I'm not going to sugarcoat it--2014 was a tough year for me as an athlete. I started out January 2014 as a young-newb within a relatively new career sector and was driven to prove myself at all costs. Barely able to string together 2-days of paddling a week, I was generally sleep deprived and confused about how relationships work between my varying interests. Despite my love for each I was taking blindfolded hacks at paddling, freehand jabs at my zealous triathlon goals, as well as half-hearted stabs at (rock) climbing. On a personal level, life was remarkably confusing for much of the time as I struggled to strike a balance between my network of friends within each of the former activities. Sometimes I ended up withdrawing from most simply for the opportunity to gain quiet solitude alone in my own company. Despite that, I kept moving forward as best as I could and often times I remember thinking, "I just need more time--time will make this better." Whatever "this" was, time was always my answer for things that needed fixing. Whether it was dealing with managing time between different aspects of my life as an athlete, coach, friend, etc. or a recurring injury from overtraining, I defaulted to simply letting time fix things I did not want to confront. Reflecting back on the past year has made me realize that that was crap.
Time doesn't fix everything. Time marches on and waits for no one. And if you're not willing to keep up with it, it'll leave you paddling behind in it's wake. I came to realize that while time may help me get better as an athlete (via experience, for example), it's ultimately up to me to do the work to truly improve in my craft. In other words, I needed to dig into the hard stuff, look myself in the mirror, and ask the real question of whether I was truly doing everything I could to make my training situation better, without simply relying on time to facilitate my goals. For me, it was figuring out whether I could realistically train to complete two 70.3 mile triathlon races and have time to balance "everything else."
One important lesson I've come to learn is that if I'm not realizing the goals I want as an athlete, time alone won't get me there unless I'm truly willing to do the work. With the current year coming to a close and a new year pending, I am grateful to be able to build upon the things I've learned and take those lessons into a stronger 2015 year.
In 2015, I am going to let go of the idea of "perfect training." When I started training for my (triathlon) races at the beginning of the year, I wanted consistent improvements (#GainzBruh) in my split times. Although it generally worked out that I made good overall gains in training, general overtraining led to unforeseen injuries that set me back a ton. I learned that ideal athletes don't rely on "perfect training," but rather on perfect adaptation. This year, I'm going to take chances on training my darndest for Club Crew qualifiers. And when challenges happen, I'm going to dig in with old-fashioned grunt work and not rely on time (or sheer talent or experience) to get me there. And even when there's no promise of a return on investment, I'm going to stay positive, commit, and adapt to whatever setbacks I run into.
From new goals, chances, and faces--the new 2015 year marks the start of many new beginnings. Along with this 14th season comes a new set of "MEANIES" (aka coaches) who are all committed in taking you towards your athletic paddling goals. Some of them new to the role, but all of them are motivated and will ever be there for YOU! But just like a painter without a pallet of colors to paint a canvas with, they would be nothing without your continued commitment and effort to make this team what it is today (AMAZING).
Here are some more insights on some important questions to take into the 2015 training seasons from your 2015 Space Dragon Coaching Staff:
a. What makes an ideal athlete?
Emily: Someone who is disciplined and determined, understands that there is no substitute for hard work, takes ownership of his/her own destiny, makes no excuses, embraces teamwork and loves the sport. Someone who appreciates the importance of good nutrition and rest as an integral part of training. Someone who accepts the ebbs and flows in performance, and who plans properly to avoid burnout and knows when to make a push to peak at the right time for a race. Someone who inspires others.
Rod: The ideal athlete is focused, has confidence in their abilities and is respectful of their team mates and opponents.
AJ: The ability to endure suffering. I’m a big believer that becoming great is not a matter of the big things, but the daily small things. If a person can practice for 10 min a day, they’d be better than someone who practiced 2 hours once a week.
Esmer: An ideal athlete is someone that not only he/she can accomplish at their own sport, but someone that is an all around competitive both mentally and physically. The individual(s) would need to be like a sponge and absorb all that is given to them in order to feed and train harder. Positive results. The athlete would need to be a product of his/her sports environment. Further, their success or lack of success in sports doesn't indicate what kind of coach you are, but having an athlete that is coachable, respectful, mentally tough, resilient, tries their best, and a great teammate IS a direct reflection of good coaching for an ideal athlete. Period.
Chris: An ideal athlete isn't someone that's the strongest or fastest. The ideal athlete is someone that doesn't give up--tenacity. The ability to challenge all obstacles that face him/her. This doesn't necessarily mean overcoming problems in one try. The best athletes have gone through so many struggles, hit countless walls, and have fallen repeatedly. The difference between an athlete and an ideal athlete is that ability to get back up and give it another shot. Also, being humble through success is also a great quality in an athlete. I believe that these two traits go hand in hand, as being humble gives you that drive to be great, since there's always more to achieve.
Robert: Ideal to the purpose of an Amateur sport, I feel an ideal athlete would keep the mindset of both competitive edge and fun. Competitive edge reminds him/her that there is always room for improvement, while remembering to have fun keeps the fire burning.
b. What is your greatest accomplishment as an athlete?
Emily: My greatest accomplishment as an athlete is the sub-4:00 marathon. That was the hardest goal I have ever set for myself and was the greatest test of my discipline and determination. I learned that the best way to train is to enlist the support of friends (and many-a-Space Dragons ran parts of my long training runs with me!). I learned what it feels like to not quit even if my body feels like it's falling apart.
Rod: My greatest accomplishment as an athlete is being able to make valuable contributions to the team to the best of my abilities. It’s all about teamwork.
