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Apr 3, 2012

Inside the mind of a coach..

Before I begin sharing my inner monologue, I want to say how PROUD I am of every single member of our Space Dragons family! This weekend's accomplishments were HUGE! I know they're plastered all over Spacebook, but here they are again:

TWO boats in Division A (a Space Dragons first!)
2nd Place Masters
3rd Place Womens
1st Place Open
1st Place Mixed Division A

This is what we get from all the hard work. It wasn't just the three months starting January 1st. It started last year and has been building ever since. It's the weekday workouts, the hell weeks and the land/core training. It's the on the water Muramoto sets, race pieces, starts and pause drills. It's everyone working together, pushing hard and encouraging each other. It's the die-hards coming out to practice in the wind and the rain.

But it's not only that. When we hit the road to Tempe, our "retirees" wished us luck, and team moms took care of our Spacenauts. At the race site, everyone helped set up and break down the tent area, and during the races, people who just got off a boat were greeted with cheers, water and high-fives from the rest of the paddlers on our team, all of whom were watching the race from the shore. We shared our snacks, shade, sunscreen and drinks, danced to the live band and huddled together for warmth. Even though we work hard, we're still a zaney group that loves to have fun.

All of the above is what makes me feel privileged, honored and just plain lucky to be a Space Dragon.

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Now that I'm done gushing, on to my post-race thoughts! The drive home after Tempe every year is always an opportunity for hours of reflection and discussion about the weekend's happenings, and this year was no different. Here's the glimpse into the discombobulated mind of one coach...

1. Since last year, we've been lucky to have a deep enough roster that there are more qualified, deserving, competitive paddlers than can fit on the Red roster. What does that mean? It'll continue to get harder for us coaches to decide which paddlers belong on which boat roster. For those of you who want to paddle Red, just because you're on Red in Tempe doesn't mean you'll be on it for BabyLB, and vice versa. In fact, the Long Beach races are even tougher because there are only six women and twelve men per roster. The good news? "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars." This is exactly why we've set the same expectation for both Red and Blue. I ask you to do the same. No matter what boat you're on, the other 19 paddlers in your boat deserve your best effort. We've already seen that one club can send two teams into the top division finals. In BigLB and SF, that's the top 8 mixed boats at the tournament. Let's do it this year.

2. We've been calling it the Open boat for a while.. and now it's being put into practice. Our Open boat represents the fastest boat that Space Dragons can put on the water, and in Tempe, we added some ladies to the roster. In BigLB and SF, there aren't enough roster slots to put even all of our men on the roster, so if you want to represent, BE A MAN and claim your seat on the OPEN boat! The ladies are gunning for you; don't let a pink number sneak in above yours on the time trial results!

3. "No battle plan survives contact with the enemy." As much as we coaches try to plan out the seating for every single heat prior to the start of the tournament, there are always things we discover day-of that leave us scrambling to shift things around last minute and can sometimes cause confusion. In the case of Tempe, the best example of this happened with our last Open race. Earlier in the weekend, we found a seating arrangement that worked and made changes to keep that general model for the rest of the tournament. Unfortunately, with the finals races on Sunday running in such quick succession, we weren't able to get those changes on paper in time to execute for the last race, and as a result some of you may be wondering why you weren't in the same seat you were in for the first three heats. Well, the answer is that you probably should've been, haha. We coaches do the best we can, and sometimes things slip through the cracks. We're fortunate to have a team of paddlers that is flexible and focused enough to paddle through anything (and still pull out a victory!).

4. I'm a left side paddler, and by the end of all the finals races, my left leg was dead. Since people favor one side over the other, we try to always put our best foot forward by keeping people on their preferred side. The downside to this is that when we have back to back races, those muscles don't get a rest. The solution? Even out your sides. If everyone could paddle equally well on both sides, in back to back race situations, we can switch the entire boat and be even stronger. This may be a tough goal, but it's a good one to shoot for. Bonus: symmetry is more beautiful anyway, who wants to look like Popeye only on one side?

5. It's so tempting to stay in bed on those cold, windy, rainy days.... but we still run practice. And therefore the white caps at Tempe didn't phase us. 'Nuff said.

6. Was I the only one that thought Sunday's races in the wind and white caps were AWESOME???? The more fun you have with the races, the more invincible you'll be. Not only that, we never gave up. In more than one race, we were behind at the start, and with just 100m left to go, we pulled it out in the finish. How? Because we wanted it, believed we could do it, and trusted our teammates to pull just as hard as we were.

7. We earned this race, but the competition only gets more fierce. Stay modest and keep your eyes on the prize. The season has only just begun.