My best day in Oklahoma City
I spend a lot of time thinking about one's journey to begin canoeing or kayaking.
On this particular Friday evening, a plastic kayak is resting on the dock about six inches above the waters of the Oklahoma River. Sitting in the boat on the dock is Ezra, an 8 year-old who traveled to Oklahoma City from southern California to participate in the Endeavor Games, a multi-sport event geared towards adaptive and Paralympic sports hosted by our friends at University of Central Oklahoma. Reverting to my default setting as a paddling coach leading a first-timer through a short orientation, I ask Ezra to tell me his plan for propelling his boat through the water.
"No problem," Ezra says, "I'm going to put this hand on the paddle like this [placing his right hand on the paddle shaft] and put the other side of the paddle here [tucks the paddle shaft underneath his left armpit where most of us would have a left arm attached] and then go like this [he synchs his right arm paddling motion with a full body contortion on the left side to move the paddle through the water]."
"Awesome," I say, "Off you go."
I push Ezra's boat into the water and just stand in there in amazement as he picks up speed and confidence moving towards the far river bank.
New challenge conquered.
For Ezra, the incredible momentum of acquiring unlikely life experience and skill acquisition spanning eight years strikes again.
For me, ideas about why and how we paddle on the water expand and progress. It's precisely this moment that I am reminded of why I signed up for this job and how fortunate I am to be here during this time. I told the leadership at the Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation this was my single favorite day in Oklahoma City to date.
When our Board Chair, Bob Lally, and I lobbied for USA Canoe/Kayak to serve as the U.S. National Governing Body for the new Paralympic sport of ParaCanoe, neither of us were sure where this journey would lead us. But, it felt like something we needed to do. And so far, we've launched a program that is gaining new awareness, attracting new leadership, generating new resources and ultimately driving better performance from our athletes.
ParaCanoe will make it's debut on the Paralympic program at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
In addition to moments like the one we shared with Ezra a few weeks ago, the last six months have produced some outstanding results for USA Canoe/Kayak. We've increased organizational stability, financial position and diversity in leadership while aligning more resources with targeted High Performance support, new competitive opportunities for our programs and partnerships that will grow the base, impact and sustainability. We are doing really good things for the sport today and yet, we haven't shared this progress with you.
So over the next few weeks, we will make a better efforts to share these steps forward and what they mean to our program.
Thank you for your support.