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Drummer In Dragon Boat

Let’s first consider the drummer. This is a position with very traditional roots in the sport. Often an inexperienced team will grab the nearest lightweight person and throw them up at the front of the boat to sit in the drum seat. This is a practical solution, as the position is considered “dead weight.” However, this position is anything but dead.

A good drummer is worth his or her (light)weight in gold. Why is this tiny person so crucial? Your drummer sets the tone for the entire boat. Common perception is that you want your drummer to pump people up and get them motivated, but what you really need is someone to calm the team down and maintain the team’s focus. There is no lack of excitement on race day, especially with a competitive crew. At the start line, the drummer keeps the team focused during what can often be a chaotic moment of lining up multiple boats.

Once the race is underway, the drummer needs to be flexible in terms of modifying the race plan; to recover from a poor start or take advantage of a good one. Along the course, the drummer’s demeanor can keep the boat in control, calmly emphasizing what the team is doing right and giving important technique reminders (i.e. leg drive, lengthen, etc.). The drummer must be confident. The team needs to feel that the drummer knows what he or she is doing. A good drummer is confident enough to play the team’s own strategy. What does this mean? He or she won’t call for powers simply because the boat next to them does. He or she will know the team and know when to ask for more. He or she needs to understand the capacity of the team and should be able to feel the boat; know when it is sagging and needs more power, or sense when it has locked into a powerful, sustainable rate that is edging out the competition stroke-by-stroke. The drummer is the one that the team can count on to watch the action and relay the position on the race course to the team. This allows the paddlers to focus on their job and not be looking out of the boat to see where they are in the race. The drummer also needs to be prepared to hang on for dear life in some situations, uncomfortably grabbing the drum between his or her knees, while the boat handles choppy water, turns, and even the occasional crash. Overall, the drummer is someone who can remain calm under extreme pressure and should be able to provide both positive and negative feedback after the race.

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