Dragon Boat Coaching Tips

Coaching Tips

People have come together to learn a new skill, exercise andhave a good time. Always remain positive and treat everyone with dignity and respect. Make sure everyone is familiar with the safety procedure to follow in case of an emergency. It is your responsibility to stay within the scheduled practice time and return to shore no later than 5 minutes before the other team is to depart.

Seven Steps of the Technique

  • Rotation
  • Reach Extension
  • Top Arm Drive
  • Catch
  • Pull
  • Exit
  • Recovery

How To Sit In The Boat

  • Outside hip forward
  • Inside hip back
  • Outside leg extended along the gunnel
  • Inside foot under the seat


  • Front row paddles for 10, 2nd row joins in, etc., etc., etc., etc
  • Front half of the boat paddles for 20
  • Second half of the boat paddles for 20
  • Every other seat paddles for 20
  • Pause at the front of the stroke
  • Pause at the back of the stroke


  • 10 long hard deep strokes
  • 10 shorter faster strokes
  • Lengthen for 20
  • Continue as needed

Tips for a new Steersperson

  1. Meet with your Drummer before you load the boat and clarify that the Steersperson is in charge of navigation, giving commands and boat safety. It’s a good idea to have a whistle with you, on a lanyard around your neck or clipped to your PFD. Having a cell phone in a waterproof holder is up to you.
    • Loading and unloading the boat must be done in a controlled manner, one seat at a time, and the boat must be balanced side to side. Ways to load, front to back, back to front, from the middle first.
    • Review starting and stopping the boat and terminology.
  2. Once the boat is loaded, conduct a pre-launch safety briefing:
    • Introduce yourself and the Drummer
    • Determine the experience level of the crew and Drummer
    • Explain who is going to be responsible for what
    • Go over the commands you expect to use, including the ones the Steersperson may use in an emergency:
      • Sit ready, paddles up, take it away (or whatever the crew is used to)
      • Let it run, hold water
      • Back
      • Draw left/right
    • Remind the crew about a quiet boat and the importance of paying attention while paddling or maneuvering. Talking is OK during rest periods only
    • Have people identify their “seat buddies”.
    • Go over the “flipping” (capsizing) instructions:
      • If stuck under the boat, don’t panic. Find the edge and move under it to the outside of the boat.
      • Once up, find your seat buddy
      • The Steersperson does the head count and may designate a strong swimmer to search under the boat.
      • Don’t swim away from the boat. It will continue to float even full of water.
      • Get attention (with your whistle).
      • If help is slow to arrive, stay with the boat and try to move it towards the shore.
    • Ask for any questions
  3. When you are ready to launch, remind the crew to push away from the dock with their hands, not with their paddles, and not to get their fingers in between the boat and the dock. The command is “One hand on the dock”, pause, “Ready”, pause “Shove”.

Good Steering Technique Tips

  • When maneuvering a moving boat, your steering oar almost always stays in the water. The only exception is if you are making a turn and your arms are all the way out (boat turning to starboard-right), or the oar is pushing you over the side (boat turning to port-left). Then you want to reposition the oar, and continue the turn without falling overboard
    • If you are moving slowly, keep most/all of the oar blade in the water
    • If you are moving fast, you can reduce the amount of oar blade in the water
    • It takes less oar blade to steer a fast moving boat. It also reduces drag
  • A slightly crouched forward position is probably the best to begin, one foot forward, one back. Two hands on the sweep oar until you get comfortable with boat, crew, wing, weather and current.
  • Steer by identifying a point on the bank, and lining it up with your drummers head. Keeping your drummers head on that point keeps you on a nice straight course. When you need to turn, pick a new point, turn to it, and hold it.
  • Small course adjustments are ALWAYS better than big ones. They have less impact of boat stability, it’s easier on you, and it reduces the chance that you have to make big adjustments because the boat got away from you.
  • Remember that one of your tools is the ability to direct the paddlers. The crew may be doing a drill or race piece under the direction of the drummer, but if you need something, they are yours to command. Boat safety takes precedence over everything. They are your accelerator and your brakes.
  • Watch out for other boats, kayaks, buoys, etc. Look behind you every so often, just like when driving.
  • Best way to flip a dragon boat? Get going fast, win a race, your paddlers all going “wahoo” with their paddles up in the air, the boat turns and flips over.