Witnessing our First XVIII Football Team during their thrilling Intercol match was redolent of all the finest Aussie ideals of mateship and camaraderie. There was one particular moment when our team was down by a mere three points in the final quarter. During the timeout, you could vividly observe the inspiring leadership of Captains William Warrick (Year 12) and Henry Nelligan (Year 12), whose eyes were ablaze as they exhorted their teammates to tussle for every loose ball. And while there seem to be a visceral dislike for the oppositions on the field, this resounding competitive spirit serves as a healthy indication of a strong rivalry. Indeed, the sporting culture is built upon a relentless commitment to one’s teammates, an unparalleled work ethic to perform at one’s best and an unwavering integrity in upholding the values of sportsmanship.
Sport is rightfully a compulsory component of our holistic education. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have been a part of the Open First Basketball Team from 2015 onwards as a Year 9 and since have shared the court with almost 50 different teammates. During this period, we enjoyed unprecedented success like winning the 2017 Intercol and the School’s first State Championship in 2015, although these were accompanied by several disappointing Intercol losses. These peaks and troughs have helped shape me into the person I am today and taught me valuable transferable skills. Most notably, it has imparted me with five important life lessons:
It is not always personal; fairness and honesty override flattery.
As a Year 9, I was initially intimidated by the inundating leadership style of the Seniors. They would acknowledge the positives but equally pick up on mistakes too. Fortunately, Captains Nick Wurm (FLL ’15) and Alexander McDonald (YNG ’15) ensured that the team understood that nothing was personal. Honest communication was crucial in order to foster a concerted culture. They appreciated the diversity in perspectives and encouraged us all to boldly share our thoughts as long as they were constructive and informative. I believe this was a defining trait that empowered us to eventually win the school’s only State Championship banner in 2015. It seems that any successful team, club or organisation require integrity, trust and a level of honesty from their leaders in order to successfully conquer challenges.
Be genuinely happy for others; wishing others well is a win-win.
I loved our 2017 team, predominately because everybody wanted each other to succeed. Our entire bench cheered for every little effort play – everything was fun. Knowing that the leaders in Christian Artacho (FRR ’17) and Mackenzie Huefner (WDK ’17) genuinely believed in you was a huge confidence booster. This feeling of appreciation infected the team and elevated everybody’s performance and morale. It has further encouraged my collaborative approach to academic learning and moulded my inclusive leadership style. I am led to believe that the greatest gift a leader can possess is the ability to empower others, recognising that we can all benefit from a culture of sincerity.
Small things matter; long-term habits dictate outcomes.
One of the main differences between our winning and losing seasons was our attention to small habits. Did everyone arrive half an hour before training? Were people focused during the entirety of the warmups? Was everybody aware of the shot clock at all times? Talent could make up for occasional lapses, but seemingly small elements are nevertheless what differentiates the great teams from the good teams. Outcomes may be determined by only a couple of possessions so even a minuscule action could be magnified. This has taught me to not only pay attention to my work ethic, but also to prioritise attitude, behaviour and long-term habits. There are no shortcuts on or off the court.
Acknowledge beyond the numbers; encourage and reward selflessness
Max Buttignol (Year 12) putting his body on the line to take a charge, Tom Spiby (Year 12) standing up for his teammates in a scuffle or Matthew Fowler (Year 12) sprinting back on defence, are selfless behaviours that shift the momentum and raise the team morale. Yet these can often go unacknowledged. Mr Matthews, however, always encouraged us to recognise that statistics or box scores do not capture the holistic dimension of team contribution. He instilled into us the belief that hustle, defence and encouragements matter just as much, if not more. Recognising these small contributes help all members to flourish. Indeed, the concept of sacrifice and teamwork is embedded in many areas of life. A little recognition and appreciation from coaches, teachers, managers, co-workers or friends in our everyday life could go a long way in nurturing trust and can enhance performance disproportionately.
Wins and losses are short-term whereas relationships are perennial.
Our 2019 Basketball Captain Cameron Huefner (Year 12) is arguably our best player in recent years. Yet the squad and the younger members remember him more fondly for his character traits than on-court dominance. It was evident in the basketball dinner last week that there was a genuine bond or brotherhood between the team. Yes, we suffered a disconcerting defeat. Yes, we had not achieved our season goals. But I applaud our squad for not allowing the scoreboard of one game to overlook all the gym sessions, trainings and highlights we have had since early Term 1. We developed an appreciation for the process when faced with inevitable challenges that permeate all walks of our life. Ultimately, nothing else matters more than the genuine relationships engendered and the memories forged.
To all my teammates and coaches over these years: thank you sincerely. The halcyon days of Saints Basketball have played a substantial role in my character development, so I thank everyone who has supported my teammates and me along the way.
It is undeniable that character-shaping experiences in sport offer exceptional insights into human interactions, foster a strong sense of belonging and serve as a great teacher for life. May our sporting program continue to flourish as an integral component of the holistic St Peter’s College education.