Levi, Ray & Shoup, Inc.

Who's in Your Boat?

6/27/2024 by Patrick Schmidt

I’m a real sucker for underdog stories. There have been some great movies about underdogs and how they triumphed over disadvantage. I think about movies like The Shawshank Redemption and The Karate Kid, and even animated flicks like Kung Fu Panda. But what really makes an underdog story special is when it is true.

Some of the greatest true underdog stories come from sports. Since the Summer Olympics are coming up in Paris next month, I thought I would share two classic underdog stories from Team USA.

Many of you are familiar with the “Miracle on Ice” from the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. The 2004 movie Miracle is the true story of Herb Brooks, a former player who became the coach that led the U.S. Olympic hockey team to an unlikely victory over a substantially more talented Soviet team.

The Soviet team had taken the gold medal in five of the six previous Winter Olympics, and they were the favorite to win again. The odds were certainly stacked against us. At that time, athletes needed to maintain amateur status to qualify for the games. Team USA was certainly made up of non-professionals. The Soviets, not so much.

Being an athlete in the U.S.S.R. meant you were state sponsored. And, while the players were technically amateurs, they sure looked like professionals on the ice. Superior sports teams were a source of Soviet pride so the country tended to “bend the rules” until just before they would break.  

While the 1980 Winter Olympics occurred in many of our lifetimes, there is another amazing story of overcoming adversity from the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. Fortunately for us, bestselling author Daniel James Brown told the story in his book The Boys in the Boat. The story is so compelling, it was made into a movie directed by George Clooney.

Released on Christmas Day last year, the movie relates the story of the University of Washington's rowing team who overcame enormous challenges to capture the gold medal in eight-man rowing. Abbreviated 8+, the eight rowers are joined by a coxswain who steers the shell (the boat) and serves as a “coach-on-water.”

Honestly, I might not have given a second thought to watching this movie had my daughter not joined a crew team last year. She is currently the coxswain for a women’s quad, represented as 4x+. After watching this movie and cheering my daughter on at races, I have come to learn that rowing crew may be the most difficult of all team sports. Why?

In the movie, we learn how the team is coached into unison. What does that mean? It means the rowers cannot be individuals, they must function as one. Their strokes must hit the water, pull back, and exit the water at precisely the same time, adjusting the pace as set by the coxswain.

And, as with all sports, details matter.

Where someone sits in the boat can make the difference between first place and dead last. You might have the right people in the boat, but the wrong positions.

Where the riggers that support the oars are placed matters. They need to be placed where there is an ideal stoke length for the team.

The finish on the shell also matters. In the movie, several very important scenes include the building, varnishing, and waxing of their shell known as the Husky Clipper. Even modern shells constructed of carbon-fiber reinforced plastic are waxed so they cut through the water more quickly.

As with nearly every blog I write, I eventually get around to relating the topic to the IT world. Some analogies work better than others, but this may be the best one yet as I ask the question, “Who’s in your boat?”

Every organization, including yours, deserves to have the right team, in the right seats, at the right time, with the right equipment. How do you achieve this goal?

For nearly 45 years, LRS has been a key player in making sure your team has what it needs to succeed. We have subject matter experts in analytics, Infrastructure, security, and software to name a few. Invite us into your boat and make us part of the team that brings you results.

Speaking of results (and underdog stories), everyone laughed when my daughter’s coach said he was going to put a women’s 4x+ together and win a national title. They were up against boats from places that can practice all twelve months of the year. In Minnesota, we get maybe six months on the water.

Racing against crews from prep schools and private clubs who have better funding and a longer history, the women’s 4x+ from Lake Phalen Rowing did what has not been done by a Minnesota club in 24 years – they brought home a national title. No one is laughing now.

Patrick Schmidt is a Technology Lifecycle Management Specialist with LRS IT Solutions. For more than 27 years, he has been helping customers get a firm grasp on their asset and contract management with a combination of comprehensive service level analysis and lifecycle management best practices.