The Boys in the Boat

The Boys in the Boat (Brown).

Nine misfit boys overcame adversity to be forged into an unbeatable rowing team that accomplished the impossible: win the gold medal in the 1936 Berlin Olympic 8-man rowing event. As they learned to implicitly trust each other person in the boat they became a team defined by uncanny power, unison and grace. This team of rowers frequently achieved the oft-elusive state of rowing unison that is termed “swing,” when every rower is in in perfect sync with all the other rowers and the rowing shell achieves maximum speed and efficiency in the water.

Why I liked this book:

  •  The “come from behind” spirit that permeates the story. Each of the people in the boat overcame adversity. One boy was abandoned and left to fend for himself; much of the story revolves around his determination to survive in the midst of the Great Depression and Dust Bowl of the 1930’s and 40’s.
  •  Seeing potential in a TEAM of people in spite of individual problems. The crew was often separated, but always re-instituted as it was demonstrated that this group of men and no others had the stamina, trust and willingness to make wins happen. Although the rowing coach was often frustrated by the inconsistency of the team, he could not deny their spirit and desire to achieve the impossible.
  •  The power of a quiet, gentle voice in leading people to greatness. Peppered throughout the book are quotes from the builder of the racing shells. This quiet man was not a coach, but had many insights on both techniques of rowing as well as leadership. This advise was often the determinant factor in keeping the team of rowers together and calmed rattled rowers and coaches.

Text originally recommended in Leadership Journal, September 2014 by Greg Asimakoupoulos. Web. 9 January 2015. <>.