Working in Sync: How Eleven Dartmouth Athletes Propelled Their College Sports Experience into Professional Excellence [Review]

Working in Sync: How Eleven Dartmouth Athletes Propelled Their College Sports Experience into Professional Excellence
Whit Mitchell
Eagle, ID: Aloha Publishing, 2013
ISBN-13: 978-1-61206-036-1, hardcover
191 pages, $19.95

reviewed by Alex KyriosKyrios - Working in Sync

Have you ever been a part of a team where everyone just clicks and works together to accomplish much more than you could as individuals? Whit Mitchell has, and his Working in Sync takes his experience as a freshman crew coach at Dartmouth University and applies lessons learned to a business environment.

The book profiles eleven men who met over the course of the 1982-83 academic year at Dartmouth University and came together to form a successful crew team. Though some of them had never rowed or even played sports before, the young men who began the year as strangers went on to beat the highly regarded Yale team later that year. But as Mitchell argues, that year simply represented an early step in the course of eleven very successful lives. He isn’t the first person to draw a connection between collegiate athletic achievement and professional accomplishment, but his personal profiles and sermonic wisdom from each help set Working in Sync apart from the general pack of business and leadership books.

Mitchell himself serves as a consultant to business executives and collegiate and professional athletes. While this book will resonate best with readers familiar with these areas of experience, many of its insights about leadership and character are generalizable to almost any sort of team or group environment. And while some of the men profiled have success in business, others work in areas such as nonprofits and medicine, so the book also has lessons for people who rarely wear three-piece suits.

Each chapter focuses on one of the eleven Dartmouth student-athletes, opening with some basic biographical information followed by a brief description of the person’s experience with Dartmouth’s crew team (Mitchell largely avoids confusing crew jargon, and includes a brief glossary of certain terms following the book’s introduction). We also get a look at the man’s professional life, and Mitchell ends with a lesson from the subject’s crew or work experience. Topics vary, covering individual values, such as perseverance and accountability, and group ones, such as soliciting input from team members and investing in people. He also suggests ways to follow up or reflect on these lessons, including discussion questions and activities. This format makes the book a natural fit for a book group approach.

These profiles are frequently inspiring, so it’s perhaps a disappointment that the book doesn’t go into more detail about the individuals themselves. When reading about people like Hans Stander and Sam Hartwell, who have led efforts to invest millions in impoverished areas of the world, you can really see why Mitchell is so proud of having been involved with this group. At the same time, this brevity makes Working in Sync suitable for working professionals who might not have time for a longer book. Whether read in one sitting or over many weeks in a group setting, the book will encourage all readers to be conscious about how they work as part of a team, and how much those teams can accomplish when they work together with the coordination of a skilled crew.

This book is probably best suited to corporate libraries, although it will likely be valuable at public libraries as well. A single copy on the shelves in an academic library may not prove particularly useful, but it would likely supplement the curricula of business courses in higher education.

Alex Kyrios is a Metadata and Catalog Librarian at the University of Idaho.

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