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Top Ten Paddlers You DON’T Want on Your Team: Are You One of Them?

Posted by Kristin Stickels on
Top Ten Paddlers You DON’T Want on Your Team: Are You One of Them?

We’ve all got teammates who aren’t even close to being on our list of “cool people we want to hang out with.” Some drive us crazy, some we can’t stand, and some we just wish would quit the team. What do you do about these teammates? I’m sure you are wishing that I would say to kick them out of the club, right? Sorry. You aren’t going to hear that. A team, like a family, involves all kinds of members with various personalities. And as much as these people might drive us nuts, part of the functioning of a team is to learn to deal with the distinct individuals who make up your club. Of course, if someone is threatening the safety of others, that is a different story, but I’m talking more along the lines of the harmless but annoying personality traits that make each person unique (and sometimes a pain to deal with!).

So, why write about this particular topic? Two reasons. 1) Everyone can relate to it – we all have someone on the team in nearly every category; and 2) You might recognize yourself in one of the categories which perhaps might prompt you to make some changes in yourself as a teammate.

Paddlechica Puff Night Practice Moe Reina

Photo: Monica Reina

1) The Complaining Paddler
Complaining paddlers come to practice and yet never really have the focus or determination to get a real training session in. Their negative attitude and constant whining about difficult drills or practice pieces makes the entire team wonder why they even bother to come to practice.

2) The Victim Paddler
Victim paddlers are always the victim and carry the attitude of “it’s not my fault.” When the coach corrects their technique, the victims give excuses which point to others around them. They are a victim of circumstances, never taking responsibility for any situation. “I can’t rotate because Billy Bob is in front of me and isn’t giving me enough space” or “my timing sucks because Sally Sue behind me is rushing me.”

3) The Know-it-All Paddler
Know-it-all paddlers already know everything about everything, so there is no sense in trying to coach them. They really do know it all. Just ask them.

4) The Defensive Paddler
Defensive paddlers have an immediate retort for each time they are critiqued by the coach. Instead of focusing on the message being conveyed and working to improve technique, they are concerned about how they are being perceived by the team and immediately try to deflect the criticism. Their worry that others might think less of them as a paddler overshadows their desire to improve.

5) The Inflexible Paddler
Inflexible paddlers do not do well with change. Change of practice time, change of venue, change of boat layout, change of leadership, change of technique, you name it, they will struggle with it. And they will typically complain along the way as changes occur, which puts them in the complaining paddler category as well; a bit like a two-for-one discount.

6) The Braggart Paddler
Braggart paddlers are focused on themselves and are the first to let you know how awesome they are. There is no humility. There is no team mentality. They are especially likely to use words such as “I” and “me” and take individual credit for their team’s success. Have you seen how fabulous my stroke is? Did you see how ripped my abs are? Did you notice how fast my time trial was? I’m amazing, just ask me!

7) The Angry Paddler
Angry paddlers fly off the handle at everything and everyone. Can’t find their paddle? They are freaking out. Practice started late? Look out, here comes the rage. At a certain point, this issue might need to be addressed, depending on the severity of it. Anger and rage can be harmful and, if not dealt with, have the potential to worsen over time.

8) The Apathetic Paddler
Apathetic paddlers have no passion for the sport nor the team. They show up sporadically to practice. They don’t work to improve their technique. In fact, everyone wonders why they even joined the team in the first place. Perhaps it was for the social aspect of the club? Maybe they should join a book club instead.

9) The Control Freak Paddler
Control freak paddlers want everything to be done in a specific way: their way. Taking the boat out of the water? Needs to be done like this. Loading the boat? Needs to be done like that. Washing the boat? Do it this way. Obviously there is protocol for certain aspects of the team’s functioning, but control freaks make up “rules” as they go along so that things are done their way.

10) The Irresponsible Paddler
Irresponsible paddlers are not dependable at all. They are never on time, don’t show up to practices, forget when races are, forget to make the hotel reservation, borrow money to pay for races and then forget to pay it back. Not being able to rely on a paddler hurts the team in the long run. What happens when the irresponsible paddler arrives late to a race and misses the first heat? It affects the entire boat!

And a Bonus One: The Chatterbox Paddler
Chatterbox paddlers are incessant talkers. While the coach is trying to explain a drill or practice piece, they are chatting away about their date last Friday night, their pet snake, their kid’s latest success, etc. Their distracting chitchat not only interrupts the team’s focus but also the coach’s directions.

So, whether you recognize the paddlers in these descriptions because of various teammates’ conduct or perhaps because of your own, hopefully this list will help your club members modify behaviors which are not productive to the functioning of the team. Good luck!




Kristin Stickels is a three-time Team USA member of the US National Dragon Boat Racing Team. She is the coach of the Miami team Puff, the Florida Tarpons women's team and the local Breast Cancer Survivors' Team (SOS).

She is also an avid outrigger canoe paddler and raced through the Panama Canal on a native cayuco boat from the Atlantic to the Pacific.


Found out more about Hornet paddles at 

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