by Christine Carey, KAB member

A team isn’t built in a day. It takes years of learning a stroke technique (and then re-learning a new stroke), adaptability within the dragon boat and desire to succeed. Building on the expert coaching from Kathy Levy, Knot A Breast Breast Cancer Survivor Dragon Boat Team has exemplified the definition of teamwork and demonstrated that great things can come from a difficult journey. The fundamental meaning of TEAM, Together Everyone Achieves More, remains a guiding principle for Knot A Breast in the dragon boat and as a cancer support group on land.

Recognizing that similar teamwork values remain the foundation and strength of effective companies, Knot A Breast provided a Team Building Opportunity for Stryker employees on July 26, 2019 at the Macassa Bay Yacht Club. Learning the intricate details of the stroke and role of each section in the boat, about 15 Stryker employees learned the importance of working together to achieve the goal of moving a one ton dragon boat (and of course, not tipping the boat). It was an hour of fun, under the hot sun, where Stryker was able to experience the success of working as a TEAM.

Stryker is one of the world’s leading medical technology companies and, together with their customers, is driven to make healthcare better. They offer innovative products and services in Orthopaedics, Medical and Surgical, and Neurotechnology and Spine that help improve patient and hospital outcomes. Stryker has about 38,000 employees worldwide and is #8 on Fortune’s World’s Best Workplaces in 2019. Stryker Canada headquarters is located in a new facility in Waterdown, Ontario.

The corporate team building event touched on the individual elements of what helps a team succeed, both in the boat and at the workplace.

TOGETHER: Teams are more than just a collection of people; together poeple produce synergy and create an outcome that is greater than the simple sum of its individual members.

  • As in the workplace, the paddlers learned that various complementary strengths work together and move the dragon boat with greater ease.
  • Effective communication and collaboration in the boat helped Stryker successfully complete a 200m paddle.
Knot A Breast Coach Kathy coaching the Stryker employees about the essentials of dragon boating

EVERYONE: An effective team environment encourages people to realize and appreciate the strengths and unique contribution of everyone on their team.

  • The paddlers experienced the strengths and critical roles of each section within the dragon boat (Pacers first three seats, Engine Room next four seats and Rockets last three seats), a skill that will undoubtedly be beneficial in group projects too!  
  • Although assigned individual seats in the boat, paddlers were exposed to the role of each section, and that everyone has something to contribute to the team’s success.
Stryker employees with paddles up ready to move the boat as one team

ACHIEVES: Competition leads people to do their personal best, however excessive workplace competition can be counter-productive, ultimately affecting team objectives and company culture.  

  • Stryker employees had the opportunity to meet some of Knot A Breast’s Breast Cancer Survivor paddlers and learn how they overcame the challenges of breast cancer and their determination in leading a healthy life after cancer. They learned about the support offered to all members and their families. 
  • The paddlers learned the value of encouragement on the dragon boat and the importance of trusting your crew.
Stryker employees digging deep with encouragement from Coach Kathy

MORE: Teams are effective in achieving challenging goals when its members share knowledge and communicate well. They become even more effective when leadership and overall performance accountability is shared among its members. 

  • Observing the benefit of effective coaching and concise communication from Coach Kathy, there was noticeable progress in moving the dragon boat and improved individual performance from all paddlers.
  • Stryker learned to appreciate how the careful development of skills can improve overall confidence and better performance to achieve more.
  • They also experienced how positive activities and social bonding outside the workplace can unite employees and improve company dynamics.

Following the success of this Team Building Event, Knot A Breast plans to continue providing similar corporate team building opportunities in 2020!  We look forward to building on our successes and sharing the enjoyment of the team sport of dragon boating.

For more information on a Team Building Event with Knot A Breast Dragon Boat Team please contact us.

by Carolyn Lucier, KAB member

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Dear Diary,

Hey, it’s me (again). Today was a BIG day! I participated in my first dragon boat race with the Knot A Breast (KAB) Breast Cancer Survivor Team at the Hamilton Waterfest Dragon Boat Festival.

I am what KAB calls a “newbie”. As new members of this high-caliber team, we spend our first year learning the dragon boat paddling technique, and how the team works together to move the boat, and we get to race in one “newbie race”. For me, that was Waterfest.

That’s me, on the left with the other 2019 “newbies” and Coach Kathy, 4th from the left.

There was so much going through my mind and body: the butterflies at the starting line, the adrenaline pumping as we fought our way through those 200 metres, my desire to do my best for our team. As I’ve gotten older, the adage “a first time for everything” has been used less and less… but not today! The exhilaration of doing something new is even better now than it ever was, especially thinking back to where I’ve been over the past few years.

And coming off the water today, that’s exactly what I was doing – thinking back to everything that brought me to that moment. Isn’t it strange how some of the best things can come out of our worst moments? Going through a life-altering event like breast cancer really made me realize how important my health was, and what I had to lose (and when you only have one body, that means everything). Anyways, you know how I started off slow, walking around the neighbourhood and paddle boarding at the cottage, inching my way towards going to the gym (the gym!). Finally, after meeting with other members of Knot A Breast, I took the plunge and joined the team at winter indoor training.

That’s our team, lane 4, 2nd from the left, at the start line with a mixture of butterflies and adrenaline!

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer and started noticing negative changes in my body, I vowed to get out of that place. Now, I only notice positive changes – I can do jumping jacks again!! I am in the best physical shape I’ve been in, in a long time. And I’ve been inducted into a community of amazing women that I can learn from and share with. Their mentorship and strength have been exactly the things I needed to push me along on this journey. I don’t look at Knot A Breast as being a group of women with breast cancer, I see us as a group of women committed to our goals, our health, and each other. Through every missed stroke (many!) and every accidental splash (sorry!), I have stayed motivated through my team’s words of encouragement.

And here I am! The race is over, my blood is pumping, and it feels sooooooo gooooood to be in this place. I knew what was important in my life all along, it just took a little coaxing, you know? I know you know. Anyways, that’s enough for today, dear Diary; I think the harbour water is going to my head!

With gratitude, Carolyn

PS: We won a bronze medal!