You’ve got to love it when your doctoral syllabus includes a novel.
In my case, year 3’s syllabus brought with it the welcome news that I was to read The Boys in the Boat, as a leadership case study. Wow. What a read. The Boys in the Boat is the story of the 1936 Olympic gold medal winning University of Washington crew team. It’s a story of perseverance, valor and, yes, leadership.
And, along the way, I learned a lot about crew. Like more than I would ever need to know. About the boat. About technique. And about what goes into a regatta.
I also learned about something called “swing.” Swing is what happens when the crew team is utterly in sync. When it’s in swing, the boat is operating at optimum level. Predictably, swing is rare and it can be elusive, and it only happens after plenty of training, practice and team-building.
One passage in particular captured for me the idea of swing:
“Bobby Moch set the varsity boys to rowing at a leisurely twenty-two or twenty-three. Joe and his crewmates chatted softly with the boys in the other two boats. But they soon found that they had pulled out ahead without meaning to, just pulling soft and steady. Soon, in fact, they had pulled so far ahead that they could not even hear the boys in the other boats. And then, one by one, they realized that they couldn’t hear anything at all except for the gentle murmur of their blades dipping into and out of the water. They were rowing in utter darkness now. They were along together in a realm of silence and darkness. Years later, as old men, they all remembered the moment. Bobby Moch recalled, “You couldn’t hear anything except for the oars going in the water…it’d be a ‘zep’ and that’s all you could hear…the oarlocks didn’t even rattle on the release.” They were rowing perfectly, fluidly, mindlessly. They were rowing as if on another plane, as if in the black void among the stars, just as Pocock had said they might. And it was beautiful.”
Imagine having a team moment, really only a matter of minutes, be so perfect that the entire group could remember it distinctly some 40 years later!
In my doctoral research, I’ve been using the term “flourishing” to describe the brand of male/female partnerships I’m looking to help form in my organization. “Flourishing” seems a lot like “swing” to me.
And while I don’t (yet) know exactly what goes into achieving swing in the context of inter-gender partnerships in InterVarsity, I do know this:
When we find it, it’ll be beautiful.