We had a chance to sit down for a chat with Tim Smith, the coach for the Premier Open squad of Team GB during a day of training and time trials at the Victoria Recreation Club recently. Coach Smith is running a revolutionary development program across two continents, so we asked him to share his vision with us.
Team GB has a long tradition in dragon boating, having participated in every modern world championship since the inaugural event held in Yue Yang, China in 1995. Having made it to the Premier Open finals in the 11th IDBF World Nations Dragon Boat Championships in Australia last year, Team GB has set its sights higher and is now carrying out a ground-breaking selection and development program where paddlers in Great Britain and Hong Kong are being put through their paces with a view to forming the 2017 squad.
Coach Tim Smith brings a wealth of paddling experience to international level dragon boating. He has been paddling various craft for 35 years, and got involved in dragon boating about 7 years ago. He is now a level 4 performance coach and has been coaching Premier squads since 2013. All this experience shows once one hears him coach his athletes, drawing references from several modalities and integrating them into the Team GB stroke and philosophy.
The initiative has been a long time in the making. In 2014 coach Smith made a stop in Hong Kong and paddled with the Royal X dragon boat team from the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club and started a dialogue with paddlers in the vast British expat community in the city. While there was no time to get a formal program in place for 2015, in 2016 Team GB needed a Hong Kong paddler when one of its women’s squad members became unavailable. Vanessa Watts, from BGC Stormy Dragons stepped up to the plate and the connection was formed. Together with fellow Stormy Vicky Easton, Vanessa has been instrumental in generating interest in the selection process this year, pulling together paddlers from some of the strongest clubs in the city.
All of this supports a simple if ambitious goal of forming a “single squad” team. Coach Smith was emphatic in stating that he had no intention in segregating domestic and expat paddlers into different categories. All the air miles and every hour of training in Hong Kong are focused on producing paddlers who can be easily integrated with the rest of the squad in the upcoming World Championship events. The drive and excitement among the expat paddlers is palpable, as Coach Smith looks for the best of both worlds to help Team GB build up on its success.