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Out of Left Field: How Rotman’s dragon boat team is facing the pandemic

Liquid Assets talks pre-COVID-19 training, plans for the future
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REBECA MOYA/THE VARSITY
REBECA MOYA/THE VARSITY

It’s been hard for clubs to create a sense of community during COVID-19, especially clubs that focus on athletics. How do you train together and keep team morale up as the seasons start to change? One team that is tenaciously keeping their community alive is Rotman Commerce’s dragon boat team, Liquid Assets. 

Dragon boating consists of 20 paddlers, a cox who steers from the rear, and a drummer at the front. The sport originated in China over 2,000 years ago from a superstition that the races would promote prosperous crops. 

Liquid Assets, the 2018 national and world university champions, are a force to be reckoned with. Mariam Bacchus, Vicki Zhang, and Maria Fahim are all in leadership roles in the club; Bacchus is a trainer, Zhang is a trainer and the public relations officer, and Fahim is co-captain. The three of them spoke to The Varsity about how they are working hard this year to keep Liquid Assets exciting for its members.  

Pre-pandemic, the team was practicing in full-swing: “Generally, we do one to two sessions during the week [for on-land training] and then one weekend session where we all try to get together as a team instead of just small groups,” said Bacchus. 

During these sessions, the team does one hour of weight lifting and one hour of cardio. “Usually, we start around May and then go until the end of summer. We do morning practices maybe two times a week and then one weekend practice.”

With so many group sessions during a regular season, the team had to come up with ways to keep their athletes engaged while adhering to the province’s pandemic guidelines. Zhang spoke about how they moved all of their weekly sessions to Zoom, with three to five sessions a day that people could choose from.

“As for Saturday practices… we’ve had to move outdoors, so now we practice at a park at Christie Pits,” Zhang said. “Throughout the entire two-hour session, we are strongly mandating physical distancing [and] masks if you can’t physically distance. When we work out, we’re spaced as far apart as possible.”

Zhang continued, “[Before COVID-19], there were 40–50 people [at these practices]. Because that is against Ontario bylaws currently, we split that into two sessions.” 

Moving forward, the team is looking into more creative and immersive ways to get the athletes involved off-water while maintaining a safe distance. “There’s a really great gym called Afterburn [Fitness]; [it has] something called paddle-ergs, so it’s rowing ergs but you’re paddling, and we really use those a lot for training,” Fahim said. 

“We also go to [the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre],” she continued. “If it does open up, I think we’ll continue as previous years, where we send small groups — maybe like three to five [athletes]… one or two trainers, and a couple of recruits — and they go over there and they train on the paddle-ergs.”

Fahim added that they are looking into getting pool practices, where they sit around the pool and mimic being in the water. The dragon boat members added that, unfortunately, all of this is dependent on reopening gyms. In the meantime, the team is focusing on keeping spirits up and training when they can.