St Peter's School

25 April 2019

St Peter's girls rowing on the OuseOver the holiday I took the opportunity to catch up with family and friends, get some work done, read some new books and enjoy some fresh air and exercise.  I particularly enjoyed getting out on the moors for some walks and playing some sport but must admit that the best sport I enjoyed was seen from the comfort of a sofa. Two events in particular stick in the mind. The first was the Boat Race with all the hype surrounding James Cracknell rowing for Cambridge at the age of 47 – material for several assemblies there in terms of focus and achievement alongside the risks of keeping all aspects of your life in balance with your personal ambitions.  The race itself was a pretty good one.   Despite it looking comfortable at the end, Oxford rowed hard and well to make back ground when they could easily have dropped their shoulders and given up.  Plenty of good messages to do with tenacity and also teamwork – not just the eight rowers and cox in the boats but all the coaches and others involved in getting them to their peak physically and mentally. 

The second sporting event which stuck out, was the Masters golf tournament from Augusta National.  The Masters always provides drama and excitement over four days of competition around a stunningly beautiful course and the big story this year was Tiger Woods’ win. Woods won 14 major tournaments in 11 years between 1997 and 2008 but hadn’t won another in the subsequent 11 years.  11 years during which his personal life and multiple infidelities dramatically and rightly damaged his personal reputation.  That was followed by a series of back problems and surgeries which were hoped to give him a reasonable quality of life but no hope of resuming a professional golfing career.  The Tiger of 2019 is different to the one of old – humbled and less arrogant.  As he said, "I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to," he said. "I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled. Thanks to money and fame, I didn't have to go far to find them. I was wrong. I was foolish." Woods’ win at Augusta marks not only a return to form but another stage on his personal journey of redemption from the errors he made earlier in life.  To many people, golf is seen as a solitary sport.   One person on their own out there playing not directly against the others but seeking their own lowest score.  The reality of course is that it requires a huge team to enable one person to make the shots and manage the pressures.  It was telling that at the moment of a victory which was a huge personal achievement, Woods was videoed pumping the air and screaming in delight.  When the video was watched back it was clear that he was shouting at his caddy, “We did it, we did it.”.  Notice ‘We’ not ‘I’.  Many of you are facing exams this term and while it is true that there is no escaping the moment when you sit at the desk, writing your answers on your own don’t forget though the team you have around you and the support you can give each other.

Going back to the boat race, there was a quieter story but one I enjoyed just as much related to the veterans race which takes place the day before.  Rowing for Oxford was Adam Pearson who was at the same college as me back in the early 1990s.  Adam had been selected for the blues boat but still gave up his time to coach my crew – the mighty 3rd Eight – and you could not meet a more kind or patient person.  Two weeks before the Boat Race, Adam was diagnosed with a heart condition that led to him having to being dropped from the crew and so lost his chance to race.  Fast forward to 2019 and Adam was able to row for Oxford in the veteran’s race with his son Charlie rowing for Oxford in the actual boat race the following day.  A brilliant experience for them both and an amazing reminder to never give up on your dreams. 

Have a great term.  Be clear in the goals you set for yourselves.  Be ambitious and don’t forget that even when you may think you are on your own, in reality you too are part of a much bigger team.