Book Review: Boys in the Boat




I met my husband in November of 2001 and obviously was immediately struck by his handsome good looks and athleticism.  As we began to get to know each other in the coming days and weeks, we shared stories about friends and experiences from our days growing up.  Clint was telling me a story about some guys he “rode with” in college.  I thought to myself, “I rode with lots of people in college, but I can’t remember all of them.”  I brushed it aside because Clint has an impeccable memory for names and dates.  Later I realized…and have now met most of the guys Clint “rowed” with in college.  Clint was part of the Crew team at Georgia Tech and had an opportunity to participate in rowing regattas all over the country.  As a result of this interest of his, I’ve been intrigued by rowing and have enjoyed learning more about this sport that truly engages both your mind and your entire body.  In fact, our family has a rowing machine in our home and all four of us love to use it!  For fun, you should come hear our 4 year old coaching himself “Legs! Arms! Back!”.

I was really interested to read Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown.  It was on the top of the list of favorite books from 2016 for a variety of people that share my interest in learning more about personal leadership and coaching teams.  I was visiting with a friend that planned to read it and she agreed to loan it to me next.  We were both in agreement that the book seemed to bog down in some points with the super specific details, but I realize that some people would totally love those parts.  More than anything, I enjoyed reading the stories of the guys on the UW rowing team and how each of their stories came together to form a team.  We journeyed together through what the coaches and team were going through even as the country itself was dealing with the Great Depression and all that involved.  The “Boys in the Boat” quickly became a rallying point of hope for the country as they headed to the 1936 Olympics in Germany.  When you consider what happened in Germany over the course of the next decade, this is really a pivotal part of the story to understand the events leading up to World War 2.

  • One of the first admonitions of a good rowing coach, after the fundamentals are over, is “pull your own weight,” and the young oarsman does just that when he finds out the boat does better when he does.  There is certainly a social implication here.
  • Good thoughts have much to do with good rowing.  It isn’t enough for the muscles of a crew to work in unison; their hearts and minds must also be as one.
  • To see a winning crew in action is to witness a perfect harmony in which everything is right….That is the formula for endurance and success: rowing with the heart and head as well as physical strength.
  • Men as fit as you, when your everyday strength is gone, can draw on a mysterious reservoir of power far greater.  Then it is that you can reach for the stars.  That is the way champions are made.
  • Where is the spiritual value of rowing?  The losing of self entirely to the cooperative effort of the crew as a whole.


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