A historic team

icône de pdf

Document 1 : The making of a team

Directing the proceedings was a slim young man toting a large megaphone. Tom Bolles, the freshman coach, was a former Washington oarsman1 himself. With a bland, pleasant face, a bit lean in the jowls, and given to wearing wire-rimmed glasses, Bolles had been a history major, was working on a master’s degree, and had a distinctly scholarly look about him — a look that had spurred some of Seattle’s sportswriters to begin referring to him as “the professor.” And in many ways, the role that lay ahead of him that fall, as it did every fall, was that of an educator. When his colleagues in the basketball pavilion or on the football field first encountered their freshman prospects each fall,they could assume that the boys had played the sport in high school and knew at least the rudiments of their respective games. But almost none of the young men assembled outside the shell house that afternoon had ever rowed a stroke in his life, certainly not in a vessel as delicate and unforgiving as a racing shell, pulling oars twice as long as the young men were tall.

Most of them were city boys like the boys lounging up on the quad — the sons of lawyers and businessmen — dressed neatly in woolen slacks and cardigan sweaters. A few, like Joe, were farm boys or lumberjacks or fishermen, the products of foggy coastal villages, damp dairy farms, and smoky lumber towns all over the state. Growing up, they […] had built up strong arms and broad shoulders doing so. Their strength would be an asset, Bolles knew, but rowing — he understood as well as anyone — was at least as much art as brawn, and a keen intelligence was just as important as brute strength. There were a thousand and one small things that had to be learned, mastered, and brought to bear in precisely the right way to propel a twenty-four-inch-wide cedar shell, carrying three-quarters of a ton of human flesh and bone, through the water with any semblance of speed and grace. Over the next few months, he would need to teach these boys, or those few among them who made the freshman team, every last one of those thousand and one small things. And some big ones as well: Would the farm boys be able to keep up with the intellectual side of the sport Would the city boys have the toughness simply to survive Most of them, Bolles knew, would not.

Another tall man stood watching quietly from the broad doorway of the shell house, dressed impeccably, as he always was, in a dark three-piece business suit, a crisp white shirt, a tie, and a fedora, spinning a Phi Beta Kappa2 key on a lanyard he held in one hand. Al Ulbrickson, head coach of the University of Washington rowing program, was a stickler for detail, and his style of dress sent a simple message: that he was the boss, and that he was all business. He was just thirty — young enough that he needed to draw a line of demarcation between himself and the boys he commanded. The suit and the Phi Beta Kappa key helped in that regard. It also helped that he was strikingly good-looking and built like the oarsman he had been, the former stroke oar of a Washington crew that had won national championships in 1924 and 1926. He was tall, muscular, broad shouldered, and distinctly Nordic in his features, with high cheekbones, a chiseled jawline, and cold slate-gray eyes. They were the kind of eyes that shut you up fast if you were a young man inclined to challenge something he had just said.

Daniel James Brown, The Boys in the Boat, 2013.

1. oarsman: un rameur en aviron.

2. Phi Beta Kappa: a university student’s club.

Document 2 : Nine UW rowers who showed up Hitler in 1936 and won gold


© University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections [UW2234]

Ninety-year-old Jim McMillin runs bony fingers over the cedar bow of the Husky Clipper, which reclines in the Pocock Rowing Center on Lake Union.

“That boat never lost a race,” he said.

Neither did those in it. […]

Certainly, war was brewing in Europe as the Huskies boarded a steamship in New York with the rest of the American Olympic team for the eight-day trip to Hamburg, Germany.

“We didn’t care what was going on around us. We had a job to do, and that was win a race,” said Bob Moch, the coxswain of the UW crew. “We were a pretty directed bunch.” […]

Moch, McMillin, Morris and Joe Rantz, who rowed No. 7, are the survivors of the crew, all at or near 90 years old. […]

Aging and anonymous as they might be today, the UW rowers were the talk of the state in the 1930s.

“I was 13 years old, and it was the biggest thing that had ever happened in Seattle,” said Stan Pocock, the son of George Pocock, who built the Husky Clipper. “They might not have been aware of the significance of winning a gold medal in Germany at that time, but people back home were.” […]

Today, national teams, not colleges, represent their countries.

The guys from 1936 don’t much like the notion of rowers train­ing full time into their 30s to be members of national teams.

“We had lives to live, jobs to do,” McMillin said. “We were amateurs.”

Besides the six engineers, Day became a doctor, Moch an attorney and Hume an international business consultant.



