The following post has been adapted from essays and statements written and submitted for a professional context/setting. Thus, be mindful in its usage, but please also share as an inspiration for others to write about dragonboating and the impact it has made in their lives in their journey, pursuit of professional advancement, and higher education.
It is not until I find common ground in conversation or demonstrate compassion that I am able to penetrate the patient-provider barrier, coach-athlete wall, and galvanize a once uninspired individual to bring about change.
The byproduct of practicing professionalism is the ability to build trust, which is paramount to building relationships with clients and practicing Physical Therapy and as a coach. As a coach, PT aide, and student, I have built the capacity to act as a professional, namely through virtues of excellence, accountability, compassion, and integrity.
As a dragonboat coach, much as I would as a PT, we build trust and gain compliance through a commitment to excellence and integrity. We first offered excellence by creating a 6 week program that drew from research-based studies on optimal sports performance( DUP-Block Methods from Cal Dietz’s Triphasic Training ). In addition, in delineating program specifics to the team, we effectively stymied concerns, and gained our member’s trust. Only when excellence was communicated were we able to gain our athlete’s buy in. Coaching also taught me the value of practicing integrity & accountability; to be aboveboard in promises and expectations of athletes was paramount in building trust through professionalism. For example, efforts to start and end practices on time showed athletes that coaches were mindful of other duties. Executing outlined expectations/workouts for a particular practice further allowed athletes to place trust in the seriousness of my plans for the team.
The importance of these lessons can be applied in coaching any sport. Responsible for most of USPA Powerlifter, Tiffani’s, training – it is my professional duty to her to offer excellence not only by outlining the validity and academic inspirations that the workouts drew from, but also actively educate the ahtlete so that they do not just go through the motions but then become engaged in their training. This not only leads to a better mind-body connection, but often leads to tangible results.
Lastly, through my experiences in and out of a clinic, I have learned to breach the perceived didactic role of teacher and mollify patient vulnerability with compassion by sharing details of my own life, while empathizing with details from theirs. It is not until I find common ground in conversation or demonstrate compassion that I am able to penetrate the patient-provider barrier, coach-athlete wall, and galvanize a once uninspired individual to bring about change. Teaching with integrity, however, in addition to compassion, is as of equal importance in eliciting trust. Allowing for short cuts in performance would inevitably short change the patient’s/athlete’s progression. Thus, when exercises are difficult, it is crucial to ask for their best efforts and relate expectations. Furthermore, the integrity to also be forward with my own shortcomings and seek help when needed, make for a professional and rewarding experience for every party involved.
Community & Edcuation
But why should any athlete listen to my advice, no matter how excellent, compassionate, and professional my coaching may be?
While scholastics in Chinese culture belied the benefits of exercise, participating in sports such as basketball and dragonboating established my sense of duty to not only spread the importance of education, but also the education of health, wellness, and fitness to change the perception of exercise in Chinese-American culture.
In college, I influenced the Chinese-American community on campus as president of the Chinese Student Association and founded a college dragon boat team. The dragon boat community introduced to me the benefits of exercise, & contributed to my mastery of teamwork, leadership, discipline. Unfortunately, I found it was also a community that showed a considerable lack of knowledge in injury prevention. Most of the people who endured injuries had no education for rehabilitation. Through coaching, I realized how little education I received in my life on sports performance & injury prevention. Intrinsically, I sought education from various resources, and learned to rely on research articles from sports journals & videos on mobility created by Physical Therapists, such as Dr. Kelly Starrett. I serendipitously had my first encounter with the profession of Physical Therapy, and saw the knowledge and influence to community he attained through his graduate education.
As a community leader, I can continue to enact conversation in the dragon boat community through the inception of the community’s only podcast, give basic mobility recommendations, and implement scientific studies as coach of a competitive adult team. But why should any athlete listen to my advice, no matter how excellent, compassionate, and professional my coaching may be? After all, there are no certifications or degrees that I have to support my independent studies. Without further education and attaining a Graduate Degree, I have also found it difficult to directly affect the Chinese-American community to change its stance on the importance of the body. Thus, I developed a vision where I could promote wellness to my community by utilizing outreach and a Doctorate in Physical Therapy.
The Role of a Physical Therapist & Coaching
A life guard saves you when you are already drowning, while a swim coach, gives you instruction and gives you the tools to actually swim.
Physical Therapists are charged with roles as healers & coaches. One way we help with immediate rehabilitation, as an aide, is through teaching corrective exercises. In one instance, by having a right-knee patient perform ‘step-downs’, I provided an immediate means to rehabilitation, motor control, strength, and function. In doing so, however, I also served as a coach & teacher. In addition to the physical rehabilitation attained from performing the exercise, I am then given the opportunity to educate the patient on the importance and proper technique of their exercise. Thus, this patient who coincidentally suffered from minor instability in the other knee, was empowered with not only the know-how & why in rehabilitating the original knee, but can now be proactive in strengthening the other. Comparably, the physical therapists that I observe manage needs of patients by first performing manual therapy to facilitate change, dovetailed by educating patients, and prescribing rehabilitation programs, stretches, & exercises to prevent further harm and strengthen supporting parts to the injury.
As a dragonboat coach, I get to participate in the education and the training, but I seldom if at all, engage in an athlete’s immediate recovery, the way a doctor or surgeon would. This phenomenon…is best summarized by Greg Glassman’s, founder of CrossFit, analogy. A life guard saves you when you are already drowning, while a swim coach, gives you instruction and gives you the tools to actually swim. While medical doctors, surgeons, and nurses, just as lifeguards, are there to save lives in emergencies, and give immediate care, they do not teach us how to properly train after surgery, or how to take preventative measures. Nor do coaches and trainers, much like a swim coach, engage in resuscitation and treatment. Physical Therapists get the distinction of being both the lifeguard and swim coach at once – both engaging in the immediate treatment of a patient, and programming of future rehabilitation. As such, the practice of Physical Therapy will allow me to not only treat patients as other health-care providers do, whilst also allowing me to develop my leadership and skills as a coach and practice my love for coaching & educating in the community.