Friday 13 February 2015

Our Quiet Achievers

Last Sunday I moved off-campus to spend a few hours watching some of our boys compete at the NSW Junior and Youth Athletics Championships at Olympic Park. We had six boys (and two Old Ignatians) contending there. I knew of some of them training through the summer months, faithful to early rising, hot days, long jogs, gyms and drills. I remembered, too, the very telling title of that short story, written a half-century ago now, ‘The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner’, later made into a movie. It seems to sum up the commitment and experience of so many of our athletes. I was glad to hear of Louis Stenmark winning first place the previous day in the U18 400m Dash, then to watch Paul Salem take fourth place in the 400m hurdles (with two place-getters ahead of him being Oceania and National title-holders) along with a personal best. After the desolation of disqualification on the Saturday, I saw Alexander Fitzpatrick rally to win his heat easily and take an overall bronze medal in the U18 200m Dash (with a Taswegian squeezing in to take third!). It is worth noting that Zander and Louis competed after a grueling 1st V Basketball match on the Saturday morning. At the same time, we had Tom Glascott achieve personal bests in the 400m Dash and 800m Run, with fourth place in the latter, Nicholas Wooley achieve fourth place and a personal best and fifth in his 400m, and Charlie Doherty made huge personal bests in the 1500m and 3km events, with second place in the latter, earning a silver medal. Louis, Zander, Paul, Tom and Charlie are now kitted out with the NSW strip to move to the Nationals next month.

Many of the Riverview family are perhaps unaware of the extent to which our boys extend themselves beyond the College and the GPS sporting competitions. Currently there are ‘View boys who sail nationally and internationally. We are represented in NSW Basketball, State Cup Touch Football and Combined Independent Schools Cricket. Others play in NSW Football Academy teams. Another is a member of the NSW Rugby 7s (now an Olympic sport).

What I find impressive is that these young men commit to our own College program wholeheartedly as well. As long as the communication is clear and in plenty of time the school will always try to accommodate a student’s dual opportunities and expectations. Interestingly (and maybe not at all surprisingly), many boys actually prefer to play with their school mates in the atmosphere that we provide, which is a testament to their sense of ‘belonging’. Without fuss or drawing attention to themselves, they join the school teams, committed to their school and to their mates. It is an impressive humility which both peers and younger boys cannot fail to be influenced by.

Formation in a Jesuit school goes much beyond the narrowness of simply covering a curriculum. Here we like to un-cover the curriculum, digging deeper, mining the depths of what we are learning and appreciating. But there is much more. A Jesuit school embraces competence, conscience, compassion and commitment. Competencies are not just limited to academic classroom activities. They take in the whole person, including the artistic, the communicative, the psycho-motor. As a Catholic and Jesuit institution the dimensions of Conscience and Compassion should come as no surprise. This is what we might call ‘an education of the heart’. But then there is Commitment. More than ever, it is a virtue that these times cry out for. In a world too often marked by transience and fads, taking the easy option, Jesuit formation encourages commitment to others, commitment to tasks and commitment to values. This world is populated with weather vanes blowing this way and that in the currents of public opinion and peer pressure. But our goal is a steady young man who is as good as his word, whose staying power is seen as much in studies as in his sport, whose long-term goals are not ditched by short-term distractions, and whose faith is grounded in more than a ‘God of the good times’. Our successful sportsmen, our athletes, our team players model such fidelity, such disciplined undertakings. And largely without acclaim, without grandstanding, without any sense of ”look at me’.

Saint Ignatius asked that we undertake all we do “for the greater glory of God”. An earlier saint, Irenaeus, also proposed that “the glory of God is man fully alive”. These young men of ours indeed live life fully at the College and often beyond it. Glorifying God, they have returned God’s many gifts in manifold ways. And in as many ways we are proud of them.

Fr Ross Jones, SJ