Dragon Boating – Easy to learn, difficult to master


Games should be easy to learn and difficult to master. They reward the first quarter and the hundredth.

-Nolan Bushnell

This design philosophy has historically and successfully been applied to video game creation since it was first coined by Atari’s Nolan Bushell in 1971.

Today I am going to apply it to dragon boating as I see it to be the reason why this sport becomes so addictive. And it is this addictiveness that a clever coach can use to take their team on a journey to realise their maximum potential. For the rest of this post let’s substitute “dragon boating” for “games”.

The second part of Bushnell’s Theorem addresses the idea of providing paddlers with challenge that scales to the abilities of the paddler. My favourite principle, when plotting out paddler challenges, is the rising saw tooth pattern. Challenges should get progressively harder; then drop slightly to let the paddler feel heroic and powerful. Eventually, the difficulty starts to ramp up again in order to present new challenges to the paddler.

We can provide challenges in dragon boating that are ultimately attainable by the paddler that wishes to spend the time to master them. This is why dragon boating is so addictive — it guarantees a reasonable sense of accomplishment and advancement in the sport if you “have a go”. If you train hard and practice you will certainly get ahead in the world of dragon boating.

So far we have mainly been looking at Bushnell’s Theorem and the saw-tooth pattern as applied to the psychology of the paddler. But the theory can also be applied to the training and fitness side of the paddler.

This saw-tooth pattern is also applied in training programs through:
1. Macrocycles;
2. Mesocycles; and
3. Microcycles

In later posts I will be describing in more detail how to apply these cycles to your crew’s training regime.

So coaches, give your crew challenges and when mastered, allow them to bathe in the glory before pushing them to the next level. Do this and you will find, not only, a much more receptive crew at training but also a fitter and more powerful crew.


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