Document 1

1 1. In which country does the scene take place

2. What do Tom Bolles and Al Ubrickson have in common

2 Focus on Tom Bolles and Al Ubrickson.

1. Compare their physical appearances. (30 words)

2. How do people perceive them (30 words)

3. Compare their respective roles.

3 True or false. Justify your answer with one or two quotes from the text.

1. Joe belongs to the upper class.

2. The scene takes place in a high school.

3. The scene takes place nowadays.

4. Al Ubrickson is a middle-aged man.

41. How many sports are mentionned in the text

2. Which one has been the least practised so far by the young men

5 In Bolles’ opinion, what are the qualities required to succeed in this sport (one or two sentences)

Document 2

6 To which sporting event does document 2 refer to

7 What do most of the characters present in the text have in common

8 Are they all still alive Justify your answer by quoting from the text.

Documents 1 and  2

9 In what ways are documents 1 and 2 related (30 words)

10 Focus on Bolles (document 1) and Bob Moch (document 2). Do they seem to agree on what is needed to succeed in their sport (30 words)

11 Document 1, lines 33-36: “Would the farm boys be able to keep up with the intellectual side of the sport Would the city boys have the toughness simply to survive Most of them, Bolles knew, would not.”

What does this reveal about Bolles’ personal opinion as regards these boys (40 words)

Seuls les candidats de la série L LVO traitent la question 12.

12 Document 2, lines 22-25: “The guys from 1936 don’t much like the notion of rowers training full time into their 30s to be members of national teams. ‘We had lives to live, jobs to do,’ McMillin said. ‘We were amateurs.’”

What does this statement mean (50 words)

Seuls les candidat(e)s de la série L option LVA traitent la question 13.

13 Document 2, lines 18-20: “They might not have been aware of the significance of winning a gold medal in Germany at that time, but people back home were.”

Comment upon this statement. (50 words)


Les candidat(e)s des séries ES, S et L qui ne composent pas au titre de la LVA traiteront un des deux sujets suivants.

1 Jim McMillin has to deliver a motivational speech to young people about the way sport can positively influence their lives. Write the speech. (250 words)

2 Do you think that professional sports have changed the way sport is considered (250 words)

Les candidat(e)s de la série L composant au titre de la LVA traiteront les deux sujets suivants.

3 Jim McMillin has to deliver a motivational speech to young people about the way sport can positively influence their lives. Write the speech. (250 words)

4 Do you think that sports bring out the best in people (150 words)

Les clés du sujet

Document 1


Daniel James Brown (1951-) est américain. Il a publié plusieurs livres à succès basés sur des faits réels.

Pour en savoir plus : www.danieljamesbrown.com

Résumé du texte

Ce portrait de deux entraîneurs de l’équipe d’aviron de l’université de Washington décrit leur conception de ce métier, ainsi que le profil socio­logique des étudiants qu’ils doivent sélectionner puis entraîner.

Vocabulaire utile à la compréhension

freshman (l. 2) : étudiant de première année  to spur (l. 6) : inciter  fall (l. 8) : automne  shell (l. 14) : coque (de bateau)  to row a stroke (l. 14) : donner un coup de rame  quad (l. 18) : cour intérieure  lumberjack (l. 20) : bûcheron  asset (l. 23) : atout  brawn (l. 25) : force musculaire  toughness (l. 35) : endurance.

Document 2

La source

The Seattle Times, fondé en 1891, est le quotidien le plus important de l’État de Washington et de la côte nord-ouest des États-Unis.

Pour en savoir plus : www.seattletimes.com

Résumé du texte

Cet article présente les survivants de l’équipe d’aviron qui décrocha une médaille d’or aux Jeux olympiques de 1936. Ils affirment ne pas avoir ­compris l’enjeu politique de leur victoire à l’époque.

Vocabulaire utile à la compréhension

to show up (titre) : (ici) humilier  bow (l. 2) : étrave  to brew (l. 6) : (ici) couver, se préparer  coxswain (l. 10) : barreur  bunch (l. 11) : bande, groupe.

Les points de convergence

Les deux textes présentent les membres d’une même équipe d’aviron de l’université de Washington.

Les sujets d’expression 1 et 3

Une direction possible

Le sport permet d’avoir « un esprit sain dans un corps sain ». C’est un thème que vous pouvez développer : la confiance en soi, l’esprit d’équipe, l’honnêteté, que l’on souhaite devenir un champion ou simplement pratiquer un sport en amateur.

