by Zoe Musselman
This week Chestnut Hill College spoke with Miles Johnson-Foeman, a second-year student who wants to start a dragon boat club on campus.
While similar to rowing, dragon boating has a rich cultural history. The belief of scholars and anthropologists is that it originated in China more than 2,000 years ago as part of an ancient folk ritual. Dragon boat racing may be a canoe-based water sport, but it has distinct elements that set it apart. For example, crew teams typically have eight rowers, whereas dragon boating has 20. Also, dragon boaters sit facing forward in two rows of 10, using paddles to propel the watercraft forward. The sport often incorporates religious observances and community celebrations into the racing competition, too.
Being so close to the Wissahickon Creek and the Schuylkill River, the College seems like it would be a perfect fit for a dragon boat club. In fact, Philadelphia is home to the International Dragon Boat Festival, which is now in its 18th year. Below is CHC’s interview with Miles, who shared his passion for dragon boating and explained why it would be a great addition to Chestnut Hill College’s existing student clubs.
CHC: How did you get involved in dragon boating?
Miles: I started dragon boating when I was in the 6th grade at C.W. Henry School. The school had a program in conjunction with the Philadelphia Dragon Boat Association. The program allowed students from several schools in the Philadelphia area to sign up for a team called the “Healthy Dragons.” The team would train in boats on the Schuylkill River and ultimately got to participate in the Independence Dragon Boat Regatta in Philadelphia.
What attracted you to the sport?
Dragon boating was new to me. I was unfamiliar with the sport and did not know what to expect. After I went out on the water a few times, I grew to be excited about the teamwork, camaraderie, and friendly competition that was involved. When you are on a team with a solid group of paddlers working toward a goal, you really feel like you belong. Everybody in the boat has a position, so even if you are in the last seat of the boat, how you are paddling is just as important as those toward the front. You know what you are doing is important.
Where are you boating now?
I am paddling with the Pottstown Dragon Warriors in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. We practice at the Pottstown Athletic Club, where they have indoor ergometer equipment and an actual paddle pool. The athletic club supplies the dragon boat, and when the weather is warmer, we practice on the Schuylkill River in Pottstown.
Why do you want to introduce dragon boating as a club at CHC?
As president of the club, I am excited about sharing the benefits of the sport. It is something that has given me confidence and discipline over the last several years. I am passionate about dragon boating because it is an excellent way to get in mental and physical shape, and it is fun! At dragon boat festivals, you can feel the enthusiasm and exhilaration in the air as teams finally get to apply the skills they have learned over the practice season. I believe that feeling of mastery and success would be invaluable to us in the Chestnut Hill College community.
What would you say if you had to pitch the idea of joining a dragon boat club to students?
Dragon boating is one of the fastest growing sports across the country. It encourages strength, endurance, teamwork, and harmony. And mostly it is a blast! As a club sport, it gives students an alternative to the traditional sports on campus. It is an activity that would offer a break from the same routine and give students something fun and interesting to do. It is a sport that you can pick up and excel in at any point of your life. A dragon boat club on campus would be among the few college dragon boat clubs in the area, separating Chestnut Hill College in a great and distinct way.
For more information, please visit the Philadelphia Dragon Boat Association website at www.phillydragonboat.com.