Getting in the swing of a new semester can be hard.
There’s the inevitable homework assignment that catches you off guard, friends have graduated and moved on, and the changing-of-building acronyms leave you searching for 10 minutes, trying to find the KMBL and wondering what happened to the SWKT.
But you’re not alone in your quest to successfully make it through the semester and your college career.
In a recent address given by College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences Dean Benjamin Ogles to faculty and staff, Dean Ogles refers to the story of nine young men who overcome tremendous hardships during the Great Depression to attend the University of Washington and later go on to win the gold medal in men’s rowing at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
Just like each student on campus wants to be successful, each boy in the boat wanted to find success in their own endeavors. Only by working together, however, were each of the individual young men able to overcome trials and succeed.
Rowers, such as those in the 1936 Olympic boat, only succeed when they come together in a unique harmony and rhythm, when they come together in a perfectly synchronized “swing.”
Sometimes to feel like we’re in the “swing” with a situation or with those around us, we think that we should all be the same (or at least very very similar).We wear similar clothing, we say similar phrases, we try to look like others and we try to act like others.
But in rowing, coaches and rowers suggest that it is better for oarsmen to have differences. They are different in their physique, in their personality, and in their backgrounds.
Quoting the story itself, “In physical terms, for instance, one rower’s arms might be longer than another’s but the latter might have a stronger back than the former. Neither is necessarily a better or more valuable oarsman than the other; both the long arms and the strong back are assets to the boat. But if they are to row well together, each of these oarsmen must adjust to the needs and capabilities of the other. Each must be prepared to compromise something in the way of optimizing his stroke for the overall benefit of the boat.”
As George Pockock, the builder of the boat that won Olympic gold, shared as inspiration to one of the oarsmen, “A man couldn’t harmonize with his crewmates unless he opened his heart to them. He had to care about his crew.”
When we open our hearts to those around us and when we care about our BYU “crew” is when we will—together—get in the swing of the semester and succeed.
This story of young Olympians applies to us: our college (and university) benefits from our different strengths. We need faculty, staff, and students with various characteristics, backgrounds, and personalities. As each individual willingly adjusts to, compromises and harmonizes with, and opens us their hearts to their peers, our efforts will be strengthened and benefit the whole campus and college community.
When we are unified in our goals and actions, that feeling of joy and unity is never forgotten.