The Boys in the Boat

Tom Bolles Character Analysis

Tom Bolles is the freshman coach at the University of Washington for most of the book. As a result, he’s one of the first people to recognize the enormous talent of Joe Rantz, Roger Morris, and their peers. Bolles is also instrumental in developing the rowing strategy that helps Joe and his teammates win again and again: a low stroke rate, supported with power and perfect technique. In 1936, following Washington’s spectacular victory at the annual Hudson Regatta in Poughkeepsie, Bolles takes a job at Harvard University, the quintessential East Coast crew program—somewhat ironically, considering all he did to put Washington’s West Coast program on the map.
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Tom Bolles Character Timeline in The Boys in the Boat

The timeline below shows where the character Tom Bolles appears in The Boys in the Boat. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
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...freshman hopefuls filled out medical forms. Watching Rantz and Morris was the freshman coach, Tom Bolles. Bolles knew that most of the freshmen trying out for the team that day had... (full context)
Chapter 3
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...weighed in, got his assignment for which boat he’d be rowing with, and listen to Bolles lecture the freshmen about the difficulty of rowing. Bolles stressed that rowing was far more... (full context)
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During some of Bolles’ lectures, a British man named George Yeoman Pocock would be in attendance. Pocock came from... (full context)
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...the fall, with the freshman hopefuls rowing on the water while Al Ulbrickson and Tom Bolles supervised them. Freshmen quickly learned the basics of crew—in particular, the importance of not thrusting... (full context)
Chapter 5
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...were only eighty freshmen left trying out for crew, down from the original 175. Tom Bolles decided to move some of the best rowers into small shell barges—he chose both Joe... (full context)
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...year, meaning that the coaches could now announce who had made “first and second boat.” Bolles announced that Roger and Joe had made first boat. Joe forced himself not to show... (full context)
Chapter 6
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...the team did well, it would race against Eastern schools in the national freshman championship. Bolles was an excellent coach; he’d never coached a team that lost a race to California... (full context)
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By spring of 1934, Bolles had become frustrated with his freshmen—they seemed to be getting slower, not faster. Rowers need... (full context)
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...each other. The freshman team gained a commanding lead, and easily defeated the varsity boat. Bolles realized then that he had “something exceptional.” The freshman team was successful that spring for... (full context)
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...his Cal team were preparing to travel up to Washington for the annual race against Bolles’ team. Ebright had good reason to feel optimistic about his team’s chances; his freshmen were... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...afternoon, the team rowed so poorly that they grazed the side of an incoming tugboat. Bolles was furious and threatened to kick everyone off the team. In the end, however, the... (full context)
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...Poughkeepsie, the Washington team practiced on the unusual Hudson River course. They rowed poorly, frustrating Bolles—it seemed that the wind and river currents were interfering with the team’s performance. Bolles realized... (full context)
Chapter 9
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Tom Bolles, in charge of the new freshman crew, realized that he might be able to assemble... (full context)
Chapter 10
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...the next few weeks, rumors circulated that Ulbrickson was going to be fired, and Tom Bolles was going to get Ulbrickson’s job. (full context)
Chapter 14
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...train, he saw Joyce with her parents, cheering for him. During the train ride, Tom Bolles, George Pocock, and Al Ulbrickson held strategy sessions to ensure that Washington would be able... (full context)
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...son. Franklin Jr. talked about how he’d rowed at Harvard and the rumors that Tom Bolles would be transferring there if he could pull off a win at Poughkeepsie that year.... (full context)
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On the morning of the regatta, Bolles was contemplating moving to Harvard, as Franklin Junior had hinted. In the end, his freshman... (full context)