From the Head Master

Restraint and Humility in Sport

An empty school is really just a collection of buildings, so it has been a delight to see the return of the full school community on our various campuses in the last week. By all accounts, it has been a rapid start, with the Cadet Unit’s Annual Field Training taking place at Singleton, a Year 9 Field Studies Programme group departing for Woollamia, a full day of professional learning for staff, and our annual ANZAC Commemoration events taking place. The commencement of the CAS and IPSHA sporting competitions this weekend will round out the return to Term 2.

I spoke to the Middle and Senior School boys at a quad assembly this week, asking them to give thought to how they will manage intense emotions in the context of sport. Some of what follows is extracted from that address.

I remember watching an under 8s soccer game where a young boy scored a goal and he ran over to the corner – where there would normally be a corner flag in a full-sized field, but in this case there was just a plastic marker cone – and he started to shadow-box where the flag would have been, looking over his shoulder to see if his team mates were going to run over and jump on him. After all, he had seen one of the Socceroos score in an international match on TV the previous week, and that is what happened. He was learning how to be a football player – and this is what football players do! If you do something good, you celebrate in a really exuberant way. It looked pretty bizarre for an eight-year-old on a suburban field, without even having a corner post!

As we come into the winter sports season, I want you to think about how you want to express your intense emotions in your sport. Intense emotions are a part of competitive sport. Sporting competition is the focal point of extended effort in training and practice and skill development. It is the focal point of hopes and imaginations, anticipating and looking forward to what might happen. The physical exertion, the adrenalin and other hormones, the single-mindedness of concentrating on a clear and defined goal. The camaraderie that comes from striving towards a shared goal with your team. All of this can combine, bubbling inside you, and it is likely that it will be expressed in some way.

If we watch it on TV, we see it up close through the cameras. Players jumping on each other in celebrations, players gesturing to the spectators – either positively or negatively. Players collapsing to the ground in disappointment, or sprinting around the ground in exultation. The reaction doesn’t always come at the end of the game; it can also happen during the game, when a goal is scored, when a rule is infringed, when a strong tackle is made. How do – and how should – we express our emotions.

I want to suggest to you that there are two key ideas that will help you as a sportsman, and that will align you with your school’s expectations of you. Restraint. And humility.

Restraint has to do with self-control. Whatever happens, you want to remain in control of your own actions and thoughts and emotions. It will help you to be a better player of whatever sport you are doing – it will help you have a clear and cool head, to make good decisions, to see what is going on around you, to monitor the situation, to be aware of others. It is not always easy to maintain your self control – to restrain your emotions. Not easy, but it is necessary.

Humility has to do with maintaining perspective. Humility is remembering that life is not all about you. In the context of sport, it is not all about your individual achievements. It is not even all about your team’s achievements. There are other people involved in this situation – the other players, the other team, the other school community, their parents and the spectators and your coach and your teachers. You have all come together, in this moment, for this competition; it belongs to all of you. Don’t be so focussed on yourself and your experience and your emotions, that you forget to consider others.

So, restraint and humility. What will this look like? Keeping your head during the match and helping your teammates to keep theirs. When something good happens, don’t carry on about it. When something bad happens, don’t carry on about it. Give it everything that you have while it is happening, but always remember that it is just a game. And, throughout the game and particularly at the end, show humility. Thank the others for the game. Don’t shove your celebrations in their face, and don’t sulk at their joy.

Restraint and humility. If we can be characterised by these things, everyone will enjoy the sporting experience more. I suspect that you, individually, will be better at your sport. And I am absolutely confident that you will become a better man, if you are characterised by restraint and humility.

In issuing this call to the boys, I echo it also to parents. By and large, my observation is that Trinity parents maintain a healthy perspective on schoolboy sport, rarely straying into unhelpful intensity or inappropriate behaviour. It would be helpful for all of us to maintain consistent expectations of the boys on these two areas.

Detur Gloria Soli Deo.

Tim Bowden | Head Master

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