HEAD down to the spit in for Boat Race and you will feel how well Ballarat students generate school pride – on and off the water. There is a strong community vibe about Ballarat Associated Schools’ Head of the Lake regatta which, now back on Lake Wendouree, has built up to feature seven school across sociodemographics.
Coveted trophies await in the title boys and girls races, but ultimately, the whole show is about having a go in the boat or on the sidelines cheering your heart out.
The proposal for compulsory competitive inter-school sports in a year seven pilot trial, touted in the state government election build-up, would definitely have some students shaking in their school socks.
It is more than about getting young people active or trying new sports. Inter-school sport fosters resilience, connections and promoted better team players. Not to mention life balance.
There is a real art in losing well and a pride found in personal achievement and having a go.
Compulsory sport might sound authoritarian, but it sets a standard in an age where this columnist has found a trend in it being too easy for students to drop out of physical education classes and instead spend time working out on their smart phones from the sidelines.
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Inter-school sport allows for the chance to feel part of something tangibly bigger.
Beloved long-time St Patrick’s College first XVIII coach Howard Clark stepped down from the role this week. He said the football program was more than a game, it was about learning life skills.
St Pats has a reputation for one of the best school football programs in Australia. The team brings together the school’s best footballers and yes, there is that exclusive element, but it sets a benchmark for junior boys to aspire to. It also creates opportunities for other students to be involved in the game.
Clark, who will remain the school’s football director, is keen to develop an umpiring academy and sports journalism program.
St Pats’ football jumper is steeped in tradition and has not changed in 125 years. It is a jumper you have to earn from playing five games in any one year. This year only 27 students earn a jumper.
Clark himself, will never own a jumper. An Old Xavarian, Clark never played football for St Pats.
AFL 300-gamer Drew Petrie keeps his St Pats jumper in his wardrobe.
In 2000, when Petrie was in year 12, St Pats failed to make a Sun Shield final. But crowds were huge and vocal for BAS games. Ballarat Clarendon College and Ballarat High School were nearby rivals and Ballarat Grammar was their challenger in the grand final. Petrie said pride was on the line each time.
Some schools might always seem stronger or faster or better-equipped. But using this as an excuse is a dangerously defeatist attitude and habit to adopt.
At the start of each contest, before any play, the field is level. And sometimes giants topple.
Sport is not always about winning, it is about the lessons along the way even if you would prefer to be the one on the sidelines making virtual daisy chains.
Inter-school sport can be a great test in attitude for life.
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