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Take the Gold

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Tampa, here we come!

I paddle on a dragon boat team called the KC Pink Warriors. Our team founder paddled with a team in Tampa for a bit, igniting her fire for the sport. When she and her family moved to Kansas, she wanted to bring the sport of dragon boating with her to the Midwest. She formed our team four years ago. At first, we didn’t have a boat or even a home on the water. The team was truly built from the ground up, utilizing yard sticks, benches, and boxes for practice. It’s a team sport in a long boat with 20 paddlers, a drummer, and a steer. We recently competed in our first international race in Vancouver, BC, taking gold in the Breast Cancer Cup 100m sprint and placing respectfully in the Women’s Division.

Each member of our boat has a job. Mostly it’s “paddle like the dickens” but it is a team sport. Rule number one: Heads in the boat. Focus on what is happening in our boat. Any other distraction is wasted energy and takes the focus away from the goal: the finish line. 

Rule number two: We must be in sync. Timing is everything. We follow the lead pacer. Whatever they do, we do. That is our job, to be reactive and keep time. We give up control to our leader, we follow commands from our drummer who motivates us and our steer who keeps us safe.

It’s a fierce sprint, whether we are doing 100m, 200m, or 500m races. 

Let me take you into the boat for perspective:  From a dead start, we take our first stroke in undisturbed water. The paddle is hard to move—a lot of strength and pressure is required. We must break the surface tension between the boat and the water with a few more powerful strokes. Once we are moving, we need to quickly increase the pace to lift the boat out of the water and decrease the drag. After a few fast strokes, the boat lurches forward with power, triggering us to transition to our “race pace.” We take long, steady strokes as we try to keep our endurance up. The longer the race, the more effort it takes. We get tired, we get a reminder: “Power now!” This is a refocus toward our form, our effort. We put in all we have, remembering to breathe along the way. We are nearing the finish line; the drummer calls the finish. Even though we are spent, we leave it all on the water. Every paddler in the boat, every single stroke made, makes a difference. 

It’s more than just a win for our team. You see, we are all breast cancer survivors. We have already won at life. We love to win races, but we also love to encourage other teams and share in the glory of what we can do. We celebrate together.

Have you ever considered that the TCA is a team sport? Well, I do. But it’s the community of teams that makes it enjoyable. Our members, no matter what team they are on, come to events and motivate each other; they offer advice, they share failures and successes. We teach, train, mentor, and, yes, compete against each other. These are the most rewarding things we do. Although we do compete, we have each other’s backs. The members of the TCA have a common goal: To promote tilt-up to owners, developers, architects, engineers, and anyone who will listen. Our goal is to advance our industry with exciting new innovations.

It’s that winning attitude that attracted me to this organization many years ago—25 years in the making, as a matter of fact. I feel like getting the privilege of serving as president of the TCA is as close to taking the gold as this “sport” has to offer, and I am proud of our member community.

I want to encourage you to contribute as much as you can to the betterment of our industry. We are a team, and we all focus on the goal. We have overcome many barriers, yet we keep pushing for more. We keep striving toward perfection.

We celebrate our accomplishments together. Every record broken by any team is a win for us all. I encourage you to come to Tampa, be a team member, be a team leader, network, and share with other teams. 

Come take the gold. 

Karen S. Hand

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TILT-UP TODAY, a publication of the Tilt-Up Concrete Association, is THE source for Tilt-Up industry news, market intelligence, business strategies, technical solutions, product information, and other resources for professionals in the Tilt-Up industry. A subscription to TILT-UP TODAY is included in a TCA membership. Subscriptions for potential TCA members are also available. If you would like to receive a complimentary subscription to the publication, please contact the TCA.