Excerpts from The Boys in the Boat Upper School Essays

Prompt: Our school motto is “Working Together.” How best can we apply what we have learned from this narrative to our collective experience in this community? Be specific.


From Seth Israel, Form IV, Mr. Curran’s Class

I can connect Joe Rantz’s rowing experience of working together to Belmont Hill, most clearly through my experience on the community service trip in San Diego in 2014. As a very privileged group of boys, with the ability to attend an excellent school such as Belmont Hill, going into a less fortunate community, each and every student had to suppress their ego, staying humble to do the best work we could for these people in need. Without ego, and with a sense of humility, similar to that of Joe and his teammates, we were able to complete projects for a school, such as painting a mural in their schoolyard, installing an irrigation system, and setting up a plot for them to grow produce. Any of the Belmont Hill students could have stayed at home during their spring break and relaxed, played video games, or done whatever they wished. However, all of us on the trip signed on with a sense of humility, willing to do anything we could for this community, wanting an opportunity to give back to those less fortunate. This attitude allowed us to apply teamwork successfully and take pride in what we accomplished. Evident in both the Belmont Hill community and the UW crew, successful teamwork is only possible without ego and with humility.


From Jack Daley, Form V, Dr. Tift’s Class

An important element of the Washington team’s success was the boys’ attitudes; as sons of blue-collar, Depression-era workers, Joe and his teammates shared a deeply ingrained sense of humility. This attitude allowed the crew, as Brown explains, “to subsume their individual egos for the sake of the boat as a whole” (241). Rowing is a sport that requires complete cooperation, and the team’s ability to forge a single, unified mentality proved crucial. While reading about the importance of humility to the Washington team, I was reminded of a longtime Belmont Hill tradition: waitering. When I first came to the school, I was confused by this odd practice; the idea of clearing away my peers’ dirty dishes for four weeks a year seemed both ridiculous and annoying. However, I have begun to see the true value in this job: for one, waiting on others is a humbling experience. And, the fact that everyone waits on each other at different times fosters mutual respect. So, while we may complain about it, waitering brings us students closer together in a unique way.


From: Bhawramaett Broehm Form VI, Dr. Fast’s Class

During my time at Belmont Hill, I have found a swing with my classmates and teammates a handful of times. At the end of last autumn, eleven of my JV Soccer teammates and I traveled to Winchendon for our last soccer game. To that point, we had gone undefeated, so we all knew the match’s implications: we had the opportunity to make not just the last game, but the final season for our devoted senior players both a special memory and accomplishment. Embracing the numbing cold and muddy field, I knew that this match would require more than just individual skill and athleticism; victory would demand a resolute team effort. Capitalizing on an early corner kick, Winchendon took a 1-0 lead that would last for the first half. During halftime, our captain Mike emphasized that we could depend on each other. If the opponent got past a midfielder, the right back would be there to help, and if he faltered, our sweeper and left back would do everything possible to prevent a shot from passing by the goalie. Conversely, the goalie could trust the defenders to clear the ball to the midfielders, who could then share the ball with the strikers. We each had to do our own job and trust one another. We played our best soccer of the season during that second half: whether we were making extra passes, sprinting over to help, or calling out about an oncoming defender, everyone pitched in his best team effort. When the final whistle blew, we had won 3-1. As was the case with Joe and his crew, we had won because we had played our hardest, knowing that our teammates would be there to support us.


From William Weiter, Form VI, Mr Leonardis’ Class

These two indispensable values that facilitate productive cooperation can be observed throughout the Belmont Hill community which prides itself on its mantra of “working together”; however, this “swing” is most readily viewed—or more appropriately, heard—within the walls of Prenatt on Mondays after lunch.  The Jazz Combo, a group of individuals with disparate skill levels from beginner to experienced and with a diverse array of instruments ranging from three different types of saxophones to guitar and percussion, harmonizes its different sounds—no one musician overpowering the others—to create divine music. The drums keep the steady beat in the background—spang spang-a-lang-spang-a-lang—while the saxes swing along to the melody.  Playing their part alone, these instruments generate a noise that lacks in richness and fullness of sound; however, the subtle blend and balance between the thumping base, whispering guitar, ringing piano, and bellowing saxes all in overlapping harmony evoke feelings of indescribable exultation for those fortunate enough to listen to borderline jazz perfection.


From Cole Nagahama, Form V, Mr. Kirby’s Class

The vessel where each boy learned to blindly trust one another and where eight rowers learned to move as one became an inseverable bond that connected each and every one of them. Unlike the boys on the team, the boat did not age just like the memory of their shared experiences which continued to live on with the boat even as the team grew old. As an object, their boat was a tool used to win the Olympic gold; however, on a metaphorical level, the boat carried the team away from a life of poverty and served as a vehicle which would tie nine boys to one unforgettable achievement in 1936.

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