AJ: This is hard question for me because I don’t view things as peaks and troughs. Nor does the result of any competition represent anything except a barometer of where I am at. So, I’d like to say my greatest accomplishment is tomorrow. That every day I am getting stronger and better than I was yesterday. This would be my greatest accomplishment, regardless of the outcome of any event.
Esmer: My greatest accomplishment as an athlete has been in recent days with the Space Dragon team. I know there were other one's in the past, but not as fulfilling than with the rest of my teammates on the water. I love the fact of this team sport whereas we depend on each other and our training as a whole. There's definitely no such "I" when it comes to winning here. There were some tough races in the past which resulted in 2nd place medals due to a mere fraction of a second that I'm still beating myself over. Ugh. We, as a team, must train harder. However, from all the medals, whether it would be a small tourney to a big tourney, I treat every race as a final race. Winning with my team IS the greatest accomplishment.
Chris: If I had to pick something, I'd say the opportunity to be a coach for our team. Team sports have such a great family feeling and I love watching everyone grow not just individually, but as a crew. Being given an opportunity to contribute to that really let me see a wider perspective of what the team needs as well as another perspective to learn from. I'm still learning so much from this position and I know that there's a lot that I don't know, but there are endless opportunities to learn with this team. Just as an athlete, being able to grow alongside my team and family is always one of the greatest accomplishments I could achieve.
Robert: From a competitive POV, my unique opportunity qualify for and to represent on the USACK Team USA Dragon Boat Team in Poland this year was my greatest accomplishment. To compete with Olympic-Level athletes from around the world was both inspiring and humbling. The challenges faced in bringing together 100 athletes from across the country and make them a team made it abundantly clear of the importance of team and the time spent together as teammates.
c. What is your greatest failure as an athlete? Lessons learned (hint: because we learn from failure, right?)?
Emily: Emily Chi never fails. Hypothetically, if I did fail, I would learn that I need to work harder (and that may even include resting more!).
Rod: My greatest failure as an athlete is when I don’t have that perfect balance between outside activities and family. The scales need to be balanced for everything to work well together.
AJ: My greatest failure is any time I’ve quit or failed to put in the necessary work. It happens every day. Last year I would practice paddling a few minutes every day and my time trials went down. Then I got lazy, and my time stagnated. Quitting or failing to put in the work is the only real failure I see. It’s taught me the value of daily diligence. That every advantage is bought through meticulous hard work.
Esmer: My greatest failure as an athlete is when I get injured. At that moment for me, I failed not only in personal performance, but as a teammate as well. I feel as if I let my hardworking teammates down as part of a crew. I know that failure comes in different forms, but it's something we can learn from as an athlete and try to not put ourselves in that predicament. Whether it's an accident out of your control or simply not performing at your highest level, you can bet that the other person/team has deserved the win because they trained hard for it. Hence, train hard, win easy. Nuff said!
Chris: Falling into a rut. Throughout the year there have been times where I go to the gym, but I'm not really training. I'm not pushing myself to be stronger. I'm simply maintaining. Every now and then I lose that mindset, and to me, it's my greatest failure as an athlete. Team sports rely on cooperation from everyone, and I feel as though I failed if I'm not improving for the sake of the team. It's not just for personal fitness, but letting down a team that's working hard to reach new heights and meet higher goals feels disappointing. These failures have taught me that I need a stronger mentality to stay in the game and not let down the crew.
Robert: For me, my biggest failure as an athlete is when I succumb to the lazy monster. It creeps in the shadows waiting for the opportunity to stop us from training. Unless you are injured, DO NOT listen to the lazy monster!
d. Goal for 2015 as an athlete/coach.
Emily: My goal as a coach is to put together a plan to train Space Dragons for the Club Crew qualifiers and the CCWC in Adelaide. My goal as an athlete is to do my part in the training, to pull my weight and then some.
Rod: My goals for 2015 are to be able to perform to the best of my abilities, set a good example for my fellow Space Dragons and get another Golden Paddle Award!
AJ: My goal as an athlete is to go back to work with the lunch pail attitude. I am still far from where I want to be, so I will continue my path shrinking my time in the best way I know how. I want every day to be my “greatest accomplishment”. My goal as a coach is to make each paddler better than they were the practice before. Since I’m new coaching, there’ll be a lot to learn in how to make people improve and motivate them to getting better. So it’ll take a lot of diligence and acceptance of harsh criticism to get there :)
Esmer: I'll keep this basic. But my goals as both an athlete and/or coach would be to get my other teammates, as well as myself, involved and excited about training hard(er) again to succeed in the upcoming season. We need full team participation for our workouts, from the weekends on the water to the gym off the water and including Hell Week. Honestly, I could count the number of paddlers participating in Hell Week in past seasons! Last I recall, there are 19 other seats on one boat. Remember, we have three boats. So I trust everyone can/will do their part. However, moving forward to a new season with lots of new blood on the team, I'm hopeful for healthier and smarter workouts. I know we can't predict the future, but let's ALL try to stay healthy and avoid unnecessary injuries, including yours truly. =) Once we all can attain these factors, we'll win races over and over together. Let's do this, team!!
Chris: Both as an athlete and coach, I want 2015 to be about growth. Growth as individuals and as a team. As an individual, I want my growth to include personal fitness and being a better coach. As a coach, my goals are to help Space Dragons as a whole reach their potential. From foundation to power to endurance, I want to see each paddler improve regardless of where they stack against each other. Like I mentioned before, paddlers that don't give up can be that driving force behind our growth as a crew, and as a coach I would love to see that drive in everyone that represents the Space family.
Robert: As an athlete, my goal is get stronger and cleaner. As a coach I want to lead by example