Key ideas

A healthy mind in a healthy body: a champion is a role model sport teaches fairness, respect sport brings out the best in you and keeps your body fit.

Le sujet d’expression 2

Une direction possible

Avec la professionnalisation et les immenses sommes d’argent parfois générées, le sport est entré dans le monde des affaires. Les clubs « achètent » des joueurs. L’appât du gain risque de saper les valeurs morales traditionnelles du sport.

Key ideas

Sport has become a business huge amounts of money earned by players money undermines the ethical values of sport.

Le sujet d’expression 4 (candidat.e.s LVA uniquement)

Une direction possible

Le sport apprend à se dépasser, à réussir par l’effort et l’obstination. Il fait appel aux meilleures qualités de l’être humain : l’esprit d’équipe, l’esprit de compétition, mais dans le respect des autres.

Key ideas

Sport helps you go beyond your limits you have to outdo yourself to win satisfaction comes from exploiting your best human qualities such as team spirit, toughness and respect for the others.



Document 1

1 1. The scene takes place in the USA (Seattle, l. 7 University of Washington, l. 41).

2. They had both been oarsmen in the University of Washington rowing team.

2 1. They are both good-looking young men. But while Bowles has an ordinary face, glasses and slim body, Ulbrickson looks more athletic with his strong body, and has more original features.

2. Bolles is mainly considered as a professor, an educator, an intellectual, while Ulbrickson is considered as a very physical and intimidating strong man who must be obeyed.

3. Bolles’ role is mainly to teach these unexperienced students all the basic and necessary techniques for a team to row a boat, while Ulbrickson, being the head coach, is there to train them and make them practice.

3 1. False: “a few, like Joe, were farm boys, lumberjacks or fishermen” (l. 19-20).

2. False: they are at the “University of Washington” (l. 41).

3. False: “the former stroke oar of a Washington crew that has won national championships in 1924 and 1926” (l. 48-49).

4. False: “he was just thirty” (l. 44).

4 1. Three sports are mentioned: basketball, football and rowing.

2. Rowing is the least practised sport by the young men.

5 For Bolles, although physical strength is necessary, rowing is basically a matter of intelligence and even art: you have to be clever to drive the rowing boat fast and elegantly.

Document 2

6 The document refers to the 1936 Olympic Games in Germany.

7 They were members of the University of Washington rowing team which won a gold medal at the 1936 Olympics.

8 They are not all alive, as the text quotes four members who “are the survivors of the crew” (l. 12-13).

Documents 1 and 2

9 Both documents deal with the UW rowing team. The first document focuses on the trainers and new recruits, whereas the second concentrates on a winning Olympic team.

10 For Bolles, the balance between physical and mental strength is the key to being a successful rower as well as real dedication. Moch also believes that “direction” and focus is how you succeed in this sport.

11 Bolles wonders if the boys are fit for the sport as he has very strong preconceived ideas about their social backgrounds: he thinks that most country people are too stupid to understand the sport and that most city people are physically too weak.

Uniquement pour les candidat(e)s de la série L LVO

12 The older men think that the sport and more specifically the rowers that compete today are very different to those who competed alongside them in the 1930s. Sport has become a profession when before it was a leisure activity that was done at the same time as a “real” job.

Uniquement pour les candidat(e)s de la série L option LVA

13 The 1936 Olympics were not any Olympics. They took place in Germany, at a time when Hitler ruled the country. So it was politically and symbolically important to beat Hitler’s supremacist ideas through his athletes. But maybe the young students in McMillin’s team, too immature and focused on the competition itself, were less aware of this than other Americans.


1 3 Guidelines

Young men and women,

I am an old man, and throughout my life I have always believed that sport is something that can bring out the best in you. Life is a struggle but at least with sport you will enjoy that struggle.

Un peu de vocabulaire

to cheat: tricher

Sport will teach you to be tough, to be perseverant and most of all it will teach you fairness in competition. Because in sport you have challengers, not enemies. It will teach you to win without cheating, it will bring you self-respect as well as respect for others and from others. Whatever your level, you’ll find people who will admire you and for whom you will be role models.

Look at me, I’m old but in good health. I have been useful all my life and helped people like you to win medals. Some of the students I trained over the years had difficult backgrounds but sport gave them a place in our society. And this is what I am the most proud of.

Now it doesn’t matter if you don’t intend to be local or national champions: just practice a sport! It will bring you self-confidence, it will give you the team spirit that is necessary whatever your job.

Don’t forget this: sport is the only thing that will give you a healthy mind in a healthy body!