FROM THE DESK OF THE COUNSELLOR – JOHN HILL (1990s)
I was talking to a parent today and when she and her husband were deciding which school they wanted for their children they were told by some that on the sporting arena, particularly rugby, Aloysius’ was seen as the “easy beats”. That goes back many years. Numerically we are smaller than the other CAS schools and this has been the case for so long now. Yet when we were able to defeat Knox two weeks ago in an extremely exciting match there was such jubilation that it was the equivalent of a grand final win. It is always good to win. We can so easily lose but a win here and there helps us a lot in so many ways.
Now when I was talking to another family theaspect of the school that rang so loud and clear was that SAC was an unpretentious school. I see this as such a wonderful compliment on the college. What they meant was that there were no false airs, no snobbery, no being anything other than what we set out to be. There is then nothing to prove as such because what you see is what you get.
I have always found that there is a need for a balance to be struck between what we want of ourselves and the needs of the school through its students. It is here that I want to open up the matter of self esteem and the ability to own with pride who we are and what we are able to achieve. We don’t have that problem so much in other areas such as music, debating, academics etc. We only had to watch New Faces some nights back to see Mark Nivet win convincingly in front of a critical panel. But when we talk of rugby there is always a certain apprehension and we may be tempted to put it in the too hard basket.
We are always going to see ourselves better in some things rather than others. But all the same we are more than spectators. We are participants in the whole gambit of CAS activities. It is here that I want to share some of my thoughts on the mythology of sport relating to us as Australians and in this instance part of our belonging to SAC. The recent hype in Barcelona and our enthusiasm toward our winners brings this home to us. Let’s start with the mythology of sport in Australia. A myth is a strong explaining a value or a practice and is expressive of the cultural values of our social group which we readily maintain. We live with myths. But perhaps one of our strongest is the myth of sport.
Sport has its ritual, its text and its rules. It has its festivals for the victors, as we saw in the First XV’s victory against Knox. Those boys were our heroes, particularly since it had been a David and Goliath match. The camaraderie, the oneness, the ensuing rituals, the talk, the pride. This was all part of it. The closer wewere to the victors the more we experienced the sense of victory. The fact that we would no longer be the “easy-beats”, that we could compete
did something to engender a certain pride in being part of the school. We would see the result only too well in the Sunday morning paper. This would serve as a warning to the other schools that we could compete with them.
We had our heroes and our leaders, our coaches, linesmen, physio, first aid mean and all the spectators. They were all there to celebrate. Isn’t this what genuine sport is all about? We could endure the cold and the rain while the players were able to bear the many aches and pains. Yet sport if not put in a proper perspective can become an obsession and even bring out the worst in us. We need only look at the use of steroids and banishment form the Olympic village as just one example. For once sport becomes a socially manufactured product, once it is artificial and just made for consumption and the big buck then we have lost something that is meant to enhance self esteem. We see it so clearly when a school decides to buy up players from an Australian school boys’ rugby team so as to win a GPS competition in the centenary year of that school. When a school decides to have sporting scholarships so as to have a strong rugby team and win merely for the sake of winning then we have a problem. It is here that victory is based on abusive power and one-upmanship. It is pyrrhic but nothing more. It is nothing short of cheating. If sport is just about winning then we have lost the plot.
The goal of sport is in a sense the ecstasy of achievement. This is to do with the harmony of muscle and mind. There is always the moment of victory or defeat. The gallant loser still has his sense of worth and his integrity intact. The conqueror can take pride in his ability to win through and has immediate satisfaction for all the effort involved. As we saw in the closing ceremony of the recent Olympics there was the festivity of the gathered people, participation and the achievement of togetherness. This is what brotherhood is
meant to be. There was a liturgy for the billion or so viewers as well as for the participants. What that liturgy was trying to do was to express what was in the heart of man.
Sport is not the be all and end all of life. It is a very important part though of our culture. The mythology of sport will always be etched in our psyche and it is our attitude that determines our response. Does it enhance who we are as human beings or does it set us back on a tribalistic path? For us here at SAC we need to work on our priorities. Perhaps we would like to be winners most of the time. Self esteem is central to any growth and winning is an important recipe for this. But is it everything? Getting back to our starting point. We no longer want to be seen as the “easy-beats” yet we always want to proudly be seen as the college that has no pretensions. How do we work it out? I am sure we do not need to have twenty year old high school certificate repeaters playing, nor the distribution of sporting scholarships nor the buying of an Australian schoolboys rugby team to be the greatest. What I think we need is to focus on the value of sport as a character building reality. While we want our win over Knox to be more frequent we will not sell our integrity in the process. But we need also believe that victory in whatever form lies within us. In this way we will be gallant in victory, gracious in defeat and unpretentious in attitude.