A couple of years ago, my wife wanted me to attend an Asian culture festival in Cornelius because some of her co-workers were participating in something called dragon boat racing. I obliged, and we watched her co-workers paddle their way to a first-place finish in their heat. After the race, I could tell that the adrenaline was flowing and that they were having an exciting time. I wanted to get in on the action, as it was obviously an effective team building experience. At the time, SentryOne was comprised of probably 30-40 people and I don't think we had enough women to crew a boat (the rules require a minimum of 8 women paddling on the boat), so I didn't pursue it much further. Over the years, SentryOne went through a metamorphosis and we went from a small shop to a bursting-at-the-seams office. With more than 100 local employees, I decided that I should reinvestigate what it would take for us to field a boat.
In February of this year, I started the ball rolling on filling out a roster to make the dragon boat racing team a reality. Recruiting for the event was an interesting endeavor. I think I approached almost every woman who works at SentryOne about it. There were some last-minute cancellations and additions, but in the end, we came out with a very nice team composition.
The night before the event I was extremely nervous. The weather all week had consisted of torrential rain showers accompanied by rather nasty thunderstorms and the forecast for race day wasn't looking any better. I had serious concerns that some people may not show up. In the world of dragon boat racing, missing 3 people could put us in a position of not being able to race. After a restless night, I awoke at 5 am and arrived at the office an hour later to await the team and make sure that they all got on the bus to take them over to the festival. I drove to the site separately with the tent, chairs, snacks, and beverages. I started to set up a site for our team, but it was pointed out that we had a pre-assigned site, so we had to pull it all down and relocate in the early morning mist. The team sprang into action and made it happen.
Meanwhile, team registration was underway, and I was the first in line. This was the first year they attempted an online waiver system and there were glitches leading to an overall registration delay of 45 minutes for the whole event. So far, things were off to a rather shaky start between the weather and the registration debacle.
Finally, nine o'clock rolled around and it was time for our first race. We boarded our boat and paddled out to the starting line. With four dragon boats in the middle of the lake, gaining alignment to ensure a fair start is a challenge. Once alignment is achieved, the race starts within seconds with little warning. Alignment was achieved, and the starting horn sounded. It was a very abrupt start for us and we were caught a bit off guard. Let’s just say that our start in the first heat was not ideal. We quickly were able to sync up and won our first heat with a time of 1:03.43.
In the lead-up to the second race at noon we had time to review the good, the bad, and the ugly of our first heat. We all agreed that we needed to be hyper focused on our start in the second heat. For the second time, we boarded the boat and made our way to the starting line. This time we all had our heads in the boat. We had an excellent start this time, but we were thrown off by the counting of the boat next to us and fell out of sync briefly. We came in a very close second place in our second heat, losing only by about a half of a second, but still improving to a time of 1:00.34. We had another quick review and targeted our improvement on keeping in sync and tuning out the distractions of the other boats.
Divisions in this competition are seeded based on the combined times of the first and second heat races. The Swashbucklers ended up as the 15th seed out of a field of 49. This put us in the B Minor division, which isn’t too shabby for a first-time team. So ahead of us was the B Major, A Minor, A Major, and the Club division, which consisted of travel teams from as far away as Baltimore.
Suddenly, at 3:15 pm, we got an abrupt call to the staging area. The team hustled over and we quickly realized that we were a person short. There was no time to turn back; the race schedule had to stay on track. Reluctantly, we boarded the boat a paddle short. Once again, we gained alignment with the other boats and the starter horn sounded. Recalling what we had learned from the previous races, we had a solid start and were able to stay in sync and ultimately guided our boat to a victory in the B Minor division. Even though the final times were not yet posted we knew that we won our division as we were a full boat length ahead of second place at the end.
I received word on Monday evening that the times had been posted. I was extremely happy to see that we had a time of 0:56.14. We shaved over 4 seconds off our best time. I started looking at the times of the other teams in our division. Second place was about 2.5 seconds behind us. Then, I saw that our time in the final heat was better than all the community teams, only being bested by three of the traveling club teams. Words can’t state how proud I am of the SentryOne Swashbucklers!
From my perspective, the key to winning a dragon boat race isn’t being bigger and stronger than the other teams. It’s being in sync with your team. It’s putting yourself aside for a moment and being one team rather than a collection of 20 individuals. When you’re truly in sync with the team, you become much greater than the sum of your parts. Imagine being on a boat with 19 strong and capable people that aren’t in sync. What you would see is a lot of paddles hitting each other, a lot of frustration, and very little progress. Compare that to 20 people acting in unison. No clacking paddles, no frustration. Just massive surges of progress.
Working in a high functioning, successful company is very similar. When people put their egos aside and provide clear and accurate communication, they can execute on a plan much quicker and easier than if they’re jockeying for political position or personal advancement over the common good.
We had a lot of challenges that day, ranging from questionable weather to missing teammates. Nevertheless, we rose to the occasion and displayed our S1 Core Values. We showed Innovation in that participating in a competitive event like this had not been attempted before in SentryOne’s history. We showed Agility in being able to persevere despite being a teammate down. We showed Quality by analyzing our races and continually improving to the point of being competitive against club teams. Most of all, we exemplified the culture of SentryOne; a culture of pushing ourselves to our known limits and beyond. Always improving, never relenting.
|SentryOne 2018 Swashbucklers Roster|