What Can an Amazing Winning Olympic Crew Team Teach You About Execution?

By Patrick Thean

dateSun, Mar 16, 2014 @ 12:00 PM

I was researching stories of great execution for my book Rhythm: How to Achieve Breakthrough Execution and Accelerate Growth. I came across one of the greatest Olympic races that most people have never heard of. 

It happened at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The Germans were sweeping the crew events. They won five gold medals and one silver medal leading up to the final eight-oar two-thousand-meter race. The Huskies from Washington State University were representing the United States. And they were not the typical USA Olympic crew team. 

This team of nine (eight rowers and one coxswain) had beaten incredible odds to get to the Olympics that year. First, they weren’t the typical Ivy Leaguers from Yale, Harvard, or Princeton. Second, their journey had begun just twelve months before, when they were first put in a boat together at the University of Washington. Third, they weren’t even the first boat for the university when they were initially teamed up. How did they leap from second-tier at a university that had never beaten an Ivy League school to representing the United States at the Olympics? It's a super cool story with lots of nuggets on world-class execution. In short, they had inspiration, a winning move, and a great execution plan, and they made critical adjustments to win this major race. It's truly a great story of perfect focus, alignment, accountability and making critical adjustments to deal with what life throws at you.


Rhythm Systems Patrick Thean's Summary from his Rhythm book


Watch the Washington varsity men's team win the 1936 Olympic Gold 

Patrick Thean


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