Principal's Address: Athletics Assembly 2012

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Principal's Address
Sydney Boys High School
Athletics Assembly
Held on 4 May 2012

Special guest James Middleton, staff, coaches, parents, Old Boys and GPS competitors, welcome to our athletics assembly for 2012. This assembly is special for three particular reasons. It is the start of a return to our former pre-winter athletics organisation, allowing winter teams more pre-season warm up time but compressing athletics into four carnivals before the GPS carnival tomorrow. Importantly, our school is contesting the Intermediate Division for the first time. I hope that we will have competitors in every event pushing for a top four finish in the points score. This assembly, sadly, marks the end of Robert Devlin’s management of athletics at High as MIC. Robert has held the position since 2004 (I think) and his input into the sport has made a big difference over the years. He has shown highly developed administrative and interpersonal skills in building the profile of athletics at High and in assembling a strong and effective team around him, to improve the breadth and depth of coaching in track and field events. He followed up on boys to get them to training and exhorted them to represent their school. His enthusiasm, persistence and advocacy of the sport were infectious. Creating a stronger overall athletic base of speed, agility and endurance in our boys is a primary goal of our program. If those attributes improve then we build capacity for other sports. Robert understood the goal, believed in it and worked tirelessly to implement it. I thank him on behalf of the High community for his decade’s work and wish him well in his new role.

I am not sure if our boys always appreciate just how much time and effort go into supporting their enjoyment and promoting their success but many people have made the athletics program, at school and at ES Marks, the quality organisation that it is. I am grateful for their dedication and skill. Thank you - Steve Codey, George Barris, Lachlan Youll, Terry Lancaster, Katrina Morrow, David Morrow, Davina Strauss, Joshua Tassell, Jason Tassell, Peter Wickes, Austin Guo, Matt Wong, Gabriel. Garayalde, Bill Wang and Wayne Baldock.

When we think about a big athletics meet, the ultimate is the Olympic Games.

Ralph Doubell won a gold medal at the Mexico Olympics in the challenging 800 metres event. At an assembly at his old school, Melbourne High, nearly 30 years later, he recalled how, in the semi-final, he psyched out the Kenyan favourite, Wilson Kiprugut, by moving level with him with 60 metres to run. He looked across at the Kenyan and indicated that the pace felt like a training run as if to ask: can’t you run any faster? Doubell described this moment as “the start of the psychological battle”. He moved ahead to win the semi-final narrowly. Doubell’s tactics in the final were similar, stay nearby Kiprugut who liked to lead. At the 300m mark, Doubell moved to second. He really wanted to attack but disciplined himself. “I just kept telling myself to wait, wait, wait…until you’re coming off the straight.” With 150 metres to go, Doubell kicked and raced neck and neck with his rival for nearly 80 metres…” and then I broke contact. That magic moment when the race was decided, physical and psychological contact was broken…There was an eerie silence. The moment was mine. It was the ultimate high.” An Australian male has not won a middle distance Olympic gold medal since that day.

Like Doubell, High boys in GPS competition are always underdogs and not expected to do well. This contextual knowledge can give you strength to achieve beyond other people’s expectations of you and even beyond your expectations of yourself, resulting in a PB… which is all we can ask of you. What you need to take from this wonderful Australian sporting achievement is the inspiration to rise to a big occasion. Ralph Doubell rose...big time. He had self-belief. He also had self-knowledge about what he could do. Best of all he had the self-discipline to stick to his race plan and break the favourite in a sustained kick from the top of the finishing bend. Self-belief, self-knowledge and self-discipline, plus a great deal of physical talent, combined to make Doubell triumphant. I trust that quite a few of our representatives in the High Athletics team will feel the power of their moment, the ultimate high of victory, after their events at the GPS carnival tomorrow.

Importantly, we are competing as a team. Every competitor who takes one more place because he pushed himself to his limit puts our score one point closer to the school above us. The importance of individual performances to team success cannot be overstated. Show them that we want it the most. Satisfaction comes from knowing deep down that there was nothing more you had left to give. Use your self-belief, self-knowledge and self-discipline to be the best that you can be on the day.

I congratulate all the boys who have made the commitment to train and have been selected to represent High at the GPS carnival. I trust many High supporters will come to see you perform and cheer you on. Good luck on Saturday!