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The "Yutes" are the Youth division on the Philadelphia Dragon Boat Association. The team is currently recruiting members from ages 12 through 18. Many of the team members have participated in festivals and regattas both locally and abroad as members of Team USA!
Coach Chris Marquart and I had a blast coaching our PDBA Youth this year in 2015 – what an awesome group! They truly are an inspiring, mature, talented, fun, motivated, giving and caring group of teens – with wonderful supportive families. And, to top it off, they are very talented paddlers.
We started out in December and went through April with paddle pool sessions to work on technique and conditioning. In April we went up to NY to compete in the Indoor Erg Regatta where every PDBA Yute participant won at least 1 medal! The next phase of training was on the water starting mid-April. While school was in session practices were twice a week – Tuesday night and Saturday morning. Once school was out we went to 4 practices a week adding in Wednesday and Thursday nights. The yutes are fully responsible for practice - getting the boat and gear ready and stowing after practice.
This past year a primary focus for Chris and I was on preparing the yutes for a chance to make the USA team and compete in the World Championships in Welland, Canada. Through their dedication and hard work many of our yutes became a part of Team USA. The USA U16 and U18 youth teams had paddlers from PA, NJ, NY, CA, FLA, and DC/MD. The PDBA was strongly represented and our paddlers did great. The USA Youth teams won silver in 6 of their races!
On top of racing in the Worlds we also did several local races to test ourselves and continue developing our power and capabilities. In each of these festivals we competed in the highest level of competition available - racing against adult teams. Our team usually had an average age of about 15.2 . Each festival – and race - we improved. We beat several good adult teams along the way building our confidence and reveling in what we accomplished. It culminated in our final race in Bucks County where our explosive sprint finish earned us silver medals! To wrap up the season we did our first round of physical testing – push ups, pull ups, erg pieces, 1.5 mile run, etc. We have set our base level – next year we explode past that to the next highest level – raising the bar each time we reach it.
Competition and winning is an important focal point for the Yutes. And it provides the catalyst/meat/purpose for the true goals of the youth team. I express one of those important goals like this - “the experience and knowledge that they create their own lives”. They chose to show up, practice hard, train and give of themselves – or not. Regardless the result they get, the ‘life’ they create in paddling, is a result of their own effort and work. It does take a village (parents, family, coaches, team) but the paddler does the work to take advantage of the opportunity they are provided. That is one of the life lesson the PDBA Yutes team offers paddlers.
This next year schedule will follow close to this past year: Paddle Pool Sat mornings 8-10 AM(from Jan – March), on water practice Tues and Sat morning during school (end of April – June), and add in Wed and Thurs practice once school ends (July – Aug). Since no worlds in 2016 we plan on doing 6 races this year – a bit more than 1 a month – ending in September. Yutes – aged 12ish to 19ish come join us and the team – and parents welcome also. We have room, we are growing – and we want to share the fun!
Finally - on behalf of all the youth, their parents, our team managers and the coaches - I offer a huge thank you to the entire PDBA and all the adult members (an important part of the youth ‘village’). Your continued support and encouragement of the youth has been steady, uncompromising and vital. The yutes know how much you support them and they do their best to show their thanks and appreciation in actions - by their behavior, conduct and hard work in practice.
I’ll end with a common phrase heard during a yutes practice ….
“You chose to be here! So how much can you give today? How much better/stronger/faster do you want to get … today … right now? Then Give It!!! “
PDBA Youth Assistant Coach