By Tim Bowden, Head Master Trinity Grammar School
In recent weeks the Commonwealth Games have been rolling on in the background of my family’s consciousness. I must admit that we haven’t paid very much attention, being vaguely aware that Australia continues to dominate in the swimming and that, overall, people seem to be having a good time. However, we did make a big effort to be in front of the screen with Trinity Grammar School Old Boy, Rohan Browning (Class of 2015) competing on the athletics track.
As many of our community will be aware, Rohan progressed to the semi-final of the 100 metres and missed qualifying for the final by less than one hundredth of a second. This was an extraordinary achievement for Rohan, demonstrating not only his innate talent, but also the hard work and discipline that have enabled him to develop to this standard. It is also a great affirmation of the quality of the coaching that he has received from Andrew Murphy through the Trinity track and field programme over many years.
It has also been fascinating to see some of the commentary about his achievement. Many people bewailed the narrowness of the margin that stood between him and a Commonwealth Games final. Others concentrated on potential injustices stemming from wind differences for the different heats. Others were aggrieved that there ended up being a withdrawal from the final, and that the spare lane was not given to Browning as the next fastest qualifier.
Rohan did none of these things. Rather, his statement via Twitter was noteworthy for its humility, maturity and selflessness.
We congratulate him for his wonderful achievement as an athlete, and for his exemplary conduct as a sportsman.
Reflecting on the Games, and the observations above, two things spring to mind.
The first is that we want our sporting heroes to be admirable people. The point is well-made by Sydney Morning Herald journalist Michael Gleeson here, reflecting on Rohan, and also the Australian women’s 10,000 metre runners. We saw the shadow-side of the same point in the public outcry following the ball-tampering incident in South Africa in recent weeks. I think it is demonstrable that, as we look up to people, we yearn for them to be decent human beings. For all that we may be in awe of their skills, we want to be able to respect their character too. On one level it is a strange impulse, because sport is one of those very few areas of life where success and failure are clearly defined, and success is the goal; why should the manner of an athlete’s conduct matter? But we see that it does, again and again.
The second reflection follows on from the first; if character and conduct matter to us in the realm of national sporting heroes, they should matter to us as well at the schoolboy level. Schoolboy sport, at its best, is genuinely committed to the importance of the conduct and character that it fosters in the participants. This is not to decry competitiveness or the drive for victory. However, we need to make sure that our boys grow to understand that who they are is of more enduring value, than the achievements they may accrue. Their participation in sport is a means to shaping the character that will carry them through the decades ahead. It is not a means to filling the School’s cabinetry or the students’ shelves with silverware.
As the winter season of sport gets underway, I look forward to seeing our young men participating wholeheartedly in their respective programmes. Perhaps some of them will represent their nation in the sporting arena one day, filling us with pride in their achievements. However, we have even greater hopes for them than that.
Detur Gloria Soli Deo.
Trinity aims to provide a thoroughly Christian education in which boys are nurtured and flourish. The unique programme of Sport that we offer plays a key role in this aim in many direct and indirect ways, and is an integral part of School life and a well-rounded education. In addition, Trinity became the first school in Australasia to be accredited as a World Academy of Sport Athlete Friendly Education Centre (AFEC), being one of only nine schools in the world to receive this accreditation.