Ever turned up to a conference where you personally knew no one?

Takes a bit of courage don’t you reckon?

What if that conference was about a sport you knew nothing about nor had ever tried in your life?

You’d have to be crazy to even consider it, right?

Well this is exactly what I did on the long weekend 2nd October to 4th October 2009.

The Game Plan
In early 2009, Dragon Boats NSW (DBNSW) had applied for and received a government grant from the NSW Department of Sport & Recreation to promote women in sport, with a strategic view to conduct a weekend workshop to provide a comprehensive and tailored overview specifically for women. It’s other main purpose, to encourage women from other Dragon Boat clubs in NSW to attend – and network. So off to the Sydney Academy of Sport at Narrabeen we went, approximately 40 women from various DB clubs all over NSW, for this inaugural event.

Are You Ready?
The workshop kick started on the Friday evening with dinner and a Dragon Boat trivia competition to warm up the networking. By the start of the Saturday morning session, after a Yoga session from Darren Ma and breakfast, you won’t have believed that 24 hours previously, none of these women knew each other ! The networking had really taken off with clubs mingling and the hot topic, the World Championships at Prague . We were fortunate to have several of the AUSquad members attend and hear their personal stories – and we even got to touch that infamous gold medal from the Masters Mixed 500m! If you weren’t hooked on the sport beforehand, you definitely were after meeting these elite athletes. Their passion for the sport was contagious!

Paddles Up
Saturday was an interactive day of overivews from both a big picture, club and individual level viewpoint .

Morning session :
Julie Stafford from the NSW Sports Federation covered leadership topics such as :

Personality traits
Communication – including how clubs communicate
How men and women relate in sport
Role models , Mentoring
Managing & implementing change

Afternoon session:
A panel discussion on Coaching with George Louie, Amanda Wyllie, Chris McGowan and Chris Alexandrou and feedback from Griff (Head of GB Women’s Coaching) and Bob McNamara (Head US Coach):

Dealing with conflict
How to build a team
Differences between men & women in training, geeing up
Going from open/women to mixed compositions

This was then followed by another panel discussion, this time on Officiating with Karen Taylor, Simon Freke & Melanie Cantwell. :

How and why they got into officiating
Why would they encourage others to officiate
How to deal with a difficult scenario, including personal war stories

And then, the inevitable when you have 40 passionate paddlers around you .We went dragon boating on the lake. The girls were wonderful in giving me my very first ever DB paddle, one novice and 19 coaches in one boat – now that’s scary!

Evening session:
Probably the weekend highlight for me, personal stories from two "Inspirational Women in Sport":

Kyla Bremma – current Australian Olympic Women’s Wrestler (our first ever in history)

Lyn Fowlie – Australian Olympic Swim Team Manager for 1996, 2000,2008 Olympic Games

Bring it Home
Sunday’s morning wake up call was a boot camp by Diana Dent, a big breakfast and then on for the ‘inner self’ view.
Morning session :
Presentations from Gavin Godfrey, Diana Dent and Deb Cooper on :

Anatomy & Physique – peak performance
Weight training & Clothing
Menstruation, menopause, pregnancy
Naturopathy – essential vitamins & minerals for women

Afternoon session:
Gavin Godfrey stayed on to discuss Motivation in sport with:

Aggression and how to deal with it
Confidence (in your own ability & the team)
Communication (individual v group)
Dealing with success & failure

The Debrief
I’d like to personally thank from PD’s Lisa Green, Nicola Frowen and Michelle Hone (my roomy) for making me feeling very welcome, answering my zillion questions and getting to know them – and their absolute passion and commitment to the sport. It was an amazing weekend. With some of the sport’s elite athletes, coaches and knowledge experts empowering you to do better, to strive for more and giving you the tools. This was an investment like no other, and DB NSW should be congratulated on strategically stepping up the sport to a new level for women. And hey, I also got my very first dragon boat paddle – what more can I say than…..Paddles Up !