Last Charge of the Spartan Dragons

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Last Charge: The burst of speed in the final stretch of a dragon boat race, where rowers expend all their energy to reach the finish line.

The Army Dragon Boat Regatta 2018 came to an end. Victories were won, tears were shed and memories were forged. As a racing season comes to a close, it is time to reflect back at the reasons and motivations behind the sport, particularly for the Spartan Dragons.

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1. Do What You Love

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” - Confucius

First of all, I would like to thank the Spartan Dragons for letting me do the things I love. While the rest of us might wake up on a Monday morning groaning with the Monday blues, we were enjoying a waterfront sunrise, basking on the waters, toured the bay area, strolled through parks. Dragon boat has become one of my passions over the years and I am glad to be able to share it with the team. If at first you joined just to try something new, I hope you found a new sport you like. Not everyone get to love every single day of their lives. So thank you for letting me wake up looking forward to the day ahead and go to sleep excited for the next day. This is very much one of the reasons I signed on.

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2. Team Spirit

“Nothing creates loyalty and national consciousness more speedily and more thoroughly than participation in defence and membership of the armed forces” - then-Defence Minister Goh Keng Swee (13 March 1967)

By now, at the end of the race, you look to your left and right, what do you see? I don’t see a bunch of tired soldiers who didn’t get the podium finish they wanted. I see a single, united team, who trained to fight tooth and nail for a shared purpose. Not every day do you see soldiers from different companies, cliques, education training together, eating at the cookhouse at the same table, shouting their lungs out to cheer each other on.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Unlike individual sports, dragon boat is all about team coordination and chemistry. We are only as fast as our slowest rower. That was why training revolved not just around building individual fitness, but also team synergy. It was all about pushing each other to finish together and performing synchronised movements. The result is having the whole team improve to a comparatively even level so the boat can row as one.

If the purpose of NS is to unite Singaporeans regardless of language, race or religion, then participation in dragon boat has become quintessential of the Singaporean spirit. Even if not for competition, the sport can likewise be used for cohesion. It is no wonder that the Army has adopted it as its signature sport. 

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3. Culture of Fitness

In Brian Tracy’s 7 Steps to Developing a New Habit, he mentions says that it takes 21 days to develop a habit. The final 3 weeks leading up to the race have certainly ingrained a fitness routine in our everyday lives. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday would start off with sea training. In between those were land training in the morning and pool training in the afternoon. Then there were light runs and PT in between, along with a pull-up regime at every meal time. Even if we were not motivated or do not feel fully energised, these training have become routine and we went on with it regardless. Surprisingly, even our rowing performance became consistent regardless of our inclinations.

Essentially, fitness has become a habit in each of us. With consistent training, slowly but surely we will improve. Dragon boat merely added an element of fun and team spirit into the habit. Similarly can be said of other sports. This culture of fitness can last long after the dragon boat season is over. With this habit, anyone can come forward to lead fitness training, not just commanders. 

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So I hope that everyday at 7am, you feel restless for not doing any PT.

I hope that whenever you pass by a pull-up bar, you itch to mount it.

I hope that whenever you go to the cookhouse, your hands feel light and empty.

Because you once were, and always will be, not just Spartans, but

Spartan Dragons. 

M. Farhan Rais