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21/05/2013: Australia

 

A newsletter for Member Schools of Marist Schools Australia published fortnightly during term time

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Dear Brothers, colleagues and friends

Anyone who works with teenage boys and young men – or who have been such themselves – know two things that  guys need to have affirmed in their lives: they need to be seen as ‘cool’, and they need to win, to be successful. It’s a  male thing. Men (and not only younger ones) will typically seek to avoid anything that sees them not accepted by the  people whose positive judgements they seek; and they will run a mile from any risk of failure or looking stupid. We  educators of boys know that this is deep in them and try to shape our strategies for teaching, and the kind of culture  we create in schools, in ways that tap positively into this male disposition, so that boys can be engaged, inspired and  indeed affirmed.

We usually do that well. Sometimes, though, we don’t. One touchtone for how we are doing is the way we do sport.  The present controversies around performance enhancing drugs bring this into sharper focus. In what now seems a rather quaint term, it used to be common enough in some private boys’ schools that there was  a ‘Master-in-charge of Games’. Not a ‘Director of Sport’ or ‘Head Coach’ but someone who had the more innocent  responsibility to organise ‘games’. How far we have come!

Like many who would be reading this, I too have been involved in coaching and in inter-school sport where the  expectations were high, and where people felt that there was a lot more than sheep-stations riding on next Saturday’s  result. Properly managed, that can be made to work well, particularly when school-level coaches see themselves  primarily as teachers, when they regard the sports field or the court as a classroom, when they have a sense of the  opportunity they have for instilling values, and attitudes, and teaching worthy life-lessons. And where they don’t lose  their perspective.

There is a helpful Marist lens for assessing how a school may be going in this area: the three violets – simplicity,  modesty and humility. Simplicity is about genuineness and lack of pretence. How much does an attitude of simplicity  contrast with the image of the ‘buffed’ and ‘ripped’ sportsman who tries to turn himself into a make-believe Adonis.

Modesty is about not seeking to impose, not to be ‘in the face’ of another, to be polite in the best sense of that word,  and to be as in the old language of sportsmanship ‘humble in victory and gracious in defeat’. Humility is about being  grounded, about living in the real world, about eschewing arrogance or presumption.

Some of the first French Brothers to come to this country had difficulty adjusting to the Australian boys’ obsession with  contact sport such as football – particularly with what they saw as the ugly side of it. In Sydney they nicknamed rugby  as “ruggedby”, and tried to encourage the lads to play football by the ‘Australian rules’ rather than the ‘Rugby rules’.

It offended what they saw as the essential Marist spirit. What would they have made of today’s boys going down to  the shop for powdered protein or other supplements – let alone peptides or steroids being peddled on the quiet, or  an unhealthy gym-culture that can insidiously take root among young men. But these early Marist pioneers came to  accommodate sport and indeed to appreciate the value and opportunity that games offered in the Australian context.

If they were around today, perhaps they might be chiding modern day educators on how they were shaping what was  ‘cool’ in the culture of their schools, and how they were defining success. And reminding them gently that before all  else they were teachers.

Nisi Dominus

 

Brother Michael Green fms - NATIONAL DIRECTOR

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