyed the early autumn sun as Wellington Harbour came alive with shrieks, chanting, cheering and applause.

The Secondary Schools’ competition had 16 schools competing in the mixed, boys and girls sections, with some schools entering more than one team.

St Oran’s College beat last year’s winner Wellington Girls’ College by just 0.6 of a second.

St Oran’s have participated for the past six years and coach, Alistair McDonald, says he looks for girls who will push themselves further and show “guts” when he is selecting the team.

McDonald has been involved with dragon boating for 30 years and coaching since 1998.

He initially was involved with corporate teams, and since 2012 has coached St Oran’s to win the competition five out of the six years.

However, McDonald says, it’s not about winning.

“It’s about paddling the perfect race in the final.”

He gets his team to focus on the process they need to go through and then try to be the best they can be.

He encourages them all to focus on doing well together as a team.

“No one can be a star. Everyone has their bit to do. Everyone is the same, they have to be in time and pull the water.”

Captain Alyssa says the team wasn’t the biggest or most muscular, so they knew they would need to work on mental strength to win.

“Our mental ability got us through. I’m really proud of the support for each other and how hard they worked as a team.”

Best says she learned how important it is to remain positive as a leader to help keep team spirits up.

“You don’t stop, you have to keep going and keep leading.”

They had two trainings a week on the water, one hour in the boat each session.

McDonald maximised their time on the water, making sure they were the first boat out, and the last boat back in.

Vision and mental side attitude were important and he built on that with theory at lunchtime sessions, roles in the boat and walking through the process.

For example, the start was important and being positive at the start of the race.

McDonald sees many benefits to schools being involved in dragon boating – lifting school spirit, helping students learn things about themselves, developing life skills, growing young people and helping them work out where they want to be.

He is always looking at ways he can help create memories for the students so they can look back in 30 years time and say “remember that day”.

One of his favourite quotes is by Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

He sees his role as a coach as instilling self-belief.

Coach Alistair McDonald ensures the St Oran’s team are focused before the race.


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